South Central Iowa is going to the birds; in Wappalo county land has been set aside for a bird sanctuary that will soon be open to the public. Stephens State Forest Unionville Unit, Lake Wapello State Park, Soap Creek and Eldon Wildlife Areas, and a portion of the Soap Creek watershed are to be dedicated as a new bird sanctuary area, or BCA – a ceremony to open the new BCA to the public will take place 1:30pm on Thursday, February 8th at the Pioneer Ridge Nature Center. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) believes the BCA will have a positive impact on tourism and local activities. Bird watching is a big industry, generating over $300 million in revenue annually. The DNR said attracting bird watchers will help with local bird conservation investments while boosting tourism and the local economy at the same time.
There’s a new way for people to experience different flavors of food and drink in Marion and Mahaska County: The A to Z Foodie Trail. The A to Z Foodie Trail provides a guide for good eats and drinks in south central Iowa. Businesses included on the food trail are located in Pella, Knoxville, Pleasantville, Leighton, Oskaloosa and Melcher-Dallas; the A to Z Foodie Trail features items that are locally made, and includes an item for every letter in the alphabet. For example – Northcote’s Bigfoot tenderloin in Melcher-Dallas represents the letter N. To help someone find these tasty treats and beverages, a wallet-sized, fold-up brochure can be found at select businesses on the map. The brochure also features a map and the address of each business on the trail.
Residents of Newton get ready – RABGRAI is coming to town! This past Saturday evening, Newton was named one of the overnight stops for RAGBRAI 2018 at the annual route announcement party in Des Moines. According to city officials, this is the first time the town of about 15,000 was chosen to host the statewide trek since 2006. The Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa’s route will pass through Jasper County this year, traveling 428 miles through Iowa. The seven-day trek, which begins July 21, is scheduled to stop in Newton Wednesday, July 25. Bikers will travel 59 miles from Ames to get to town. They will then ride about 69 miles to Sigourney after the overnight stay.
Knoxville high school students will have a bit more time to get to class Tuesday through Fridays – starting today school will start at 8:05am, instead of 8:00am – Mondays stay the same with a late start of 10:00am. The change came about as the result of discussions taking place in the Student Advisory Group, which meets several times a month to talk about issues affecting students. The group found a way to push the school start time back by 5 minutes without altering the amount of instructional time used during class periods. A survey that was created by the Student Advisory garnered over a 65% approval rate from the students to make the change to the new school start time.
Marion County Bank’s halftime entertainment at the Pella versus Pella Christian basketball games earned both schools a $9,225 donation from Marion County Bank. Students from both schools worked together in the event by shooting layups, free throws, three-pointers and half court shots to earn a donation for the schools from Marion County Bank. A shootout donation of $4,650 was won at the Dec. 8 game and a $4,575 donation was won at the Jan. 23 game. These winnings will be split evenly between Pella and Pella Christian. Since 2007, $99,075 has been given to Pella Community High School and Pella Christian High School from Marion County Bank during the halftime events.
Area wildlife should be eating well this winter thanks to the 125 bushels of free cracked corn given by the Mahaska County Conservation Board (MCCB) this past Saturday. MCCB Naturalist Laura DeCook said the giveaway has gone on for quite a few years. Cargill donates the corn; The board then pays for the corn to be cracked and fills buckets up to 10 gallons. Nearly 50 people showed up on Saturday to grab some of free feed; if you missed out, DeCook says to give MCCB a call as they often have leftovers to distribute.
Dr. Todd Peterson with the Knoxville Hospital and Clinics has performed the first NAVIO robotic-assisted total knee replacement surgery in Iowa. Dr. Peterson was also the first surgeon in central Iowa to perform NAVIO robotics-assisted partial knee replacement surgeries, beginning in late 2016. The technology allows surgeons to create a patient-specific 3D plan and perform joint replacement surgery using a surgeon-controlled robot that helps the surgeon execute the procedure with a higher degree of accuracy. The total knee NAVIO system is now an option for patients who are suffering from advanced arthritis of the knee who are not candidates for partial knee replacement.
The Pella City Council continued discussion about how to extend a trail to Vermeer Corporation at a special meeting Tuesday. City Administrator Mike Nardini says the council narrowed their selection to two choices that don’t include road reconstruction, but do call for a path either along Vermeer Road or 240th Avenue; a decision about the extension should be made in the next 2 months.
A former bookkeeper from Ottumwa Christian School has pleaded guilty to a felony first-degree theft conviction in order to avoid prison time; the deal Joni Stinson made with prosecutors requires her to make restitution for the money stolen, which equals about $160k. Stinson’s home is being sold to help make restitution; she would have faced up to 10 years in prison without the suspended sentence.
Pella Christian High School is working to add a vocational agriculture program to their curriculum for the 2018-19 school year. The idea was presented during a Pella Christian High Society meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 16, which includes people who have provided financial support to the school; of the 177 in attendance 82% voiced their support for the proposal. PCHS has already begun the legwork get to the program up and running for the next school year. During its first year, the class will either be offered during the fall semester of 2018 or in the spring semester in 2019. A Future Farmers of America, or FFA, program will also be offered with the vocational agriculture class.
Oskaloosa may be the new basketball capitol of Iowa – The William Penn Statesmen Men’s Basketball team started off the preseason ranked number one by some media outlets; they started the season #3 in the coaches’ poll of NAIA Division 1, but just last week laid claim to the #1 spot. Over at Oskaloosa High School, the Indians varsity basketball team laid claim to the #1 spot in class 3A after defeating the former #1 team Norwalk.