While Newton and the other seven overnight host cities may have the spotlight for RAGBRAI this summer, the thousands of cyclists shouldn’t count out the surrounding cities they pass through on their trek through Iowa. The towns may be small, but city leaders said they are ready to make an impression. RAGBRAI organizers named Baxter, Reasnor, Sully and Lynnville among the pass-through towns in this year’s Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. This followed January’s announcement that Newton will be one of the overnight stops. Reasnor is no stranger to the oldest, longest and largest week-long bicycle touring event in the world. The city of nearly 200 was a pass-through town in the first RAGBRAI event back in 1973, and continued the tradition in 1975, 1984, 2000 and 2006.
Should a microbrewery be allowed to set up shop in Pella’s downtown business district? The City Council once again took up the issue this past Tuesday, with the city asking the Council for guidance as to whether they wanted to entirely exclude placing the microbrewery within the central business district, or if they only wanted to exclude placing the microbrewery in specific areas of the CBD. The council had previously stated their support for the microbrewery as long as it was outside the CBD. If approved, the microbrewery would be limited to 10,000 barrels of beer or ale annually and would need to have 30% or more of gross income would need to be food sales.
Firefighters fought 14 degree temperatures and a zero degree windchill as they worked to extinguish a house fire in Pershing this morning. The Indiana Township Fire Department, Knoxville Township Rural Fire Department, Knoxville Rescue, and the Marion County Sheriff’s were paged to 1751 179th Place with the report of a house fire. The home, which records show belongs to Stephanie Clark, is a total loss, but thankfully authorities on the scene reported that the people in the home were able to evacuate safely.
The Iowa Supreme Court paid a very special visit to Marion County yesterday, visiting schools in the area and hearing oral arguments at the Knoxville Performing Arts Center. Chief Justice Cady visited Knoxville High School, Justice Appel was at Pleasantville, Justice Wiggins visited PCM High School, and Justice Zager visited Pella High School. Chief Justice Cady said being in the judiciary is a fulfilling profession that makes a difference in people’s lives, and he hopes to inspire students who witness the court in action. The court held a special session in the Knoxville Performing Arts Center with a crowd over 100 strong, hearing the oral arguments of a medical malpractice lawsuit on appeal.
U.S. Congressman Dave Loebsack toured the hydroelectric dam at Lake Red Rock from its windy top to its innards on a blustery Monday. Red Rock Hydroelectric Project supervisor Vern Cochran gave Loebsack a bird’s-eye view from the dam’s top, then led him through a series of steps and ladders down to the riverbed to show him how the plant works. Loebsack said Iowa has wind and solar power, coal, natural gas and now more hydroelectric power. The project began in August 2014 and is scheduled to be done in August 2019, about a year later than original projections. Cochran said high winds have been one of several issues that have slowed progress on the new power plant. Cranes used to place large structures and equipment in position around the worksite sit idle when winds are more than 20 mph, which has slowed work. Issues uncovered underground have been a problem too – as workers dug they encountered gypsum, which water had washed out, leaving voids that needed to be grouted or filled before work could progress. Cochran said all the work will be worth it in the end, as the new hydroelectric plant will provide decades of renewable energy for local communities in South Central Iowa.
The cold weather hadn’t quite shown up early Saturday morning, and that was good news for the over 200 people who laced up their shoes at Pella Christian High School to participate in the 11th annual Gene Van Wyk Memorial 5k run and walk. A total of 238 men, women, children, and families ran and walked in the race – Valerie Keegan, 37, of Pella, was the overall female winner, finishing with a time of 20:12, while Josi Wittenberg, 15, of Pella, was the overall male winner, finishing with a time of 17:52. The event honors Pella Christian guidance counselor Gene Van Wyk who died from stomach cancer in 1998. Van Wyk was involved in several sports as a coach and is credited with starting the weightlifting and soccer programs at Pella Christian.
The Mahaska Health Partnership’s Serenity House hospice has been empty since December, the result of a catastrophic furnace breakdown – but that’s all about to change. The past few months have been used to update the old hardware with new, efficient geothermal HVAC system; MHP CEO Kevin DeRonde says the new unit should last 20 to 30 years. The Mahaska County Hospice Auxiliary held a fundraiser in February which raised $50,000 to cover the funds needed for the new furnace and other small updates. MHP marketing director Cathy Stahl says she’s thankful for the community’s support, and understands there are questions about the facility which opened in 2010 – she said they hope to re-open as soon as possible.
First graders at Lincoln Elementary in Pella learned all about money and community banking this past Wednesday thanks to the employees at Leighton State Bank. Employees from Leighton State Bank met with 70 students in Carleen Coppock, Dana Gleason and Allison Terlouw’s classrooms. COO Joel Cornilsen read The Berenstain Bears book “Trouble with Money,” while customer service representative Rosie De Bruin talked to students about checking and savings accounts and how banks invest their profit into the community. To end the afternoon, students played, “Are you smarter than a banker?” where the class answered trivia questions against De Bruin. The students raised $100 for the school’s library by answering the trivia questions correctly.
Poor weather didn’t scare away dedicated half marathon runners last weekend, who completed the 2nd Annual Pot of Gold Half Marathon & 5K Fun Run on Saturday, March 24th despite the damp rain and snowy conditions. Held by the Oskaloosa Education Foundation, the event honors the memory of Isaac Hoven, an Oskaloosa Middle School Cross Country runner who passed away in March 2016. A total of 122 ambitious runners signed up, an increase of 30 from the inaugural run last year. Proceeds from the event will help fund a scholarship for graduating male and female senior runner at Oskaloosa High School, as well as foundation projects for teachers and students at the school.