Today's Local News

Learn Sign Language

Posted: Saturday, April 18th, 2009 at 4:49 am

Three students from the University of Iowa will be offering an introductory sign language program at the Kalona Public Library on Friday, April 24th from 3:30-4:30PM. Youth Services Librarian Marissa Tartaglia says the program will focus on learning signing games and basic signs. They will also be taking suggestions from the participants regarding which signs they would like to learn. Tartaglia says no prior knowledge of sign language is necessary. This program is free of charge; no registration is necessary. For more information, please contact the library at 319-656-3501.

National Minority Cancer Awareness Week

Posted: Saturday, April 18th, 2009 at 4:48 am

The American Cancer Society reports encouraging news in Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2009-2010. Kierstan Peck, Community Relations with the American Cancer Society says African Americans are continuing to experience lower death rates from cancer. She says in honor of National Minority Cancer Awareness Week, April 19-25; take a few moments to talk to your friends and family members about what they can do to take charge of their health to reduce their cancer risk. Peck says nearly 50 percent of all cancer deaths might be prevented if we stopped smoking or using tobacco products, maintained a healthy weight by eating right and getting regular exercise, and got the recommended cancer screening tests. For more information call 1-800-227-2345 or visit

Quality Assurance Trust Fund

Posted: Saturday, April 18th, 2009 at 4:48 am

This week, the Iowa Senate voted to draw down millions in federal dollars to improve quality of care for nursing home residents and increase the pay of direct care workers. Senator Becky Schmitz says Senate File 476 creates a Quality Assurance Assessment Program, which will collect a fee from Iowa nursing homes. The new revenue would go into a Quality Assurance Trust Fund to draw down almost $40 million in matching federal dollars. The nursing homes in the area that will benefit are Halcyon House, Parkview Manor, Pleasantview Home, United Presbyterian Home and Washington Care Center.

MP Board approves pay hike

Posted: Friday, April 17th, 2009 at 5:26 am

A 2.2% across the board pay hike for certified and non-certified staff in the Mid-Prairie Community School District was approved for the 2009-10 fiscal year by the M-P Board of Education Monday evening. Superintendent Mark Schneider says that the projected certified salaries, including benefits, would increase from $4,415,051 to $4,512,240, a hike of $97,189. Schneider says he estimated that the district would save about $51,000 in difference in salaries between long time employees who retired and their replacements.

Washington hotel tax considered

Posted: Friday, April 17th, 2009 at 5:26 am

Should the city of Washington have a hotel tax? Local tourism officials say yes, but hotel owners say no. Tim Coffee, with the chamber of commerce says its not actually a tax on the hotel owners, or Washington residents. Hawkeye Motel Owner Gordon Olberding says this is not a good time to be considering such a tax. He also says there’s no plan for what the money would be spent on. Olberding and other local hotel owners came to this week’s city council meeting to express opposition to a measure that would put the tax on the ballot for voters to decide on. They say Washington isn’t a tourist attraction, and most of their business comes from people coming to the area to work. The council tabled the measure.

Much Ado About Nothing

Posted: Friday, April 17th, 2009 at 5:25 am

This evening is opening night for the Washington High School Drama Department's Spring production. Actor Ben Tebockhorst says even though "Much Ado About Nothing" is a Shakespearian piece, it provides plenty of opportunity for some laughs. Tebockhorst is playing the lead male role, alongside leading lady Regan Loula. They say the play is about their characters being adverse romance, while their friends try to get the pair to fall in love. Doors open at the Washington Community Center this evening at 7:30. Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for students.

Auto body industry doing well

Posted: Friday, April 17th, 2009 at 5:25 am

The Auto Body industry does not seem to be declining during this recession. Chris Swartzendruber, with C.S Auto body in Kalona, says he is seeing more and more people come in to get their car worked on, rather than just trading it in for a new vehicle. He says the Auto Body Industry is not recession proof, but it is in no danger of collapsing. Swartzendruber says in most cases it will cost less to fix a vehicle rather than add a new set of payments onto a new vehicle. He says if a vehicle is treated well it can last a decade or more. 

F-16 symbolizes the near end of a generation

Posted: Friday, April 17th, 2009 at 5:25 am

A U-S Military F-16 fighter jet passed over Washington at about noon yesterday as World War II veteran John Butler was laid rest in Elm Grove Cemetery. Mike Voght is curator of Iowa's Gold Star Military Museum in Fort Dodge. He says Butler is part of a rapidly disappearing generation. Voght says its important to maintain contact with our remaining World War II vets who are willing and able to share their stories. John Butler was 90 when he passed away. He was 23 years old during the attack on Pearl Harbor that thrust the United States into the conflict.

‘08 floods highlight wetland’s importance

Posted: Friday, April 17th, 2009 at 5:24 am

Earth Day is this Wednesday and the naturalist at the Washington County Conservation board says it's important to keep Iowa's wetlands in mind. Pam Holz says Iowa has lost 90-percent of its wetlands, and last year's flooding was a stern reminder. Holz says they will have an Earth Day scavenger hunt tomorrow (4/18) afternoon from 1:00 to 3:00 at Marr Park for families to learn about Iowa's native wetlands. In case of inclement weather, there will be nature bingo inside the conservation center building. For more information contact the conservation board at 319-657-2400. 

Bittersweet day for WHS Physics teams

Posted: Friday, April 17th, 2009 at 5:24 am

Washington High School students were unsuccessful in their bid to bring home a first place team trophy from the Iowa Physics Olympics in Des Moines yesterday. They did capture first place in the water heater competition. Team member Caleb Boyd says they used a bicycle to turn a pulley inside of a thermos of water. He says the pulley had an abrasive brush attached to it that caused friction on the side of the thermos, and heated the water to 125 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Lake Belvedere Booked

Posted: Friday, April 17th, 2009 at 5:14 am

With the spring here, the park attendants in Lake Belvedere are looking back on the winter. Dave Long, Executive Director with Keokuk County Conservation, says the winter season went extremely well. Long says they are not taking any reservations for camping this year because they are completely booked through the fall, he says it wont hurt to call and make sure if a weekend you like is available because due to a cancellation.

Qwest gives WHS $16,000

Posted: Thursday, April 16th, 2009 at 4:54 am

Washington High School is getting $16,000 from the Qwest Teacher's and Technology grant program. Math teacher Tom Langr is one teacher who's classroom will benefit from the grant. He says it will help them purchase graphing calculators, which are invaluable in today's changing world. The money will also help purchase computer interface technology for use in science and math classes. Representatives from Qwest and the Iowa School Boards Foundation were on hand yesterday to present a check to the school during an assembly.

General Assistance requests down in Washington Co.

Posted: Thursday, April 16th, 2009 at 4:53 am

Fewer people requested Washington County General Assistance this quarter, versus last. G-A Director Sue Rich says that saved them about $500. She says warmer weather could be one reason for the decline. During the last quarter, Washington County General Assistance spent more $2,000. During this most recent quarter they spent a little more than $1,600.

Washington Council tables liquor request

Posted: Thursday, April 16th, 2009 at 4:53 am

Whether or not a Washington restaurant can serve alcohol in a sidewalk cafe setting is still up in the air. City council members decided to table the request from Cafe Dodici for a third time at last night's meeting. Councilor Fred Stark says they need some time to look at other communities' ordinances. Stark says the nearby cities of Fairfield and Mount Pleasant have such an ordinance. He describes gathering the information as a "monumental task" and is unsure of what the outcome might be. Some council members have expressed concern over what kind of precedent allowing the request might set. The issue is expected to come up at the next meeting.

State budget’s local impact

Posted: Thursday, April 16th, 2009 at 4:52 am

With the legislature talking about the state budget, many people are wondering how that will affect there home town. Jerry Kauffman, Kalona Mayor says the state is trying to save as much money as possible. Kauffman says even though they might not receive state money, Kalona is doing o-k and he is no fear of Kalona being in any financial danger.

WHS Physics team state bound

Posted: Thursday, April 16th, 2009 at 4:48 am

Physics students at Washington High School head to Des Moines today to compete in statewide competition at Drake University. WHS students finished in the top two spots in six categories this month during the district physics contest. Teacher Jeff Richard (Ri-shard) says teaching science content is becoming increasingly important. Richard says its promising to see young women becoming more interested in science. He says engineers are in need of more women, in the typically male dominated profession, to provide a different view point. Richard also says the public is invited to attend the physics contest today at Drake.

Alliant urges electrical safety during planting season

Posted: Thursday, April 16th, 2009 at 4:47 am

With spring field work is in full swing for Midwestern farmers. Dave Koch with Interstate Power and Light Company, wants to remind rural customers to work safely and be aware of overhead power lines when operating heavy machinery, large sprayers, or using ladders. He says high-voltage power lines are not insulated and pose a significant risk for electrocution on farms. Electrocution can occur when objects and people are moving and come in contact with the overhead power lines. Koch says electrical currents can also arc to a conductive material near a power line without actually touching it, so its important to always maintain a clearance of at least 10 feet. Following basic farm safety rules can save lives and prevent injury. For more information about outdoor electrical safety, you can visit

Property tax credit forms available

Posted: Thursday, April 16th, 2009 at 4:46 am

Washington County property tax credit forms are now available. Treasurer Jeff Garret says property owners or renters that were either age 65, or declared totally disabled and whose household income was less than $20,031 as of the end of last year may be eligible for a property tax credit or rent reimbursement. Garret says mobile home owners that were age 23 at the end of last year whose total household income was less than $20,031 may also be eligible. Qualified persons are encouraged to pick up the appropriate forms at the County Treasurer's Property Tax Department at 222 West Main Street in Washington.

VA Grant discontinued

Posted: Wednesday, April 15th, 2009 at 6:28 am

A state grant designed to help veterans who might not qualify for certain types of assistance is drying up. Sue Rich, with Washington County Veteran's Affairs, says that might not be a bad thing. She says instead of applying for the grant, each county will get a $10,000 allocation. Rich says it's good that each county will receive the money. However, she says they might not be able to spend it on the same things the grant covered. Rich says that includes transportation costs, outreach services and education.

Local economist: recovery will be slow

Posted: Wednesday, April 15th, 2009 at 6:28 am

A recent survey by Blue Chips Economic Indicators shows 86-percent of economists surveyed believe the economic downturn will end this year, but unemployment will continue to climb into next. Saul Mekies is a professor of economics at Kirkwood College. He says companies hurt by the recession won't soon forget. Mekies says the economy probably won't get any worse, but won't really start to improve until next year. He says so much of the country's financial infrastructure is based on confidence, which hasn't really come back yet. He points to recent comments by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke who says he's "fundamentally confident."