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Dubuque & Tri-State News

Avilies: “The Gaming Market Is Saturated Enough”

Jesus Avilies

The head of Mystique Casino says he hopes that the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission makes an intelligent decision when it rules on whether to issue gaming licenses for two proposed casinos in Cedar Rapids. Earlier this month the Cedar Rapids Development Group and Peninsula Pacific turned in paperwork for two options, while Wild Rose Casinos & Resorts submitted plans for a casino in downtown Cedar Rapids. Mystique President and CEO Jesus Avilies says Mystique and the Diamond Jo are already surrounded by competition. Not to mention that both Dubuque casinos compete against each other. According to Avilies, history shows that saturation can kill more than one casino. Avilies realizes that the gaming commission has a tough decision to make on the Cedar Rapids proposals. A decision by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission could come by November.

Lots Of Protesters At Ernst Event


Hundreds of people, many of them protesters packed the Maquoketa City Council chambers this afternoon for a public event for veterans with Iowa Senator Joni Ernst. Our coverage partner KCRG TV reports that most of the protest centered around Republican led efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.’ Ernst has supported those efforts in the past. Many of the veterans in attendance were annoyed with the protests. Republicans from Congress have encountered hostile crowds during public events across the country since efforts started to repeal the ACA. President Donald Trump has pushed for a quick appeal of the law but many have questioned whether Republicans have a plan to replace it. Speaker Paul Ryan has said Republicans have a plan and will roll it out soon but has declined to outline specifics.

After Five Months of Talks, Cascade Will Keep Slogan

After nearly five months of deliberations, Cascade’s city council has decided to keep the town’s current slogan. Last fall, the council approved some funding for new banners to be hung from the streetlights along the town’s main roads. When the design of the banners was being discussed, some council members questioned whether to keep the current slogan – “The Place We Call Home.” The town initially asked for suggestions for a new slogan, but quickly realized there was some demand for keeping the current motto. That led to the issue being put before citizens a couple of times. Cascade Mayor Marcus Behnken says there were also some timing issues that prolonged the process. Behnken estimates that about sixty percent of those surveyed said they wanted to keep the current slogan. Those new banners could be hung within the next month.

UPDATE: March “Cracker Barrel” Location Change Called Off

More than 200 people filled the Diamond Jo’s Harbor Room for 2017’s first Cracker Barrel forum earlier this month.

Upon further review, next month’s local legislative forum will be staying put after all. The United Labor Participation Committee is hosting the “cracker barrel” event that is scheduled for next Saturday, March 4. The event was originally scheduled to be held at the Diamond Jo Casino, but organizers said they would be moving it to the Northeast Iowa Community College campus in Peosta. But due to a conflict in Peosta that morning, the move has been called off. A board member from the labor participation committee tells us the forum will revert to its original location – the Diamond Jo. The time of the event has not changed…it will still begin at 9:30 AM. Each of the State Representatives and State Senators who represent Dubuque County have been invited to participate.

Tranel Requests Budget Hearing in Southwest Wisconsin


One of southwest Wisconsin’s representatives in the State Assembly is asking that a budget hearing be held in his district. 49th District State Assemblyman Travis Tranel made that request in a letter he sent to the co-chair of the Joint Committee on Finance last week. Tranel has suggested that the hearing could be held in any one of several communities in his district, including Lancaster, Platteville, or Potosi. Tranel’s district includes all of Grant County, as well as parts of three adjacent counties.

Bustos Won’t Run for Governor in 2018


The Congresswoman who represents northwestern Illinois has ruled out a run for governor. Cheri Bustos, the Congresswoman from Illinois’ 17th District, released a statement on Monday saying she plans to continue to serve in Congress. Bustos cites her new role among the House Democratic Leadership as one of the reasons she plans to stay in Congress. Bustos says she plans to support the Democratic candidate that will challenge current Governor Bruce Rauner in his bid for re-election next year. Bustos is currently in her third term representing the 17th District, which includes Carroll, Jo Daviess, and Stephenson counties, as well as the Quad Cities and Rockford.

Dubuque Council Approves “Rebranding” Housing Voucher Program


The city of Dubuque will not force landlords to accept tenants who use federal housing vouchers. That’s the decision the City Council reached last night after being presented an updated report from a committee that had studied implementing so-called “source of income” protections. Instead, the city will attempt to “rebrand” the Housing Choice Voucher Program, according to City Manager Mike Van Milligen. City Councilman Luis Del Toro was in favor of the “rebranding,” saying that clearing up misconceptions could increase participation by both landlords and renters. One of the proposals that had previously been suggested to the council was drafting an ordinance that would require landlords to participate in the voucher program. But Councilman David Resnick had a hard time with forcing people into a flawed system. The council member who was most vocal about the issue was Kevin Lynch, who described the entire situation as disappointing. Lynch criticized people on both sides of the issue for being too combative and essentially using the council to settle their disagreement. The council approved the plan to “rebrand” the program and increase voluntary participation on a 6-1 vote. Councilman Jake Rios cast the only ‘no’ vote.

Another Dog Biting Incident In Dubuque

For the second time in less than a week, Dubuque health officials are seeking information about a dog that bit a local resident. The latest incident happened late Friday afternoon in the 2700 block of Windsor Avenue. In that instance, a dog that had been running loose bit a woman and then ran from the area. The animal is said to be medium-sized – about 40 pounds – with short curly brown fur. The city’s Health Department is asking for information about the dog. Specifically, they’re looking to verify its current health and vaccination history.

Tires Slashed At Mines Of Spain

Courtesy: Dubuque County Sheriff’s Dept.

The tires on more than a dozen vehicles have been slashed near the Mines of Spain recreation area since Saturday. That’s according to the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Office, which is now investigating the incidents. Tires were slashed on a total of eight vehicles on Saturday afternoon. The sheriff’s department believes each of those incidents happened between 3:00 and 5:30 PM. Another five vehicles were targeted yesterday morning. At least one, and sometimes two tires were slashed on each of the vehicles. Total damage is estimated at about three thousand dollars.

Branstad Defends Collective Bargaining Bill


Iowa Governor Terry Branstad spent a good portion of his weekly news conference this week defending the new collective bargaining bill. The Governor signed the bill into law on Friday. It prohibits public sector unions from negotiating over a number of issues, including health insurance and extra pay. For years, Branstad says he’s been trying to get public sector employees to pay in something towards their health insurance but was constantly met with opposition from the unions. Branstad says the new law will ensure that everyone is treated fairly. About six years ago, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker pushed to limit collection bargaining for state workers and Branstad says those changes are working for everyone concerned. Branstad says non-contract employees, like he and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds have been contributing to towards their health care for years and contract employees need to do the same.

Guns Reported Stolen from Platteville Home

Police in southwest Wisconsin are trying to find out who stole a pair of guns from a home in Platteville. The theft was reported a few minutes before 11:00 Saturday morning. A resident of North Elm Street called the Grant County Sheriff’s Department to report that two guns and two boxes of ammunition had been taken from their home. The burglary is believed to have happened early Saturday morning – between 1:00 and 5:30 AM. The guns that were taken are an AR-15 and an antique 45 caliber handgun manufactured in 1911. Anyone with information about the stolen guns is asked to contact the sheriff’s department or Grant County’s CrimeStoppers tipline.

Motorcycle Crash Victim Identified


We now know the identity of a Dubuque man who was killed in a motorcycle crash on Saturday morning. According to Dubuque Police, 24-year-old Austin Walling was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, near the intersection of Carter Road and West 32nd Street. A motorist noticed Walling’s crashed motorcycle lying on the side of Carter and discovered Walling’s body near the bike. First responders were then called to the scene. According to a police report, investigators believe Walling drove off the road after failing to negotiate a curve in the road. Police were called a few minutes after 9:00 Saturday morning, but it’s not known exactly what time the crash happened.

Cascade Lowers Speed Limits

Drivers the town of Cascade will need to take things a bit slower from now on. That’s because the city has chosen to lower the speed limit on its main drag. On the east side of the town, the speed limit is now 35 miles per hour starting at the local industrial park. The limit drops to 25 miles per hour near Cascade Elementary School. That’s the maximum speed allowed through the downtown area and out to the western city limits. Cascade Mayor Marcus Behnken says the change was made due to safety concern, especially near Cascade Elementary. Behnken says some additional safety measures are also in the works. Because of the way the school’s building is oriented, people not familiar with Cascade could drive by without knowing they were in a school zone. The road where the limit has been changed is marked as a business route of US Highway 151. But Behnken says Cascade did not have to get approval from the Department of Transportation to change the speed limits. The change in the speed limits took effect last week.

20+ Pounds of Drugs Turned In to All-Hours Collection Box

Courtesy: Dubuque County Sheriff’s Dept.

An all-hours drug drop box is proving to be very effective, according to the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Joe Kennedy reports that in its first month, nearly two dozen pounds of prescription drugs have been deposited in the box. The drop box is located in the entryway to the law enforcement center on Iowa Street and is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. About 34 pounds of collected materials were recently removed from the box. Of that total, expired or unwanted prescription drugs accounted for about 24 pounds. The other ten pounds included things like drug containers.

Finkenauer Considering a Run for Congress


One of Dubuque’s state legislators may be setting her sights on a higher office. State Representative Abby Finkenauer tells KDTH that she has begun considering a run for Congress in Iowa’s first congressional district. The first district is currently represented by Republican Rod Blum, who won a second term in Congress when he defeated Democrat Monica Vernon last fall. Finkenauer says Blum is not tuned in to the concerns of people in the district, which includes twenty counties in the northeastern portion of the state. Finkenauer also accuses Blum of not being accountable to the people of the district. Several Democrats could try to unseat Blum. The prospect of a crowded primary doesn’t scare Finkenauer, who believes it could be very beneficial for whoever becomes the Democratic nominee. The filing deadline to declare a candidacy for federal office is more than a year away. Finkenauer says she’s not sure when she might decide whether to run.

IRS Scam In Jo Daviess County

Scams happen during all times of the year, but tax time is when most of them rear their ugly heads. The Jo Daviess County Sheriff’s Department is putting the public on alert about an IRS phone scam. Someone calls a potential victim and tells them that the IRS has filed a lawsuit against them and they need to make immediate payment over the phone. The IRS never conducts business over the phone. If you received a call of this nature use extreme caution and never agree to transfer money to anyone unless you are sure of the identity of the recipient.

Pot Bust Lands Woman In Jail

A Dubuque woman faces a drug charge following a traffic stop in rural Galena early Friday morning. A release from the Jo Daviess County Sheriff’s Office says a deputy stopped a car driven by 30 year old Danielle Thomas on Highway 20 near the intersection of Mount Hope Road for a traffic violation at around 4 am. During the stop a K 9 Unit was called to the scene to conduct a free air sniff of the vehicle. The K 9 alerted the deputies to the smell of marijuana coming from the car. A search was conducted and deputies found about 257.5 grams of pot and over 25-hundred dollars in cash. Thomas was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of cannabis which is a class 4 felony.

African American Exhibit 

Visitors to the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium will have the opportunity to view a special traveling poster exhibit from that highlights the African-American experience throughout history. The exhibit is called “A Place for All People: Introducing the National Museum of African American History and Culture.” River Museum spokesperson John Sutter says the poster exhibit focuses on key artifacts of African American history and gives an overview of what the National Museum of African American History and Culture does. The exhibit is being presented with the help of the Smithsonian Institution. It runs through the end of February, which is Black History Month.

Museum And Aquarium CEO Resigns


The president and CEO of the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium has resigned after less than a year on the job and just weeks after being arrested for drunken driving. Dr. Robert “Bert” Davis’ resignation is effective today. The museum has announced that he will join the staff at Silver Oaks Design and Communications in the Quad Cities. Davis joined the river museum last June, taking over for founder Jerry Enzler. A press release from the museum says the search for a new president will begin immediately. In the interim, Davis’ duties will be assumed by Mike Budde, a long-standing member of the Dubuque County Historical Society Board of Directors. The announcement comes just three weeks after Davis was arrested by Dubuque Police on a charge of Operating While Intoxicated. He was arrested on January 28 after being stopped for speeding near the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and the Northwest Arterial a few minutes before 2:00 AM.

Babka Estate Donates $60 Million to UD


The University of Dubuque received one of the largest gifts in the school’s history today when President Jeffery Bullock announced a $60 million estate gift from the late Edward Babka and his wife Shirley. The money will be used to provide scholarships for students in need through the Babka Scholarship Fund. While making the announcement, Bullock read a statement Babka wrote before his death to current students and future students of the university. Babka’s son Frank attended the announcement and says his father believed the only way to success was through a good education. Edward Babka passed away in June. He had been a member of the university’s Board of Trustees for more than 40 years. The money will subsidize the Babka Scholarship Fund, which supports scholarships worth more than $15 million each year. The gift will also boost the school’s overall endowment to more than $150 million. That will make UD’s endowment the third largest of any private school in Iowa.

Committee Recommends “Rebranding” of Housing Voucher Program

A committee is recommending that the city of Dubuque not institute a requirement that landlords rent to people participating in a low-income housing voucher program. Instead, the city council will be asked to approve a “rebranding” of the program. For the past two years, a “Source of Income Committee” has been examining ways the city can increase the amount of affordable low-income housing. The committee presented its findings to the City Council last fall, and laid out a handful of possible options. Included on the list was a provision that would no longer allow landlords to reject potential tenants just because they participate in the Housing Choice Voucher program. That idea was widely criticized by landlords and was met with lukewarm support from the council, which directed the committee to develop ways for the city to encourage landlords to participate in the voucher program. In a report that will be presented to the council on Monday, the committee recommends combating the misconceptions about the program by “rebranding it” and providing additional information to both renters and landlords. The council meeting is scheduled for 6:00 Monday night in the Historic Federal Building.

Dubuque to See Longest February Warm Streak Since 1930

Courtesy: KCRG

The Dubuque area is looking down the barrel of an incredibly rare run of warm February weather. High temperatures for the next several days are predicted to reach at least the mid-50s, and in most cases, the lower 60s. It’s been 15 years since Dubuque saw a 60 degree day in February, and meteorologist Kaj O’Mara from our coverage partner, KCRG-TV, tells us it’s been more than 35 years since we’ve had a sustained run of days that warm. O’Mara expects high temperatures to stay near or above 60 through at least Wednesday of next week. There are four weather factors that are bringing us these unseasonable temperatures: sunshine, a lack of snow pack, ground moisture, and wind direction. In the other years when Dubuque had a run of very warm February days, the weather pattern stayed mild through the spring. Low temperatures in the coming several days will range anywhere from the mid-30s to 50 degrees. Monday is the only day in the next week when there’s a chance for precipitation.

Girl Scout Cookies Available in Local Retailers Starting This Weekend

Starting this weekend, Dubuque-area residents looking to get their hands on Girl Scout cookies will be able to buy them at a handful of retail stores around the city. The Girl Scouts are once again sponsoring their “Cookie Booth” promotion this year, which allows troops to sell cookies inside local stores. That gives the scouts the chance to sell cookies to a larger portion of their city’s population. Maura Warner from the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois says that individual troops are tasked with contacting retailers and getting their OK to sell the cookies. Girl scouts in the eastern Iowa/western Illinois region sold more than $6 million worth of cookies last year. Warner says about 75% of that money stays within the region. The Girl Scouts switched to a different company to produce the cookies this year. According to Warner, that means that some of the names of the cookies have changed. But she says the flavors remain mostly the same. Local retailers that will be hosting cookie booths include Wal-Mart, Theisen’s, the Asbury Road Hy-Vee, and Kennedy Mall.

Grocery Store Employee Attacks Supervisors After Being Fired


Dubuque Police were called to a local grocery store this week after an employee attacked store management when they told him he was losing his job. Managers at the Dodge Street Hy-Vee called police on Wednesday morning and asked them to standby in the store’s parking lot. Officers were told that 38-year-old Joseph Hill was being fired, and his supervisors were concerned that he would not take the news well. Which he did not. Court documents say Hill punched one supervisor and choked another until his face began to turn red. The employees tried to restrain Hill, but when he came at them again, the store’s loss prevention agent pulled out his handgun, cocked it, and ordered Hill to the ground. Police were then called to the interior of the store to arrest Hill. He’s now facing assault and harassment charges.

Tranel Comments On Budget Address


Earlier this month Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker delivered his budget address. He called for investing more money in K-12 education and making the largest investment in history for need-based financial assistant for students at colleges and universities. 49th Assembly District State Representative Travis Tranel says investing more money in K-12 is something he’s been advocating for since being elected in 2010. Earlier this year the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, a non-partisan agency based in Madison put out its’ economic forecast for the state, and all indications are the state will have the money to make substantial investments in K-12 and higher education. Transportation on the other hand will continue to be the number one issue that people will talk about. Major transportation projects almost always trump the smaller ones in Wisconsin, something that Tranel has been trying to change over the past five years. Tranel represents a significant part of southwest Wisconsin, including all of Grant County and parts of Richland, Iowa, and Lafayette counties.

Dubuque Man Sentenced For Convenience Store Robberies


A Dubuque man who robbed a pair of local convenience stores last year will be going to prison for a decade. 29-year-old Jeffery Stonehocker was sentenced on two counts of Second-Degree Robbery earlier this week. He’ll have to serve at least five years of his ten year sentence. Stonehocker reached a deal with prosecutors that allowed him to plead guilty to the Second-Degree charges. In exchange, two counts of First-Degree Robbery were dropped. Stonehocker held up the Casey’s General Store on Rockdale Road and the Oky Doky store on West 1st Street last March. According to court documents, he stole about 250 dollars and nine cartons of cigarettes from the Oky Doky. Police say he didn’t get anything of value from the Casey’s.

Chicago Man Going To Prison For Robbery


A Chicago man will be spending some time behind bars after being sentenced for robbing a couple at their home in Dubuque last summer. Court documents say 25 year old Terrance Bausley pleded guilty to first degree burglary and second degree robbery. Police say Bausley robbed a woman at gunpoint last June as she was walking into her home with her son in the 500 block of West 17th. After taking the woman’s cellphone Bausley went inside the home and robbed the woman’s fiancé of 15-hundred dollars. Another man identified as 26 year old Melvin McCray was standing outside during the robbery, but fled in a vehicle. He was later arrested and pled guilty to a charge of third degree attempted robbery and was sentenced to three years of probation in September.

UPDATE: Collective Bargaining Passes House and Senate

Iowa Senate Chamber

A bill that limits the collective bargaining abilities of Iowa’s public sector unions has passed both houses of the State Legislature after a few days of debate. The bill was approved by the House early Thursday afternoon on a 53-47 vote. The Senate then approved it on a strictly party-line 29-21 vote. Republicans in the Iowa Senate took advantage of a little-used tactic to end what had been more than 24 hours of debate on the bill Thursday morning. The Senate began that debate at around 11:00 AM Wednesday and continued through the night, with mostly Democrats offering and speaking on amendments to the legislation. But late Thursday morning, the Senate approved a “Time Certain” requirement, which halts debate and required action on the bill by 2:00 that afternoon. Senator Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque, spoke on the Senate floor about how rare it is to have a “time certain” standard applied to legislation. Jochum then criticized Republicans for using the technique while people from around the state are still weighing in on the bill. Each of the lawmakers who represent Dubuque County voted against the measure.

Debris From Old Nativity School Causes Safety Hazard

A piece of brick wall teeters over a set of gas lines at the former Nativity School building.

Debris falling off of an unused school building caused a safety hazard earlier this week, and the owners of the building are facing renewed questions about its future. A section of a brick wall fell off of the west side of the old Nativity School on Tuesday. The wall was teetering above the gas lines that serve the building, causing a safety hazard. But a crew from Black Hills Energy was able to cap off the line on Wednesday. The building has been vacant since the school closed in 2005, and Monsignor Jim Miller says discussions about its future have taken on a new urgency. Miller says the building has had several prospective buyers in his three years at the parish, but they’ve all been scared off by the costs needed to repair the building. Miller believes that all the options for renovating or selling the building have been exhausted. Miller says no final decisions on the buildings future have been made. Any action proposed by the parish’s council would have to be approved by the Archdiocese of Dubuque. Nevada Street, which runs along the side of the building where the collapse happened, has been closed between its intersections with University Avenue and Martha Street.

Monticello Bank Robber to Spend 8.5 Years in Prison

A man convicted of robbing a Jones County bank has been sentenced to nearly a decade in federal prison. 45-year-old Brandon Brown was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years behind bars earlier this week in US District Court in Cedar Rapids. Brown had pled guilty to an armed robbery charge back in November. That charge stemmed from a robbery at the F&M Bank in Monticello in July. Prosecutors say Brown took a gun into that bank, pointed it at a teller, and made off with more than $4,000.

5th Floor Courthouse Renovation Included in 2018 Fiscal Year Budget

Jay Wickham

The Dubuque County Board of Supervisors has approved a funding plan for the renovation and remodeling of the county courthouse’s 5th floor. That floor will eventually house juvenile court services. Board chair Jay Wickham says the money to pay for the $2.2 million project will come from the county’s long-term capital infrastructure fund. There was some discussion about paying for the project with debt services money, which would be available in the fiscal year 2019 budget. Juvenile court services are currently located in the county Law Enforcement Center, but the department has outgrown their space in that building. The renovation of the 5th floor will provide some needed relief. Renovations to the 5th floor of the courthouse are expected to start this spring and be completed over the summer.

NICC: Fundraising Calls Are a Scam

A Dubuque County college says someone is using its name in a fundraising scam. Northeast Iowa Community College has been alerted to phone calls several people have received asking for money on the college’s behalf. The caller says the money will be used for a student trip to London. NICC says it does not have any approved fundraising efforts currently underway. If you receive one of the calls, the college asks that you notify your local police department.

IRS Phone Scam In Jo Daviess County

Scams happen during all times of the year, but tax time is when most of them rear their ugly heads. The Jo Daviess County Sheriff’s Department is putting the public on alert about an IRS phone scam. Someone calls a potential victim and tells them that the IRS has filed a lawsuit against them and they need to make immediate payment over the phone. The IRS never conducts business over the phone. If you received a call of this nature use extreme caution and never agree to transfer money to anyone unless you are sure of the identity of the recipient.

City, Unions Agree on New Deals Before Bargaining Bill Can Pass

Van Milligen

With a collective bargaining bill being discussed in the Iowa Legislature, the city of Dubuque has approved several contracts with the unions that represent municipal employees. At a budget session on Monday night, the City Council OKed contracts with three unions that represent about 240 city workers. City Manager Mike Van Milligen says both the city and the unions saw fit to get those deals done before the bill could pass. In the past, the city and the unions had typically renegotiated their contracts on a three-year basis. But the new agreements are five-year deals, which is something both parties were looking for. Under the new agreements, union members will receive a 2% pay increase in the upcoming fiscal year. That will be followed by raises of 1.5% and 1.75% in the coming years. But the union agreed to have members take on more of the cost of their health care plans, with contributions moving from 10% to 15%. The city is currently in negotiations with the union that represents local firefighters. Their current contract is set to expire at the end of June. The police union contract is currently in the second year of a three year agreement.

Car Wash Burglary Suspects Arrested Again

Mess, Shaffer

Two Dubuque men accused of breaking into at least two southwest Wisconsin car washes are among five people arrested after a traffic stop in Grant County. According to the local sheriff’s office, a deputy pulled a car over for speeding late Monday night. A K9 was used during the traffic stop and alerted officers to the smell of drugs coming from the car. Deputies searched the vehicle and found methamphetamine, marijuana, a loaded handgun, and several burglary tools. Three of the people in the car were arrested on various charges. That includes 31-year-old Lee Shaffer and 26-year-old Jay Mess. They’ve each been arrested twice this year on charges of robbing car washes in Platteville and Dickeyville. New charges against them include felony counts of Possession of Meth, Possession of Burglary Tools, and Bail Jumping. 22-year-old Tanner Ervolino was the other person arrested. He’s been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and resisting an officer.

Iowa Legislature Begins Debate on Collective Bargaining Bill

Bowman, Finkenauer

Debate on a bill that would drastically change Iowa’s collective bargaining system for public employees began in the State Legislature last night, with a couple of Tri-State area lawmakers taking part. The Iowa Senate took up the bill first. Senator Tod Bowman of Maquoketa, who represents all of Jackson and parts of Dubuque and Jones counties, told his fellow legislators the bill will have an effect on a variety of Iowa’s most essential professions. Bowman recounted the message he received from a Dewitt school principal who said the bill is already impacting the morale of his staff. Bowman asked if the proposed bill is so great, why are school districts rushing to negotiate new contracts before it can be passed? The Iowa House began debating the bill a few minutes after 8:00 last night. Dubuque representative Abby Finkenauer was one of the first to speak, and directly questioned another legislator why he wasn’t paying attention to the opening remarks on the bill. Finkenauer sounded a bit like one of the classroom teachers the bill would impact when she criticized other legislators who seemed to have their attention elsewhere. The bill did not come up for a vote in either chamber last night. Debate is expected to continue today.

Dubuque Health Officials Looking For Dog that Bit Woman

Dubuque city officials are looking for a dog that bit a woman earlier this week. The bite happened around 5:30 PM Monday near the intersection of Walnut and West 11th Streets. Two dogs in the area were being walked by their owners when the animals began to fight. One of the owners tried to separate the dogs, only to be bitten in the process. The dog that bit the woman is medium-sized, weighing between 40 and 50 pounds. The breed is unknown, but it had short brown fur. It was being walked by a white woman in her 30s. She was wearing a black jacket and had her hair in a ponytail at the time. The city’s health department is seeking information about the dog, so they can verify its health status and vaccination history.

Dubuque School Administrator Retiring After 47-Year Career

The Dubuque Community School District’s most senior staff member will be retiring later this year. The school board has approved the retirement of Nancy Bradley, the district’s Director of Elementary Education and Professional Learning. Bradley has been with the district for the last 47 years in several roles. She says she’s been privileged to have such a long career in one place. Bradley started her career at Prescott Elementary in 1970. She also taught Bryant and Table Mound before moving to the district office in 1994. Bradley says she’ll miss interacting with the colleagues and children she’s had the opportunity to work with. Bradley plans to remain active in the community following her retirement, which is effective at the end of June.

Another Community Conversation Set for Wednesday


Inclusive Dubuque’s series of so-called “Community Conversations” continues today with a session at Steeple Square. The first conversation was held back in December, and drew more than 70 attendees. Inclusive Dubuque Coordinator Katrina Farren-Eller says their goal is to create an atmosphere where everyone is respected, valued and treated fairly. The community conversations are designed to have Dubuque residents interact with people they normally might not. Next month’s conversation will focus on the well-being of Dubuque’s children. Inclusive Dubuque will continue to offer opportunities for people to get to know each other. Today’s community conversation will be held at Steeple Square beginning at 6:00 PM.

Counselors: Yoga Helps Kids Manage Anger, Bad Behavior

Molly Schreiber (left) leads a yoga class of Dubuque teachers and counselors (Courtesy: KCRG).

Could practicing yoga during class time help cut down on disruptive behavior in Dubuque’s schools? A group of counselors say they’re already seeing that happen. Dubuque yoga instructor Molly Schreiber has recently been leading classes for teachers and counselors from across the district. She tells our coverage partner, KCRG-TV, that the training opens the door for teachers to use yoga in their own classrooms. Stef Weber is one of the counselors who has taken Schrieber’s class. She says she’s already seen a difference in some students that have studied the yoga techniques. Teachers and counselors have been taking the yoga classes on a voluntary basis. The district does not have plans to make the training mandatory.

Emerald Ash Borer Confirmed in Clayton, Jackson Counties

Emerald Ash Borer

A destructive beetle that kills ash trees has now been confirmed in two additional Tri-State area counties. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reports that they’ve found evidence of the Emerald Ash Borer in both Clayton and Jackson counties. More specifically, the bug has been found in the communities of Bellevue and Marquette. In Bellevue, the discovery came after city staff asked the DNR to examine a tree that was showing symptoms of ash borer infestation. In Marquette, a member of the department’s Emerald Ash Borer team noticed an infected tree while in the area. The addition of Clayton and Jackson brings the total number of Iowa counties where the ash borer is present to 41.

Arrest Made in Preston School Break-In

Police have not yet identified this male suspect in the Easton Valley Elementary break-in.

Authorities have arrested one person accused of burglarizing a school, but another suspect is still at large. 21-year-old Dakota Welch of Andover was arrested last Friday in connection with a break-in at the Easton Valley Elementary School in Preston. Local police say surveillance video from the school shows Welch and a man breaking into the building during the overnight hours of January 31. According to court documents, the suspects made off with about 12-hundred dollars worth of property. Police are still looking for Welch’s male accomplice. Anyone with information about his identity can contact the Preston Police Department.

Jefferson Wrestling Room Named for Late Teacher/Coach

Matt Morehouse

The wrestling room at Dubuque’s Jefferson Middle School will now bear the name of a teacher and coach who died unexpectedly late last year. Matt Morehouse was a Dubuque native who taught art and coached wrestling at Jefferson. After his death, a group of students petitioned the school district to name the school’s wrestling room in Morehouse’s honor. 8th grader Alex Frapolli was one of the students who spoke at last night’s Dubuque school board meeting. Frapolli wrestled at 185 pounds for Morehouse and was also a student in his art class. Jefferson Principal Kelly Molony describes Morehouse as a quiet and unassuming person. Morehouse’s brother Marc attended the meeting. He says if Matt were alive he would probably shy away from all of the attention. Matt Morehouse was just 47 when he died last December.



WD Board Votes to Close Bernard Elementary

Bernard Elementary

A rural Dubuque County school will close for good at the end of the current school year. The Western Dubuque School Board voted last night to close the elementary school in Bernard, which has been open since 1960. The school currently houses just three grade levels and only 31 students. WD Superintendent Rick Colpitts says that in the end, the decision came down to a mixture of economics, enrollment, and the quality of the students’ education. Students currently attending Bernard will instead be bussed to the elementary school in nearby Cascade. Colpitts says the district will adjust some of its routes to limit the increase in the time that Bernard students spend on the bus. But some Bernard parents say they don’t want to have their kids in a school twelve miles away. Emili Owens spoke to our coverage partner, KCRG-TV, and is concerned about that commute. Jenni White worries about what losing the school will mean for the town of Bernard. The district has been studying Bernard Elementary’s future for years. Colpitts says the district sympathized with the parents’ concerns, but ultimately had to make the decision to close. The WD board voted 4-0 in favor of the closure. Board president Mark Knuth, who represents the Bernard area, abstained from the vote.

Branstad Favors “Modest” Minimum Wage Hike


Iowa’s Governor would be in favor of a small increase in the state’s minimum wage. That’s what Terry Branstad told reporters this morning at his weekly news conference. But Branstad added that he’d want that increase to be phased in over a span of a few years. Iowa lawmakers last voted to increase the state’s minimum wage back in 2007, bumping it to 7.25 per hour. Since then, several neighboring states have set minimum wages at higher levels. Branstad says raising the way could help Iowa remain competitive in attracting a talented workforce. Branstad also stated that he wants the Iowa Legislature to be in charge of setting the minimum wage, rather than having individual counties pass wages higher than the state level.

Accused Shooter Now Faces Federal Gun Trafficking Charge


A Dubuque man accused in a December shooting is now facing a federal gun trafficking charge. 30-year-old Derrick Mace was arrested back on December 6 after a report of shots fired in the 1300 block of Iowa Street. Police determined that the gunfire had come from the window of Mace’s second-story apartment. Officers reportedly found two loaded handguns and marijuana during a search of the apartment. Mace was arrested again early last Friday evening, this time on a federal warrant charging him with Trafficking in Stolen Weapons. It’s not known when Mace will make a court appearance on that charge. He was set to go on trial early next month on the charges stemming from his December arrest.

Lundgren Plans to Vote Against Collective Bargaining Bill


A Dubuque County legislator says she plans to break party lines and vote against a bill that would make significant changes to Iowa’s collective bargaining system. In a post on her Facebook page, Republican Shannon Lundgren of Peosta says that unless the bill undergoes a significant re-write, she plans to oppose it. The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Iowa House this week. The bill would only allow unions to negotiate wages, not benefits such as health insurance coverage. It would also limit pay increases to three percent or the change in the Consumer Price Index, whichever is lower. Lundgren writes that the bill does not seem “fair or equitable” to public employees, including teachers, plow drivers, and corrections officers. Here’s the full text of Lundgren’s post:

“The bill that came out last week about Collective Bargaining has prompted hundreds of calls, voicemails and emails to me about concerns. I’ve tried to return everyone of them that requested a contact back. If I missed you, my apologies.

I want this district to know that I will be a NO vote as this bill stands today. It does not seem to be fair or equitable to so many of our hard working public employees. Teachers, Plow Drivers, Corrections Officers etc…. the list goes on.

It has been a tough week. I promised to listen to you during my campaign and that is exactly what I did. I’m looking forward to the amendments that come from both sides of the aisle that will improve this bill but until I see them, it changes nothing for me.

Hang in there folks! I’m doing my best to keep that very important campaign promise. I appreciate your support and most importantly your prayers.”

Accused Car Wash Burglars Face New Charges

Mess, Shaffer

A pair of Dubuque men who are accused of breaking into a Platteville car wash now face charges related to a similar crime in Dickeyville. 31-year-old Lee Shaffer and 26-year-old Jay Mess were arrested last month after authorities found them at Eastside Quarters in Platteville. Police say the men had burglary tools on them and the car wash’s money machine had been damaged. Last week, charges were filed against Shaffer and Mess in connection with a December break-in at the Dickeyville Car Wash. They are now facing one count each of Criminal Damage to Property and Attempted Misdemeanor Theft. Shaffer and Mess are expected to make a court appearance on those charges tomorrow.

Radio Dubuque Staffers Honored as “Everyday Heroes”

Bennett, Callaghan, Crowell, Lary

Four of our colleagues here at Radio Dubuque are among ten people being honored by the American Red Cross as “Everyday Heroes of Northeast Iowa.” Lisa Bennett, Mike Callaghan, Josh Crowell, and Tim Lary are being recognized for their efforts to evacuate a burning Loras College building. Last March, an overnight lightning strike caused one of the buildings in Loras’ Visitation Complex to catch fire. Callaghan and Crowell were the first to notice the fire. They called emergency responders. Bennett, Crowell, and Lary then ran to the building to wake up residents and help them out of the building. Crowell even ran into the building and went up and down its three floors, pounding on doors and yelling to wake up the residents. All of the students living in the building got out safely and were escorted here to the Radio Dubuque studios, where they were sheltered until other living space was found. Bennett, Callaghan, Crowell, and Lary will be honored at a breakfast next month, on the one-year anniversary of the fire.

Full list of “Everyday Heroes:”

  • Lisa Bennett, Mike Callaghan, Josh Crowell, and Tim Lary: On Wednesday, March 16, 2016, during a morning break Crowell and Callaghan noticed a bright light at the top of Loras College’s Visitation Hall.  Simultaneously, they realized it was a fire and saw no one was exiting the building.  Callaghan ran back into the station to dial 9-1-1 and alert the staff inside.  Crowell ran toward Visitation Hall and was soon joined by Lary and Bennett.  Lary beat on the lower level windows, Bennett entered the building through a side door someone opened and Crowell forced his way into the front.  Crowell pulled the fire alarm and he and Bennett started banging on doors to get the students out while Lary remained outside to help direct the students over to the radio station.  They cleared all four floors getting all 45 students out of the building.  You can ask any one of them and they will tell you they were just doing what they knew had to be done
  • Chris Kennedy and Jeremy Shireman: On Thursday, January 28, 2017, Shireman and Kennedy noticed something strange about a car stuck at busy Dubuque intersection. As they drove by the car, they noticed John Ronek, slumped over. Ronek was suffering from an apparent heart attack while driving. Shireman and Kennedy broke into the driver-side window, stopped the vehicle from moving into traffic and pulled Ronek out. They laid him down onto a nearby median and began CPR. Both men demonstrate the importance of knowing community CPR.
  • Nancy Gourley:  Three mornings a week, Gourley can be found in Rose Oswald’s fifth-grade classroom at St. Anthony Elementary School in Dubuque. Gourley has been volunteering at the school for over 10 years, offering her time to help the students and teachers. She can be found working with students in small-group book discussion, aiding students with their reading comprehension or memorization and helping a child catch up after an absence. Students feel safe with Gourley and they receive the help they need from her.
  • Nathan Hall: On Monday, September 14, 2016 at 4:15 p.m. Hall was driving through an intersection when he saw a car had hit a bicyclist. He noticed the bicyclist was stuck under the car, so he ran to help. After seeing the bicyclist, Mike Larkin, breathe he ran to his car to get a car jack. Hall worked to lift the car off Larkin when authorities arrived on the scene.
  • Kevin Morris: On Sunday, December 11, 2016, in Bennett, IA, Morris received a startling call from a longtime friend and neighbor, Richard Kreinbring was trapped under a tractor. The tractor had rolled over and caught fire. Morris went under the tractor to help lift and pull Kreinbring out.
  • Steven Nelson: In Decorah, IA Nelson has a goal to deliver warm clothes to those in need free of charge through “Giving Trees.” The concept for the project, “NEED a scarf, TAKE a scarf. HAVE a scarf, LEAVE a scarf” has invited people to add mittens, gloves and hats to trees around the Water Street Area. Nelson repairs and launders the items, and removes them in the event of inclement weather. The project has been well received and in 2015 shared over 180 items.

WD Superintendent “Disappointed” in State Aid Level


The superintendent of the Western Dubuque school district says he’s disappointed in state lawmakers’ decision to set a low level of aid for schools. Governor Terry Branstad last week signed a bill that provides a 1.1% increase in state money for schools. That’s about half of the 2% that Branstad himself proposed earlier this year. WD Superintendent Rick Colpitts says while the district hadn’t been banking on Branstad’s proposal, they still stand to receive a couple hundred thousand dollars less than if his number had been approved. The $275,000 difference between those two funding levels would have paid the salaries for five teachers. With personnel being by far the district’s largest expense, Colpitts guesses that the extra money would have been spent on hiring additional educators. Colpitts estimates that WD spends about twice as much on transportation as most districts. But he says there appears to be an effort in the Legislature to help ease that burden. WD’s overall budget for the upcoming school year is expected to contain about $3 million in expenditures.

District Likely Will Perform Improvements to Hempstead Baseball Field

It appears that any baseball field improvements at Hempstead High School will be done by the district. The district received bids for improvements at the field from four contractors, but they were all over the budget estimate for the project. Substantial improvements will be made to the field this summer. The school board will take up the issue during its meeting tonight. That meeting starts at 5:30 PM at The Forum on Chaney Road.

Lead Paint Removal Efforts Continue

The city of Dubuque plans to inspect dozens homes over the next two years in an effort to remove lead paint. The Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes Program started about a year ago and is funded by the federal government. The city can spend about $14,000 per house to remove lead paint and fix other hazards. Workers have fixed about 20 homes so far and have enough money for nearly one hundred more. Homeowner Cathie Boland told our coverage partner KCRG-TV she was surprised that city inspectors found more problems than just lead paint in her home. Homeowners can determine if they have lead paint in their home by looking at paint chips. They usually look like alligator skin and are typically found in homes built before 1978.

Galena Home Damaged by Attic Fire

A Galena home sustained significant damage after fire broke out in its attic yesterday morning. Firefighters were called to the house in the 600 block of Prospect Street at about 10:00 AM. When they arrived on scene, the attic had filled with smoke. Crews were able to limit the fire damage to the attic, though it’s not clear if smoke damaged any other parts of the house. No one was injured. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation.

Grassley: Gorsuch’s Comments Show Differences with Trump

Gorsuch (Courtesy: PBS)

Recent comments from President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee show differences between him and the president. That’s according to the chair of the US Senate’s Judiciary Committee. Iowa Senator Charles Grassley plans to support Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the high court. Gorsuch was recently reported to say that President Trump’s attacks on the judiciary are “demoralizing and disheartening.” Grassley says if those comments are true, it should put to rest any doubt that Gorsuch will be independent of the President. Grassley refused to hold confirmation hearings last year on former President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland.

Memory Café

It was first established in the Netherlands in 1997 and now Memory Cafes are popping up all across the globe. Memory Café is a support group for care givers of people suffering with Alzheimer’s and dementia. The first Memory Café was formed in the U.S. in 2008 and just recently one was set up at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Dubuque. The moderator is Dr. Jade Angelica She says while there are other support groups for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia the café is centered around socialization, friendship and fun. The Memory Café meets every second Thursday of the month from 10 until noon at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. No registration is required and interested parties can just show up.


GDDC Takes Top Honors

The Greater Dubuque Development Corporation took home four honors during the recent Economic Development Council Conference in Chicago. GDDC took first place for its’ annual report, workforce development HR Action Program and the business retention and expansion InfoAction Program. GDDC was also awarded the Deal of the Year for the Alliant Energy Solar Project. The ceremony was part of the annual Mid-America Competitiveness Conference and Site Selector Forum held by the Mid-America Economic Development Council.

Blum Named Chair Of Subcommittee

Iowa Congressman Rod Blum has been appointed chair of the Small Business Committee subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade. The Dubuque Republican was recently named to the position by the Small Business Committee. In addition to being named chair of the subcommittee, Blum will maintain his post on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Its’ mission is to expose waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government. Blum is in his second term representing Iowa’s First Congressional District.


Dubuque Drug Arrest

A man was arrested yesterday  afternoon in Dubuque after a traffic stop turned into a drug bust.

At about 12:50 Friday afternoon the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Office along with the Dubuque Drug Task Force stopped 42 year old Scott Michael Harry on Highway 151 north of Bernard. The Sheriff’s K-9 unit was brought in to search Harry’s vehicle and indicated the presence of illegal narcotics inside. During a search of the vehicle authorities discovered approximately 1.5 pounds of Methamphetamine along with drug paraphernalia. Harry was then placed under arrest and taken to the Dubuque County Jail for a court appearance. Harry now faces a felony charge of Possession of Methamphetamine with intent to deliver along with a Possession of Drug Paraphernalia charge, and faces up to 25 years in prison.

WD Board Expect to Vote on Future of Bernard Elementary School

Bernard Elementary School

The future of a rural Dubuque County school could be decided on Monday. The Western Dubuque School Board is expected to vote on whether to close Bernard Elementary at its meeting that night. For the past several years, the district has been weighing several options for the future of the school, including its closure. District superintendent Rick Colpitts would not reveal the recommendation he’ll make to the board, but says it’s a product of taking a long-range look at district enrollment. Just 31 students currently attend Bernard Elementary. That means operating costs for the school are about twice as much as for any of the district’s other elementaries. Bernard’s future was most recent on the board’s agenda during their December meeting, which was held at the school. About two dozen Bernard residents spoke during that meeting, asking the board to keep the school open. Monday’s meeting will begin at 6:00 PM at the Western Dubuque district offices in Farley.

Betty Jane Candies Included in Grammy Gift Bags

Performers and winners at this weekend’s Grammy Awards will get a little taste of Dubuque. That’s because sweets from Betty Jane Candies will be included in the gift bags presented at Sunday’s ceremony. This is the third time in the past few years that Betty Jane candy has been included in the gift bag given out at a major award show. They were also included in bags presented at the 2013 Emmys and the 2014 Academy Awards. This year’s Grammy gift bags are valued at 30-thousand dollars and also contain spa gift certificates, skin care products, and a home security system kit.

Clarke Students Unhappy with Mascot Change

“Clarke Pride” logo

Clarke University will be changing its mascot next year, but many students say they’re not happy with how the change was made. For the past 40 years, Clarke’s sports teams have been known as the “Crusaders.” But school officials announced last week that they’ll be changing the nickname to the “Pride.” The decision has caused some dissention on campus, where students feel they weren’t a part of the decision to make the change. Bethanie Krause, a sophomore psychology major, started an online petition about the change. A campus-wide poll was taken last year about the possibility of changing the school’s mascot. But according to Krause, the results of that survey were never publicized. She says that’s one of the things that spurred her to start her petition. Even before the change was announced, Krause says there were signals that a switch was coming. With students being the most visible part of the campus community, Krause hopes university leaders will keep them in mind when making future decisions. Krause’s online petition has more than three hundred signatures. To view the petition, click here.

Ernst Schedules Veterans Discussion in Maquoketa


One of Iowa’s US Senators will be speaking on veterans issues in Jackson County later this month. Senator Joni Ernst has scheduled a so-called “Veterans Roundtable” discussion. Veterans and community leaders are invited to participate. The event will be held at Maquoketa’s city hall on February 21, which is a week from Tuesday. The event is a part of Ernst’s plan to hold events in all 99 of Iowa’s counties this year.

Colt Cadets Open Rehearsals This Weekend

The 2017 season for the Colt Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps kicks off this weekend with an informational meeting and an open rehearsal at Table Mound Elementary School. Director David Alford invites all students interested in joining the Colt Cadets to attend. The open rehearsal is for anyone age 12 to 18. Following the final open rehearsal on March 5th, the Cadets will start their full summer schedule the weekend of June 9th. Their first performance will be with the Colts at the University of Dubuque on Jun 23rd. The Cadets will have a busy summer before their final performance in Indianapolis. The big car wash fundraiser for both the Cadets and Colts will be held on June 10th. The other way the Cadets raise money is through membership fees. This weekend’s open rehearsal will be from 1:00 to 5:00 PM Sunday at Table Mound.



Dubuque Chamber Opposes Bag Ban

Dubuque’s Chamber of Commerce has come out against a proposed citywide ban on plastic grocery bags. Dubuque’s city council directed staff to develop an ordinance that would ban the single-use bags within the city at their meeting on Monday. The city also considered placing restrictions on the bags in 2010 and 2014. The Chamber was against the idea then. CEO Molly Grover says while that has not changed, they plan to discuss the topic at the next Chamber board meeting. Grover says the Chamber is concerned about what kind of impact bag ban would have on the business community. Work on creating that bag ban is on hold. That’s because of a bill that was introduced in the Iowa Legislature on Tuesday that would prevent cities and counties from enacting such a regulation.

Fire Destroys Fennimore Home

Fire fighters from Fennimore and three nearby communities spend nearly five hours battling a house fire that destroyed a home late Wednesday morning. According to a post on the Fennimore Fire Department’s Facebook page, crews responded to a residence in the 1000 block of Jefferson Street just before 11:30 AM. Someone reported seeing smoke coming from the structure and contacted the Grant County Sheriff’s Department. No injuries were reported. In addition to Fennimore’s fire department, firefighters from Boscobel, Monfort, and Lancaster helped battle the blaze.

District, Administrators Removed from Sexual Exploitation Lawsuit


The Dubuque school district will not be included in a sexual exploitation lawsuit filed by a former student. That’s the ruling that was upheld by the Iowa Court of Appeals this week. A woman filed the suit in May of 2015 against the district and four administrators at Hempstead High School, including former Assistant Principal Shane Oswald. He was accused of having sexual contact with the woman while she was a Hempstead student. Oswald was convicted on sexual exploitation charges in 2010. The Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court ruling that only Oswald can be included in the suit because it was filed after a two year limit.

Shooting Suspect Makes Initial Appearance


A Chicago resident accused of shooting another man in Dubuque last week has made his initial court appearance. 26-year-old David Caldwell went before a judge on Tuesday. He’s been charged with Willful Injury and Reckless Use of a Firearm Causing Injury. According to Dubuque Police, Caldwell and 32-year-old Fred Jenkins had gotten into an argument at a house in the 2100 block of Jackson Street last Friday morning. The altercation spilled into the alley behind the house, where Caldwell reportedly shot Jenkins. Caldwell left the area before police arrived, but was stopped later that morning near Elizabeth, Illinois. He was arrested there on charges not related to the shooting, and extradited back to Dubuque. Caldwell is now being held in the Dubuque County Jail, where his bond has been set at $50,000.

Four Dubuquers Charged in Federal Fraud Case

Four Dubuque residents face a total of 117 counts of wire fraud for their roles in a scheme to defraud the elderly. Carlos Rodriguez, Michael Marcov, Stephanie Marcov, and Cody Richey were all indicted in US District Court in Cedar Rapids yesterday. Prosecutors say that the four called elderly individuals in at least thirty states. They told the potential victim that a relative was in jail and needed help collecting bail money. They would then ask the victim to wire money using either Money Gram or Western Union. But instead of the payments going to a law enforcement agency, those involved in the scheme would collect the wire transfers. A fifth person, Shawn Vaassen, was charged separately for his role in the fraud.

Flu Bug Making Rounds At Dubuque Schools


Dubuque’s schools are being hit hard by the flu bug. Senior High School in particular has seen a about one-tenth of its student body miss class due to flu-like symptoms. District Health Coordinator Rhonda Ramler says about 170 kids have been out sick. It’s not just Senior, though. Ramler reports that students across the district have been infected with Influenza A. The district is required to notify the Iowa Department of Public Health anytime ten percent of a school’s students are suffering from the flu. The district is now reaching out to parents, letting them know what symptoms to look for and when to keep their kids home. The month of February is typically marks the peak of the flu season in Iowa.



Klink Gets Ten Year Sentence for Role in Bus Crash

A Delaware County man who collided with school bus while high on meth will spend a decade in prison. A Delaware County judge sentenced 42-year-old Monte Klink to ten years behind bars yesterday. Klink pled guilty in November to two counts of Serious Injury by Vehicle and a second offense of Operating While Intoxicated. His attorney asked to withdraw two of the guilty pleas but a judge denied that request. In October of 2015, Klink’s vehicle struck a West Delaware school bus that was carrying 32 students. They were all taken to the hospital, mostly for minor injuries. Tests showed that Klink had methamphetamine in his system at the time of the crash.

House Bill Would Block Dubuque’s Proposed Bag Ban


Concerns over a proposed ban on plastic grocery bags in Dubuque could be much ado about nothing. That’s because a bill has been introduced in the Iowa Legislature that would prevent cities or counties from instituting such regulations. The bill aims to prohibit cities from regulating “employment matters and the sale or marketing of consumer merchandise.” Dubuque City Attorney Crenna Brumwell says that includes plastic grocery bags. The bill was introduced on Tuesday night by State Representative Jake Highfill, who represents the Des Moines suburb of Johnston. Its chances of passage aren’t clear, but Brumwell says she’s relieved that the bill was introduced before she did much work on creating a ban ordinance. The bill will have to pass the House’s Local Government committee before it can be voted on.

City Budget Hearings Begin Thursday

Van Milligen

The Dubuque City Council will begin holding its annual budget hearings tomorrow night, but there’s already a framework in place for the fiscal year 2018 budget. City Manager Mike Van Milligen shared several details of his budget recommendations with the council at their meeting on Monday. According to Van Milligen, Dubuque is planning to an eight percent cut in spending. Van Milligen says the council’s strategy of decreasing the city’s debt load is working, as Dubuque will retire more than 60-million dollars in debt in the next five years. Van Milligen’s budget recommendations do not include an increase in property taxes for Dubuque homeowners. However, there is expected to be an increase in the fees for city services. Among the departments that will present their budgets during tomorrow night’s hearing are the City Manager’s office, the City Attorney’s office, and the Cable TV Division.

Dubuque Stores React to Possible Plastic Bag Ban

Courtesy: WGMD

Retailers around Dubuque are expressing concern about how a proposed ban on single-use plastic bags could impact them. Dubuque’s City Council has directed staff to develop an ordinance that would ban those bags, commonly used in grocery and convenience stores. Michelle Hurd, the president of the Iowa Grocers Association, predicts that it will be consumers that see the biggest impact of a potential ban. Jeff Cremer of Dubuque’s Cremer’s Grocery Store agrees, saying any expense his business has to take on will be passed to the customer. Cremer is also concerned about how the city will enforce the ban, if it is approved. The city has been promoting voluntary efforts to reduce plastic bag usage since 2010, but with mixed results. Hurd would like to see a renewed focus placed on those efforts, rather than an all-out ban. We also reached out to Hy-Vee, which has three stores in Dubuque, for their reaction to the proposed ban. Here’s their statement:

At Hy-Vee, we believe we have an obligation to be part of the solution when it comes to reducing the environmental impact of plastic shopping bags. We work with our employees to reduce the number of paper and plastic bags we use, encouraging customers to increase the number of plastic bags brought back to the stores for recycling and striving to increase reusable bag use by our customers. Many of our stores offer a discount of up to 5 cents per bag for the reuse of bags.

In fiscal year 2015, our company’s 240 stores across eight states recycled nearly 2.13 million pounds of plastic shopping bags, and the recycled material was reused to make new plastic bags.

Here are some reminders for our customers:

  • Request your bags be filled to capacity.
  • All our stores provide plastic bag recycling, typically in a bin located at the store entrance.
  • Keep reusable bags visible in your vehicle to remember them when entering the store.

Mild January Tough on Sundown

A machine blasts artificial snow at Sundown Mountain.

The Dubuque area saw some mild weather in January. Most people were OK with that, but the conditions didn’t do Sundown Mountain any favors. Since the beginning of November, Dubuque has seen about three inches less snow than normal. Couple that with some warmer-than-usual temperatures, and it made things tough on the mountain, as General Manager Mark Gordon told our coverage partner, KCRG-TV. Sundown only relies on Mother Nature for a small percentage of their snow. But they can’t make the artificial stuff if temperatures rise above 28 degrees, as was the case several times in January. Between November and March, Dubuque typically sees about 40 inches of snowfall. So far this year, about half of that amount has fallen.

Hillcrest Tries to Fill Gaps Since Planned Parenthood Closure

As the fight over defunding Planned Parenthood continues in the Iowa Statehouse, a Dubuque organization says it’s trying to fill the gaps in services caused by the local Planned Parenthood office’s closure. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland announced a little over a year ago that their Dubuque clinic would be closing due to a lack of demand for services. But in the year since, officials at Hillcrest Family Services say they’ve seen requests for family planning services increase. The difference, though, is that Hillcrest does not talk about abortion. Paula Paider-Licht, Hillcrest’s Director of Community Health Services, says while the organization has a religious aspect to it, that only comes up if the client asks. The Iowa House is expected to take up a bill that would eliminate state funding for Planned Parenthood, or any other organization that provides abortions, sometime in the coming weeks.

Third Suspect Arrested in September Home Invasion, Assault


Dubuque Police have made another arrest in connection with a home invasion and assault last fall. 42-year-old Stanley Turner was taken into custody in the parking lot of Washington Middle School last Friday. He’s been charged with First Degree Burglary, Providing False Identification, Possession of a Controlled Substance, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Investigators say Turner was one of three men that went into an apartment on Hillcrest Road last September. They’re accused of pulling a man from his bed and assaulting him. The other two men were arrested back in November. Turner was arrested after police were called to Washington for a truancy case. Officers determined that Turner, the child’s stepfather, had outstanding warrants out for his arrest and took him into custody.

Cardinal Dolan to Headline Divine Word Fundraiser

Cardinal Dolan

One of the Catholic Church’s leading American figures will headline a fundraiser for Divine Word College this spring. The school has announced that Cardinal Timothy Dolan will be the keynote speaker at a dinner in April. That event will serve to raise money for the school’s scholarship fund. Dolan became the Archbishop of New York in 2009 after serving as the Archbishop of Milwaukee for eight years. He’s also served as the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. According to a release from Divine Word, Dolan stayed at a home owned by the Society of the Divine Word when he was studying for his doctorate at Catholic University in Washington, DC. The fundraising dinner is scheduled for April 21 at the Grand River Center. Tickets are fifty dollars and can be purchased through Divine Word.

Dickinson: IBM Looks to Grow in 2017, Still Adding Value to Dubuque


Business leaders in Dubuque are using a milestone in the redevelopment of the Roshek Building to reiterate IBM’s value to the city. Back in 2008 when IBM was considering locating in Dubuque, the city agreed to guarantee a $25 million loan to assist with the redevelopment of the Roshek Building. Repayment of that loan has coming faster than expected, and the city has now been released from its responsibility. Rick Dickinson, the CEO of Greater Dubuque Development, says there’s no chance IBM would have come to Dubuque without the city taking on that responsibility. IBM initially promised to hire 1,300 employees to work in Dubuque, a mark that the company hit in early 2011. Following some down-sizing, there are now about five hundred employees locally, but the company has plans to add in 2017. Dickinson acknowledged that there have been some disappointments since IBM came to Dubuque, but says even with those in mind, he would still work just as hard to bring the company to town. Dickinson estimates that since locating in Dubuque, IBM has paid about $440 million in salary to its local employees.


Lundgren: Revenue Shortfall Forces Legislators’ Hands on School Funding


The only state lawmaker from Dubuque County who supported an education funding bill says the measure had to fit in to some very tight budget restrictions. State Representative Shannon Lundgren of Peosta voted in favor of a bill that sets the level of state aid for schools at 1.1%. That will provide a total of $40 million for the state’s schools, which Lundgren believes is what the state can provide without over-extending itself. Prior to this year’s legislative session, the state’s revenue estimating commission announced that the state had brought in about $100 million less than expected. Lundgren says Republicans are trying to budget as if revenue will be the same next year. Lundgren says that revenue shortfall has forced legislators’ hands. Much of Lundgren’s district falls within the borders of the Western Dubuque School District. Those schools will receive $275,000 less in state aid than if the level had been set at two percent, which Governor Terry Branstad proposed earlier this year. Lundgren is hoping to make some adjustments to state policies that will loosen restrictions on how WD has to spend its money. The education funding bill passed the Iowa House late Monday night on a 55-40 vote. Democrats Abby Finkenauer and Chuck Isenhart, who represent the city of Dubuque, voted against it.

Judge: Klink Can’t Withdraw Pleas


A judge says a Delaware County man accused of crashing into a loaded school bus can’t withdraw two guilty pleas. 42-year-old Monte Klink had pleaded guilty in November to a second-offense of Operating While Intoxicated and to two counts of Causing Serious Injury by Vehicle. Authorities say his sport utility vehicle collided with a West Delaware school bus near Manchester in October of 2015. All 32 students were treated for mostly minor injuries. Klink’s attorney had asked to withdraw two of the guilty pleas. He claimed that Klink was not aware he’d have to serve his entire sentence on the serious injury by vehicle charges. The judge in the case has ruled that Klink filed his motion to withdraw after a 45-day time limit. Klink is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday.

Walker Insists He’s Not Interested in Cabinet Post


Wisconsin’s governor is repeating his insistence that he will not join President Donald Trump’s Cabinet. Scott Walker told reporters as much on Monday in Green Bay. But Democrat Congressman Mark Pocan says rumors are circulating in Washington that Walker could be interested in being Secretary of Labor if Trump’s original nominee, Andrew Puzder, is not confirmed. His hearing has been postponed multiple times. Pocan says the rumors caught on after Walker talked about labor issues with Vice President Mike Pence then engaged in a Trump-like Twitter battle with Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin.

Kotz Named New Dubuque County Fair General Manager

Kevin Kotz

The Dubuque County Fair has a new General Manager. Kevin Kotz takes over those duties after serving on the fair association’s board for the past several years. The fair association made the announcement on Monday. Kotz takes over for Jamie Blum, who resigned at the end of last year. Kotz first joined the fair board in 2014. He’s also been a longtime volunteer for the association. In addition, he’s been active with several fair-related groups, including a local 4-H club, the Boy Scouts, and the Tri-State Saddle Club. In addition to Kotz’s hiring, the association has also named Melissa Kotz as their Office Manager and Events Coordinator. Melissa is Kevin’s daughter-in-law.

Dubuque Council Takes First Step Toward Banning Plastic Grocery Bags

Courtesy: NBC

The Dubuque City Council has taken the first step toward banning plastic grocery bags in the city. On a split vote, the council last night directed the City Attorney’s office to develop an ordinance that would ban the single-use bags, which are commonly used at grocery and convenience stores. The council was originally set to discuss a city staff recommendation against implementing a fee or tax on the bags. City Manager Mike Van Milligan told the council that state law would make it very difficult for the city to charge a fee or tax for those bags. Council members discussed ways to reduce the use of the bags that did not include a fee or tax, such as increased education for citizens and retailers. But council member Jake Rios felt like those steps were a temporary fix. But after about twenty minutes of discussion, council member Ric Jones decided to change his motion to call for the development of a ban ordinance. The council was split on the idea of a ban, with councilman David Resnick calling it sudden. Council member Luis Del Toro also spoke against a ban, noting that the idea had not been run past the local business community. The council voted 4-3 to develop a ban ordinance, with Rios, Jones, Councilman Kevin Lynch, and Mayor Roy Buol voting in favor. Resnick, Del Toro, and Joyce Connors were opposed.

UPDATE: Dubuque Apartment Fire Deemed “Suspicious”

The Dubuque Fire Department now says a blaze at an apartment complex on Sunday afternoon is suspicious. Fire crews responded to the building in the 26-hundred block of Owen Court at around 3:45 PM. The fire started in a stairwell and crews were able to get it under control quickly. Although the investigation is still underway, Fire Marshall Mark Burkle says it appears the fire was started on purpose. Burkle says he’ll know more about the cause of the fire when some samples come back from a state lab in Des Moines. One person was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. Smoke from the fire damaged six of the building’s twelve apartments. Damage is estimated at around $10,000.

Murder Suspect Betwell Accused of Punching Jail Guard


A Dubuque man facing rape and murder charges is now accused of assaulting a guard at the Dubuque County Jail. 21-year-old Helmon Betwell stands accused of First Degree Sexual Assault and First Degree Murder. He’s now had an additional charge of Assault on a Peace Officer filed against him in connection with an incident that happened last July. According to an arrest report, Betwell punched a sheriff’s deputy in the face while in custody at the Dubuque County Jail. The incident happened after Betwell was deemed incompetent to stand trial, but before he was transferred to a psychiatric facility in Coralville. After about four months there, a judge ruled that Betwell is mentally fit to go on trial for the killing of Nancy Krapfl. Prosecutors say he assaulted her while she was out for a morning walk in September 2015. She later died from injuries sustained in the attack. According to online court records, Betwell underwent a competency evaluation last month. The results of that test will be presented during a hearing that is scheduled for next week.

City Staff Advise Against Ban or Fee for Plastic Shopping Bags


An analysis by Dubuque city workers says a surcharge on plastic shopping bags would be complicated to implement and could expose the city to lawsuits if not done properly. A memo from Cori Burbach, the city’s sustainable community coordinator, says charging shoppers a fee for plastic bags would require a substantial amount of staff time and resources to oversee. The goal of a fee would be to reduce the use of plastic bags, which tend to be non-biodegradable, clog landfills, and harm wildlife. The Dubuque City Council will consider the fee proposal during their meeting tonight at the Historic Federal Building. Communities around the country have taken similar measures to ban or charge a fee for plastic shopping bags.

State Lawmakers Unsure What’s Ahead in Coming Week

Rep. Isenhart, Sen. Jochum

The state lawmakers who represent Dubuque aren’t sure what will be on their desks in the coming week. What is known is that the Iowa House will take up an education bill that would give the state’s school districts 1.1 percent in allowable growth for the upcoming school year. But beyond that, Republicans who control both chambers of the Legislature have been tight-lipped about their schedule, according to Democrat State Representative Chuck Isenhart. Fellow Democrat Pam Jochum says Republicans have made similar efforts in the Iowa Senate, where she serves. Jochum says Republicans have also made efforts to limit public input on controversial bills. That education bill has already been approved by the Senate. The House is expected to OK it along party lines as well.

Several Apartments Damaged by Fire in Building

Half of the residents of a Dubuque apartment building had to find somewhere else to stay after a fire in the building yesterday. Firefighters were called to the building on Owen Court, just off of John F. Kennedy Road, at about 3:45 yesterday afternoon. A fire had started in a common area of the building. Fire crews were able to knock that blaze down shortly after arrival. But smoke from the fire damaged six of the building’s twelve apartments, displacing the residents of those units. One person was taken from the scene by ambulance. The fire department is still trying to determine the cause of the blaze.

Empty Train Cars Derail Near Massey Station

Courtesy: KCRG

A set of train tracks south of Dubuque are back open this morning after more than two dozen train cars derailed there yesterday. A northbound Canadian Pacific train jumped the tracks near Massey Station at around 6:30 AM. No one was injured, and clean up was minimal, as the 26 cars that derailed were empty. Kerry Rogers lives near the site of the derailment, and told our coverage partner KCRG-TV the sound of the cars crashing jolted her out of bed. Jeff Van Zile also lives in the area. He says people living along the tracks are fortunate the train cars were empty. Workers from the railroad had the derailed cars cleared and were starting to install new track by last night.

Huge Crowd Turns Out for Legislative Cracker Barrel

More than 200 people fill the Diamond Jo’s Harbor Room for 2017’s first Cracker Barrel Saturday morning.

A standing room only crowd crammed into the Diamond Jo’s Harbor Room yesterday for the first legislative Cracker Barrel of the year. Nearly 250 people attended the forum featuring the state lawmakers who represent Dubuque and Dubuque County. The League of Women Voters hosted yesterday’s event, and chairwoman Tamara Prenosil says it was the largest crowd she’s seen in the two decades the league has hosted Cracker Barrels. Prenosil says the attendance could be a sign that people are becoming more active in local politics. State Representatives Chuck Isenhart and Abby Finkenauer and State Senators Pam Jochum and Tod Bowman were the panelists for the event. Dubuque County’s lone Republican state legislator, Shannon Lundgren of Peosta, attended a similar event within her district.

UPDATE: Police ID Shooting Suspect

Dubuque police have identified a man who shot another man in the Washington Park neighborhood this morning. 26 year old David Caldwell of Chicago is charged in the shooting pf 32 year old Fred Jenkins also of Chicago. According to a release from the police department both men got into an argument in the 21-hundred block of Jackson Street at around 7:30 AM. The argument turned physical as the two moved to a nearby alley. That’s where shots rang out. Jenkins was shot in the leg and transported to Finley Hospital with a non-life threatening injury. By the time officers arrived on scene, Caldwell had fled the area. A description of his vehicle was sent to area law enforcement agencies and Caldwell was stopped near Elizabeth and arrested on charges unrelated to the shooting. After being questioned by officers Caldwell confessed to shooting Jenkins. He remains in custody in Illinois and faces charges of willful injury and reckless use of a firearm once he is extradited back to Dubuque. If convicted Caldwell faces up to 20 years in prison and fines of 20-thousand dollars on both charges.

Hillcrest Names New CEO

Hillcrest Family Services in Dubuque has a new President and CEO. Julie Heiderscheit, the current Chief Operating Officer at Hillcrest has been promoted to President and CEO. Heiderscheit replaces Gary Gansemer who will retire in April after 19 years of heading the organization. Before becoming COO, Heiderscheit, who came to Hillcrest in 2006 served as Director of Human Resources. A national search was conducted seeking a replacement for Gansemer. Hillcrest assists more than 35 thousand people annually through more than 30 different programs and services ranging from mental health to adoption to health and wellness. Heiderscheit begins her new duties on April 2nd.

Shooting Injures Chicago Man, Suspect in Custody

One man has been taken to the hospital and another is in custody after a shooting in Dubuque’s Washington neighborhood this morning. Police were called to the 2100 block of Jackson Street shortly after 7:30 AM. That’s where witnesses say a pair of men had been in an argument, which escalated into a physical disturbance. The incident moved to the alley behind that block, which is where shots rang out. 32-year-old Fred Jenkins of Chicago suffered a gunshot wound to the leg. He was taken to Finley Hospital with what’s called a non-life threatening injury. The person who fired the shot was gone by the time police arrived on scene, but a description of the suspect’s vehicle was sent to area law enforcement agencies. The car was stopped near Elizabeth and the suspect was arrested on charges not related to the shooting. Police say additional charges are possible.

Psychologist: Online Political Discord Could Impact Mental Health


The increase in strong political opinions – and in some cases, arguments – being shared on social media could be causing mental health issues to flare up. That’s according to Dubuque psychologist Nicole Keedy. She tells our coverage partner KCRG-TV that there’s been a spike in people dealing with anger and anxiety issues. Keedy says while she hasn’t taken on any new patients dealing with these issues, the amount of conflict online is causing problems to flare up in some of her existing patients. Keedy has worked at Medical Associates’ Dubuque clinic since 2010.

Former “Block Party” Reinvented as “Community Showcase”

The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque has reinvented what it used to call its “Community Block Party.” The new Community Showcase is set to debut this afternoon at the Mystique Community Ice Center. Wendy Steffen from the Community Foundation says nearly 70 non-profit organizations will be on hand, competing for votes with interactive booths and prize drawings. Winning groups will then receive cash grants from the foundation. In addition, the foundation’s youth organization – known as the “Yappers” – will be offering their “Sweet Treats” cake and cookie auction. The Community Showcase runs from 4:00 to 6:30 PM and is free to attend.

“Marijuana Lab” Operator Faces New Charges

Colton Puccio

A Dubuque teenager accused of operating a “marijuana lab” with his father is facing some new charges. 19-year-old Colton Puccio is now charged with two counts of Manufacturing Marijuana and Marijuana Concentrates. He had plead not guilty to charges claiming he possessed both marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Prosecutors say Puccio and his father, Mark, were found in an apartment with raw marijuana, equipment used to extract THC oil, and several other tools used in growing marijuana. Police say they also found a marijuana pipe and hash oil extract on Colton’s pockets. Mark Puccio is facing similar charges to his son. Mark’s next court appearance is scheduled for later this month.

Rare for Dubuque to Start February Without Snow on the Ground

Dubuque has entered the month of February with essentially no snow on the ground, something that is incredibly rare for this time of year. According to meteorologist Kaj O’Mara at our weather coverage partner KCRG-TV, there have only been a handful of times over the past sixty years that there has been this little snow depth in Dubuque at the beginning of February. On average, Dubuque will have at least two inches of snow on the ground when the calendar rolls over to February. O’Mara says this year, there are some major differences in snow depth across eastern Iowa. While we’re currently experiencing some normal temperatures for this time of year, O’Mara says it could be significantly colder if there was snow on the ground. O’Mara says snowpack also has a strange way of shifting how low pressure systems move. The last time Dubuque had zero snow depth at the beginning of February was in 2006. Two years ago, there were eleven inches of snow on the ground.

Northey: Little Chance of a “Bacon Shortage”

Courtesy: CBS News

As people begin preparing the menu for this weekend’s Super Bowl parties, they should not have to worry about being able to get their hands on some bacon. It’s being reported in some areas that the US is facing an impending “bacon shortage.” But Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey says that’s not really the case. The reports of a shortage usually cite the statistic that pork belly reserves are at their lowest point in the past half-century. But according to Northey, bacon production doesn’t rely on those reserves the way it once did. Those reserves are only dipped into if demand for bacon outpaces regular supply, something Northey says is unlikely. Bacon prices hit an all-time high in the summer of 2014, but have steadily declined since then. Even if the rumors of a shortage cause a spike in prices, Northey doesn’t expect the average customer will notice. Dubuque grocery stores are currently selling bacon anywhere between $3 and $5 per pound.

Driver in Fatal 2015 Crash Accused of Jumping Bail


Authorities across the Tri-States are searching for a Dubuque County man who’s wanted in connection with a fatal Wisconsin car crash. Chad Ernzen is now being sought on a felony Bail Jumping charge as well. He had originally been charged with Vehicular Homicide While Using a Controlled Substance and Second-Degree Reckless Homicide in December 2015. That’s when he drove across the center line and collided head-on with another car, according to the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Office. The driver of that other vehicle, 87-year-old Rosette King of Mineral Point, died of injuries she suffered in the crash. Anyone with information about Ernzen’s location is asked to contact either the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Office or the Dubuque Police Department.

Arrests Made in Jackson County Mailbox Vandalism, Thefts

Three young men have been arrested in connection with a string of mailbox thefts in rural Jackson County. The local sheriff’s office received several reports of mailboxes that had been either damaged or taken from residences in Maquoketa and near Zwingle and Bernard. A total of 35 mailboxes were either damaged or taken from the victims’ residences early Saturday morning. After investigating the incidents, deputies have arrested 18-year-olds Tait Hotler of Baldwin and Brayton Ragsdale of Maquoketa. They’ve each been charged with Second-Degree Criminal Mischief and Second-Degree Theft. A 16-year-old boy was also arrested. He’s been charged in juvenile court.