News

Wed
12
Dec

Elgin considering project to raise levee

 

The City of Elgin is considering raising its levee by two feet in order to prevent sandbagging during future flood events. The Elgin City Council will host a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 7, at Elgin City Hall to get public input on the plans and specifications that will be presented. (Chris DeBack photo)

 

Elgin considering project to raise levee

 

By Chris Deback
cdeback@thefayettecountyunion.com

 

 

 

 

The Elgin City Council is currently considering a project that would raise and narrow the levee in Elgin.

Currently, the levee is 10 feet wide; this proposal would narrow the levee to six-feet while also raising it two feet, which should keep the residents of Elgin from having to sandbag in the event of flooding. 

Fayette County Engineer Joel Fantz was in attendance on Monday, Dec. 3, to answer any questions the council might have had. A two-hour discussion ensued, ending with setting a public hearing date of Monday, Jan. 7, for the plans and specifications for the project. 

This project came about after two flood events in 2016. Elgin City Councilman Jim Knobloch had always been told that the levee couldn’t be touched, so he decided to find out why not. He first called the Army Corps of Engineers, which noted that the levee wasn’t certified with the federal government. The Army Corps pointed Knobloch to the Iowa DNR for answers. 

Wed
12
Dec

Preparation is key to timely snow removal

 

For Fayette Public Works director Jerry Hildebrand, snow removal starts well before the first snowflakes begin to fall, ordering sand and salt in the summer. Once the first flurries start to fly, Hildebrand puts the plow on the plow truck and leaves it on until the last snowflake has been cleared from the road this winter.

 

Preparation is key to timely snow removal

 
 
It takes countless hours for state, county and local municipal employees to keep our roads clear and safe during the winter. 

A lot of preparation work is undertaken behind-the-scenes to get the snow-removal operations ready before the first snowflakes begin to fall. It isn’t as simple as attaching a plow to a truck, gathering up the sand and salt mix, and hitting the road. 

While snow removal is the most visible aspect of the winter work done by the Fayette County Secondary Roads Department and Fayette Public Works Department, there are plenty of other tasks to complete when the snow isn’t flying. 

The newspaper recently caught up with Fayette Public Works director Jerry Hildebrand, Fayette County Engineer Joel Fantz, and Fayette County Roads Superintendent Jeff Koehn to find out what it takes to get ready for winters in northeast Iowa. 

 

Fayette

With plenty of roads to clear and just one plow to do it, the Fayette Public Works Department has its job cut out for it every time it snows. 

“Snow removal is a team effort,” Hildebrand said. 

That effort begins over the summer with estimating and ordering the necessary amount of sand and salt to get the department through the winter season. As the winter season closes in, Hildebrand is checking over his equipment and ordering any necessary repairs before the first snowflakes begin to fall.

Once the flurries start, the snow plow is attached and will remain so through the winter season. He estimates that it takes approximately eight hours to clear the city streets after it snows. Planning and consistent maintenance on the plow truck are a must so that it doesn’t break down during a snow event. The City does have a loader it can use in the event the snow plow truck isn’t available, but Hildebrand estimated that it can take upwards of 14 hours to clear the streets with it. 

“With just one plow truck, it's just drive up and hook the plow up when it's time,” he noted. “We then leave it on for the remainder of winter, and we keep it parked in the shop if we aren’t using it; that way, it is out of the elements and less likely to break down.” 

As in many other small towns, the City employees are at the office bright and early during a snow event. Hildebrand noted that he’ll get into work at 2 a.m. with the others arriving at 4 or 5 a.m. On Main Street, the crew pushes the snow into the center of the road and then uses a loader to dump snow into a dump truck to be taken away. On the other roads, the plow simply just pushes the snow off to the side. 

When snow isn’t falling, the City crew is busy with other work. After the camping season comes to an end, the crew winterizes the bathroom and shower room, puts tables underneath the shelters, and picks up trash cans at Klock’s Island Park. If need be, those trash cans will be painted over the winter as time allows. Next, it's off to the ball diamonds to winterize those bathrooms. Once that’s complete, it keeping the streets clear of snow and other miscellaneous jobs needing to be done. Hildebrand will also work on his budget for the coming fiscal year when he has some time. 

“We’ll grab the teeter-totters and repaint the ones that need it,” explained Hildebrand. “Those are the types of things we are out doing if it is too cold for cutting down trees and other outside work.”

 

Fayette County

With 16 plow trucks in its arsenal, the Fayette County Secondary Roads Department has a much bigger task at hand when it comes to preparing for the snow-removal season. 

Just as in Fayette, Fayette County Engineer Joel Fantz orders the salt and sand over the summer. However, with limited storage at the Fayette County Secondary Roads Maintenance Facility in West Union, he’ll have to take his order in multiple shipments throughout the winter. 

For Fantz, it's a guessing game when it comes to ordering salt and sand, but it's also a game of risk. If he has too many snow events close together, due to limited storage at the county shop, the County could run out of salt before the next shipment arrives. 

Wed
12
Dec

Comp Board makes wage increase recommendations

Comp Board makes wage increase recommendation

 

 

By Chris Deback
cdeback@thefayettecountyunion.com

 

 

 

 

Emotions ran high at the annual meeting of the Fayette County Compensation Board on Monday, Dec. 3, at the Fayette County Courthouse. 

The board meets once a year to discuss raises for elected County officials. With the elected official appointing them in parentheses, the board is comprised of Dave Moore of Oelwein (County Attorney), Steve Story of Hawkeye (Auditor), David Katsumes of Elgin (County Recorder). Al Burkhart of Hawkeye (County Sheriff), Gary Grimm of Westgate (Board of Supervisors), Bob Kalb of Aurora (Board of Supervisors) and Tobin Britt of West Union (County Treasurer). Everyone but Steve Story was in attendance for the meeting. 

After a lengthy discussion, the board recommended a 3 percent raise for the Fayette County Supervisors, Treasurer, Recorder, and Auditor and a 4 percent raise for the County Attorney and Sheriff. The recommendation was passed by a 3-2 margin with Kalb and Grimm dissenting. It should be noted that the board only makes a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, who then have the final say over any increase in compensation. However, the Supervisors can only approve recommendation as presented or reduce the increase equally for all officials across-the-board. 

Wed
12
Dec

Skate into West Union's newest winter attraction

 

 West Union Parks and Rec recently purchased an approximately $11,000 ice-skating rink from EZ ICE in Boston. The rink is able to be set up and taken down each ice-skating season. The rink is located in the parking lot of Rotary Park in West Union. A grand opening event at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, will officially open the rink to ice skaters. Chris DeBack photos

 

Skate into West Union's newest winter attraction

 

 

By Chris Deback
cdeback@thefayettecountyunion.com

 

 

 

 

Sharpen your skates and prepare your hockey sticks as West Union’s new ice-skating rink will open this weekend. 

Located in the parking lot of Rotary Park, the 80- by 120-foot rink will feature plenty of family-friendly fun this winter. West Union Parks and Rec will host a grand opening starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 15. The rink won’t be open to skaters until the event.

“I had been thinking about an ice rink for several years, but that was Hawkeye’s niche; I didn’t want to step on their toes because Hawkeye had a good thing going,” said Kathy Guyer, West Union Parks and Rec director. “When [Keith] Kovarik decided not to do the ice-skating rink [in Hawkeye] this year, it seemed like the right time to bring one to West Union.”

Wed
05
Dec

Jewell represents 'Logan's Hope'

 

The relationship between St. Lucas’ Logan Manderfield and former Iowa Hawkeye and current Denver Bronco football player Josey Jewell goes back several years. Manderfield, who was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy at the age of 1, started an organization called Logan’s Hope to promote awareness for his disease. As part of the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” week, Jewell wore a pair of cleats featuring Logan’s Hope during his most recent game. (submitted photo)

 

Jewell represents 'Logan's Hope'

 

 

Zakary Kriener

News Writer
zkriener@fayettepublishing.com

 

 

 

As part of the National Football League’s (NFL) “My Cause, My Cleats” Week, Denver Bronco linebacker Josey Jewell chose to support Logan’s Hope, which is an organization started by St. Lucas teen Logan Manderfield to help promote awareness for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The Turkey Valley freshman was first diagnosed with the disease at the age of 1.

“I met Logan while I was at [University of] Iowa and was inspired by him and his courage,” said Jewell. “I supported him with his 4K run and can’t wait to support him and raise awareness about Duchenne muscular dystrophy this season.”

Wed
05
Dec

Ag Farm Toys ships over 2,000 packages during holiday season

 

The holiday shopping season is the busiest time of year for local business owner Tracy Johnson of Clermont. Her brick-and-mortar store and online business Ag Farm Toys will ship over 2,000 packages from its rural Clermont location during this Christmas shopping season, making for some long nights for the small-business owner.  Chris DeBack photo

 

Ag Farm Toys ships over 2,000 packages during holiday season

 

 

By Chris Deback
cdeback@thefayettecountyunion.com

 

 

 

 

The holiday shopping season is the busiest time of year for retail businesses, big and small.

One small-business owner burning the midnight oil in northeast Iowa is Tracy Johnson of Farm Ag Toys/Iowa Diecast Toys in rural Clermont. With half her business’ sales coming in the fourth quarter, she doesn’t have a lot of time to herself if she wants to keep her business running smoothly. 

“I wake up early because my brain starts thinking about what I have to do for the day,” Johnson said. “I also stay up late because the phone isn’t ringing at midnight, so I can get more stuff done.” 

Wed
05
Dec

Enjoy 'Christmas in Elgin' on Thursday

 

 

The 2019 Elgin Homecoming Committee will host its Second Annual Soup Supper Fundraiser from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, at Torkelson Motors in Elgin during “Christmas in Elgin.” Renae Lembke (left) served Ellie Medberry a bowl of delicious broccoli and cheese and soup at last year’s Soup Supper Fundraiser.  File photo

 

Enjoy 'Christmas in Elgin' on Thursday

 

 

By Chris Deback
cdeback@thefayettecountyunion.com

 

Don’t miss “Christmas in Elgin” and the 2019 Elgin Homecoming Soup Supper Fundraiser on Thursday, Dec. 9, in Elgin. 

Wed
05
Dec

Fairbank cheers removal of wind turbines

 

One of three wind turbines sits deconstructed in a field outside of Fairbank on Friday, Nov. 16. A district court judge ordered three wind turbines to be dismantled after deciding that Fayette County provided the developers permits illegally. Photo by Brian Powers/The Des Moines Register

 

Fairbank cheers removal of wind turbines

 

 

By Chris Deback
cdeback@thefayettecountyunion.com

 

 

 

 

A three-year fight between citizens and the City of Fairbank versus Optimum Renewables, LLC., is nearing the end with the dismantling of three wind turbines near Fairbank. 

This saga began in 2015 when Fayette County zoning officials granted Optimum Renewables building permits to construct three new wind turbines within a half-mile of a subdivision on the east side of Fairbank. 

The issue centered around a 1973 Fayette County zoning ordinance, which didn’t feature specific language to govern modern-day wind turbines. Optimum Renewables was issued an allowable-use permit because Jim Burns of Decorah, an attorney Fayette County uses for zoning issues, agreed that the parameters of the project fell in line with the County’s rules and regulations for electric power transmission. He further agreed that the project didn’t require a special-use permit issued by the Board of Adjustment (BOA). 

Several Fairbank residents argued during a Nov. 2, 2015, Fayette County Supervisors meeting that it isn’t transmission because the source comes from a wind turbine and that the attorney interpreted the zoning issue parameters incorrectly. They sued Fayette County and the wind turbine developer. 

Wed
05
Dec

'Messiah' to take center stage at UMC on Sunday

 

The 77th performance of G.F. Handel’s “Messiah” will be performed by community members at 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, at United Methodist Church on Hwy. 18 East in West Union. Soloists in this year’s performance include (front, l-r) Carol Jensen, Mallory Hanson, Barb Bowers, Carrie Forbes, Megan Gavin, Emily Stene, and Kimberly Pont; (back) Ben Friedrich, Kyle Harms, Brandon Douglas, Isaiah Stansbery, Doug Poppen, and Leslie Poppen.  Chris DeBack photo

 

'Messiah' to take center state at UMC on Sunday

 

 

 

By Chris Deback
cdeback@thefayettecountyunion.com

 

 

 

 

The 77th annual performance of George Handel’s “Messiah” will be presented at 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, at United Methodist Church in West Union. 

Since the beginning of November, seasoned veterans of the production and new performers have gathered at the church to rehearse the challenging oratorio so that they can bring Handel’s words to life on stage. 

Cheryl Hanson of Fayette is a newcomer to the “Messiah” performance and is looking forward to checking off this item from her bucket list. 

“The ‘Messiah’ is almost magical and, for me, it was a bucket list thing that I always wanted to do,” Hanson said with a wide smile. “The notes themselves and the fact that I haven’t sung in a choir in almost 30 years is going to be a challenge, but one that I am excited to take on. I have used the YouTube rehearsal aid as a training tool, and that has helped a lot.”

Mon
03
Dec

Koether wins petition

Koether wins petition filed with Polk County District Court

 

by Chris DeBack

cdeback@fayettecountynewspapers.com

 

 

 

The race for Iowa House District 55 isn’t over just yet.

 

Michael Bergan was declared the unofficial winner over Democrat Kayla Koether after the initial certification of the election and a recount in Winneshiek and Clayton counties. After the recount, Bergan led by nine votes. 

 

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