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UPDATE: KWWL's Ron Steele on mend from heart surgery, wife says.

WATERLOO — Ron Steele’s covered many big stories in his 40-plus years as a journalist but never a miracle. Until now.

He’s not only on the story, he’s living it.

Steele, longtime KWWL-TV news anchor, suffered a heart attack Jan. 29 or 30. He underwent successful quadruple bypass surgery at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City on Monday and is on the mend, his wife, Candy, reported Wednesday night.

“He just got back from a walk,” Candy Steele said from her husband’s room in the UIHC intensive care unit. He tires easily but is improving daily.

His recovery will take eight to 12 weeks, station officials said.

Candy expects they will be at UIHC through the weekend and then return to their home in Hudson. He will do cardiac rehabilitation at Covenant Medical Center. Candy retired from that unit a few months ago.

“His surgeon said he’s going to have a new heart with a 35-year warranty on it, and he’s pretty excited about that,” Candy said.

Ron Steele had trouble shoveling a wet heavy snow that fell Jan. 25 but experienced no pain. A longtime distance runner, Steele then went to the gym. He ran, lifted weights and came home and shoveled the rest of the snow.

He worked out again Sunday. Sunday night he felt a stretching sensation in his chest but no pain. He worked a normal day Monday, Jan. 30, but then went to his family doctor. He was referred to a Covenant Clinic cardiologist and was sent to the cardiac catheterization lab, where blockages were detected. Steele was transported UIHC as soon as a bed was available.

Candy Steele said she and her husband are grateful for the outpouring of public support.

“He’s overwhelmed by all the people praying for him. He really appreciates it. So do I,” Candy said. Steele’s Facebook page had been flooded with get-well wishes.

Candy said Ron wanted to issue a “shout out” to one special person.

“He wants to say hi to his buddy Connor Helgens,” who underwent heart surgery as a baby and is about 9 years old now. Helgens was recognized at a local American Heart Association Heart Walk, an event Ron has emceed for several years in a row.

She noted her husband will wear a red survivor’s hat at a future Heart Walk alongside his friend.

Steele has been with KWWL for 42 years, 37 as anchor. According to Iowa broadcasting historian and KXEL radio news director Jeff Stein, Steele is one of the two longest-serving anchors at any station in the state’s history.

“I just feel that really, everything just kind of fell into place. It’s almost like this is a miracle,” Candy Steele said.


Ron Steele poses at the anchor desk in the KWWL building in 2014.

Staffing questions highlight Waterloo budget talks


WATERLOO — Personnel issues took center stage as the Waterloo City Council kicked off a budget review process Wednesday.

Waterloo Fire Rescue is hoping to avoid losing a firefighter when grant funding for the position expires this year.

The central garage is looking to hire another mechanic to address a massive backlog in maintenance on the city’s fire trucks and equipment.

Council members are being asked to hire a full-time human resources director to fill a void created when Suzy Schares, who had served both in that role and as city clerk, resigned last year.

And the Waterloo Public Library, which didn’t ask for more tax support, warned city leaders it will lose its accreditation in three years if its budget to buy books and other materials doesn’t increase substantially in the future.

While most department heads generally submitted proposed budgets for the coming fiscal year which kept current staffing levels and only accounted for increases in contractual wage and benefit changes, the review process provided a chance for them to lobby for additional changes.

Fire Chief Pat Treloar said his request for tax support to keep the position funded with a federal Staffing Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant was really to maintain the status quo.

“With the current staffing level we are at, we cannot keep Station No. 6 open every day of the year,” Treloar said. “We come pretty close.”

But Councilmen Steve Schmitt and Bruce Jacobs both pressed Treloar on why the department hasn’t looked to cut costs by using part-time, paid on-call volunteers or cross-trained police officers to help support fire staffing levels.

“It seems to work in other communities,” Schmitt said. “It’s certainly more inexpensive.”

Treloar said none of the 10 largest fire departments in the state utilize those measures, noting Waterloo was unique in some cases because it provides ambulance services as well with its cross-trained staff.

“In my opinion they wouldn’t work here for the city of Waterloo,” he said. “With our size, our call volume, I don’t think it’s a path we want to go down.”

Library Director Steven Nielsen said he wasn’t asking to boost the library’s $159,000 materials budget next year based on directions to hold the line. But he said the amount, along with the library’s staffing level and overall collection, rank last out of Iowa’s 10 largest municipal libraries.

“If they did accreditation this year we would lose it,” Nielsen said, referring to the process which takes place every three years.

“That scares me tremendously,” he added. “We’re either going to have to get more money from the city, or I’m going to have to write some really good grants.”

Council members met for more than four hours to hear budget presentations from the city attorney, code enforcement, human resources, central garage, human rights, library, fire and airport.

They are scheduled to review other departmental budgets starting at 10 a.m. Saturday in a special meeting at the Waterloo Center for the Arts.

New Hampton voters approve school bond issue

NEW HAMPTON — Plans to build a new middle school and add on to the high school here will move forward following passage of a $19.42 million bond issue Tuesday.

Unofficial results show 62.23 percent of New Hampton Community Schools’ voters who came to the polls, or 1,252 people, favored the measure. A total of 760 people voted no.

The referendum required a vote of more than 60 percent for passage. Results will be official following Monday’s canvass by the Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors.

The two-story middle school will be west of and connected to the high school, at 710 W. Main St. Grades five through eight will move from the existing grade school at 206 W. Main St. when the new facility is complete, anticipated to be the fall of 2018. Shared middle and high school areas also will be built.

A new gymnasium will be south of the middle and high school. Food service and lunch room/large group learning additions will be built to the east and north of the gym.

A vocational agriculture and industrial tech center will be built on the west side of the high school.

The bond issue will be paid for with a property tax increase of $1.60 per $1,000 of taxable value.

According to information from New Hampton Schools, average homeowners will see an increase of $87.99 per year in the district’s portion of their tax bill. The average home is assessed at $105,098. The average acre of farmland, assessed at $2,328, will see an increase of $1.77 in their tax bills.

At the current preschool through eighth-grade school, officials are planning to vacate the second and third floors of its oldest section, built in 1913. The first floor of that section, which was remodeled in 2000, will house first-grade classrooms. Newer sections of the school will continue to be used for second through fourth grades and preschool.

The district will use existing 1 percent sales tax revenues to repair the roof of the 1913 building to ensure it is weatherproof and watertight.

Plans for the referendum were developed during the past year after voters overwhelmingly rejected a $29 million bond issue in September 2014. That proposal would have moved all elementary and middle school students into a new building adjacent to the high school.

Waterloo playhouse/children's theatre announce 2017-18 season

WATERLOO – The Waterloo Community Playhouse has announced its 2017-18 season.

“Nunsense” has been chosen as the summer musical, July 14-23. The first production for fall is a classic Western “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” Sept. 8-17.

Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful” comes to the stage Nov. 10-18, and “The Library,” a drama about the aftermath of a school shooting, Jan. 19-28. The musical comedy “The Full Monty” will be performed from March 16-25 followed by “Weekend Comedy,” May 11-20.

The Black Hawk Children’s Theatre will present “A Wrinkle in Time,” Oct. 6-14, followed by the holiday classic, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” Dec. 8-16. “The Princess and the Pea” opens the winter season Feb. 16-24, followed by the spring production, “Winnie the Pooh,” adapted by Kristin Sergel, based on the A.A. Milne book, April 13-21.

All shows will be performed at the Hope Martin Theatre in the Waterloo Center for the Arts, 225 Commercial St., with the exception of WCP’s “The Library,” which will take place in the McElroy Theatre at the WCP Walker Building, 224 Commercial St.

Tickets for WCP musicals are $25 for adults; $15 for students. Other shows are $22 for adults and $12 for students. BHCT shows are $10 for all seats, and the BCHT’s holiday show is $15 for adults and $10 for students/children.

For ticket information, call the WCA box office at 291-4490 or the WCP office at 235-0367.


Feb. 9, 2016

Q: Where is the Mandalay house in Cedar Falls?

A: It’s at 1603 Mandalay Drive, close to Lookout Park.

Q: Regarding the recent death and fire on Ridgeway Avenue reported in the paper — at the end of the article you gave the exact location of the fire. I don’t ever recall that happening in any death, homicide or fire in the past that The Courier gave the exact directions where this house was located. Can you provide examples of when you’ve done this before, especially when it is on a well known street?

A: If you’re referring to the story, “Waterloo man dies in blaze” on page A1 of the Wednesday, Jan. 25 Courier, actually, we didn’t initially. Waterloo fire officials were hesitant to give a specific address — the house number — because the victim had not yet been identified but were fine with us saying it was in the 800 block of East Ridgeway Avenue. Since most people don’t memorize block numbers we felt it was important to give people landmarks as a point of reference — because as you observed, it is a well-known, heavily traveled street. A lot of people may not know exactly where the 800 block of East Ridgeway is, but they know West High School and West Ninth Street as reference points, so we said the fire was located on Ridgeway between those reference points. In fact, public safety dispatchers often give cross streets or landmarks when sending personnel to the scene of a call. Once the victim was identified, we simply listed the address.

Q: Are the Cedar Falls police captains and lieutenants who received raises the same captains and lieutenants who filed to have a unionization vote? How do these raises affect that vote? Wouldn’t this constitute a bribe or payoff if no vote is held?

A: Cedar Falls Public Safety Director Jeff Olson replies: “Yes, they did file a request and the matter is still pending. How each individual votes is a personal decision. The city identified a possible pay compensation difference between the police supervisors in Cedar Falls and other Iowa police departments. A salary comparison for the police supervisors was conducted and the compensation was considerably less. A comprehensive compensation study has not been conducted in Cedar Falls for city employees for over 20 years. The city may conduct such a study in the next year for other city employees.”

Q: Regarding a recent Call the Courier answer that mentions where Maynard Reece was born: Where is Arnolds Park located?

A: It’s in Dickinson County in northern Iowa, right on the shores of West and East Lake Okoboji. It’s probably best known for the Arnolds Park Amusement Park.

Q: Would it be possible for the Iowa Legislature to take a pay cut to make up this year’s budget shortfall that occurred when the corporate taxes were cut?

A: Anything is possible, but lawmakers would have to pass the cuts themselves. And even if they cut their pay to zero it wouldn’t cover the $118 million deficit they must make up by July 1.