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Kevin E. Schmidt 

Aplington-Parkersburg's Grant Truax #5 puts the ball up for two points during first half game action of the IHSAA Class 2A State Basketball tournament game against South Hamilton, Jewel Monday at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.


Susie Lantz walks back to her car as the snow flies after picking out some books at the Waterloo Public Library on Monday in Waterloo.

Cedar Falls council to give new Kwik Star another look


CEDAR FALLS — A once-quashed proposal to locate a convenience store at a heavily traveled Cedar Falls intersection may have new life.

The City Council on Monday night voted 5-2 to reconsider an action it took two weeks ago to reject a plan for a proposed Kwik Star near Greenhill Road and South Main Street.

At Mayor Jim Brown’s request, council members then voted unanimously to table any new vote to a future meeting to allow everyone involved time to comment. The next regular council meeting is March 19.

Council members voted 4-3 to reject the Kwik Star plan two weeks ago. At that meeting, they voted to 6-1 approve an adjacent Fareway grocery store.

However, council members Dave Wieland and Rob Green supported reconsideration of the plan Monday. They had opposed the plan two weeks ago.

Wieland said he supported reconsideration “because I’m interested in just what Kwik Star’s willing to do to satisfy some of the neighbors. ... I am willing to listen a little bit and see what’s going on.”

He also recognized the store was a permitted use on the site, as was Fareway.

Green said he voted against both the Kwik Star and Fareway projects two weeks ago due to traffic concerns but changed his mind after going out and studying traffic at the intersection over several hours on different occasions.

“I simply don’t have the same level of concern about traffic at Greenhill and Main that I did leading into that City Council meeting” two weeks ago, Green said. “Sure, I think the Greenhill and Main intersection will be congested, but not the train wreck I was envisioning. ... It’s a really emotional issue for many of the residents, and I appreciate that. ... I was dreading having to bring up the reconsideration, but I know in my heart it’s the right thing to do.”

Brown did not allow public discussion prior to the motion to reconsider. Penny Popp, a resident of the nearby El Dorado Heights residential area, emailed the mayor and council members prior to the council meeting urging them not to reconsider.

“Acting as the voice for the opposition for this project, I have listened to hundreds of voices concerned about noise pollution, light pollution, water and air pollution, property value, traffic concerns, crime and the overall effect of the health, safety and welfare of the neighborhood,” Popp wrote. “Please affirm the collective voice of the citizens by opposing any motion to reconsider the Kwik Star project at this time.”

Council member Daryl Kruse opposed the project two weeks ago and voted against reconsideration Monday.

“I think that it’s quite clear it doesn’t fits the character of the neighborhood,” he said. “Unless Kwik Star dramatically changes their hours they’re going to operate to fit with what businesses and offices are there,” from 24 hours to closing at 9 p.m. for overnight, “then they don’t deserve to be there. It’s pretty cut and dried. But I’ll listen to what they have to say. I have to.”

“There’s no reason to put this in this location,” nearby resident, home builder and developer Craig Fairbanks said. “These people built homes, expensive homes, expecting that that would not be there. Including my own. I’m sure the people in the neighborhood surely get tired of having to come down here and fight.”

Senate approves online learning

DES MOINES — The Iowa Senate passed legislation Monday allowing home-schooled students to take online courses without enrolling in a public school or an accredited private school.

The measure now goes to the governor.

The bill was approved 50-0 with changes made by the House, which passed the bill 60-39 last month. It would open access to the Iowa Learning Online program. Sen. Jeff Edler, R-State Center, told colleagues it will expand educational opportunities.

“It will provide another option for receiving a quality education in Iowa,” said Edler, floor manager for the bill.

It expands the options under an Iowa Department of Education initiative designed to provide high-quality teaching and learning to students receiving private instruction through home schooling or non-accredited nonpublic schools without creating costs to local districts.

Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, offered several amendments he said were designed to bring more oversight to home-schooling situations in light of the recent deaths of two teenagers from abuse. That abuse went undetected in part due to a 2013 legislative change that ended home-schooling reporting and visitation requirements. McCoy withdrew them before they came up for votes.

“We have an obligation to protect our home-school children,” McCoy said. Edler said the bill approved Monday would address some of the concerns raised “because it is done through video connection (which) is one more way to have oversight on a child through that video connection to see the condition on the child.”

Eggs and WIC

Also Monday, senators approved 32-17 a bill requiring grocery stores in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program to carry conventional — white — eggs if they carried them before Jan. 1.

Backers said it guarantees stores that sell specialty eggs, such as cage-free and organic eggs, also will sell conventional eggs as a cheaper alternative for Iowans who participate in supplemental nutrition programs.

Opponents charged the bill interferes in free markets.

The bill now goes to the governor.

House action

The House on Monday approved legislation, 58-38, that could lower damages in personal-injury lawsuits by 25 percent if the injured party did not wear a seat belt.

Under current law, juries can lower awards by 5 percent if they believe the injuries were the result of the plaintiff not wearing a seat belt.

Bill manager Rep. Greg Heartsill, R-Chariton, said it was a matter of expecting people to “have some skin in the game for failure to wear your seat belt.”

“If you’re not wearing your seat belt, you’re breaking the law,” Heartsill said.

“Here we are again. We’re doing another bill for the insurance companies,” said Rep. Brian Meyer, D-Des Moines, adding that no one should think the change will result in lower insurance premiums.

It’s not about safety either, he said. If that were the case, the bill would reduce judgments by 25 percent if motorcyclists don’t wear helmets.

Seven Democrats joined 51 Republicans to pass the bill, while five GOP representatives voted against it. It has already cleared the Senate.

Wasting disease

In other action, the House tasked the Department of Natural Resources with containing the spread of chronic wasting disease, found in deer harvested in three counties.

At present, no agency has responsibility for addressing CWD. It has been found in deer in Clayton and Allamakee counties in northeast Iowa and more recently in a deer harvested in Wayne County in south-central Iowa.

There is a concern the disease could transfer to swine or cattled.

The legislation gives the DNR authority to establish zones, create special hunting seasons, require samples from harvested animals and other actions to stop the spread of diseases.

It also established regulations on imported deer meat from states where CWD has been found.

It was approved 93-1, with Rep. Tedd Gassman, R-Scarville, voting against it.

James Q. Lynch contributed to this report.

Morrissey foiled in fight to hire mechanic

WATERLOO — A councilman’s ongoing battle to hire a previously rejected mechanic sent another Waterloo City Council meeting off the rails Monday.

Ward 3 Councilman Pat Morrissey has been raising weekly objections since the council voted 4-3 Feb. 5 to reject appointment of Jonathan Oehlerich to help service and repair the city’s vehicle fleet.

Oehlerich quit his previous job after being offered the city position, which was budgeted and approved by a previous council last August. Newly seated council members Margaret Klein and Chris Shimp joined holdover council members Steve Schmitt and Bruce Jacobs to reject the hire based on budget concerns.

Morrissey, who was joined by Jerome Amos Jr. and Sharon Juon in supporting the hire, has rehashed the issue at every subsequent council meeting, prompting Klein to characterize the action as “harassment of a vote.”

Morrissey unsuccessfully called on his colleagues to reverse their decision and last week asked the mayor to rule the vote out of order.

This week, he called for vote to rescind the Feb. 5 action, only to see Klein, Shimp, Schmitt and Jacobs vote to table his request until the next fiscal year begins in July.

Shimp initially tried to prevent any debate on the matter, which led to a lengthy delay and discussions over whether the council was required to follow Robert’s Rules of Order for governing meetings.

Shimp said his vote on the mechanic’s position was “purely budgetary,” noting he was “elected on a platform to lower taxes.”

“It would be fiscally irresponsible of me to hire a new $84,000 position before I even voted on my first budget,” he said. “After we pass a budget, I’m willing to revisit this issue.”

Shimp also called on Morrissey to respect his vote and stop “grandstanding and mudslinging.”

Morrissey responded: “If following parliamentary rules and procedures is grandstanding, or if defending and standing up for one of our fellow residents of Waterloo and my belief ... that person has been harmed is grandstanding, then I guess I have been grandstanding.”

Meanwhile, City Attorney David Zellhoefer issued his opinion the Feb. 5 council vote to reject Oehlerich’s hire was legal.

“The state code gives them that right, and they exercised that right,” Zellhoefer said. “So as much as a lot of you might not like it, it’s legal.”

City Clerk Kelley Felchle said the council’s action rejecting Oehlerich disqualifies him from returning to the civil service list if the position is eventually filled.

Had the council rescinded the Feb. 5 vote, Felchle said, Oehlerich could have been placed back on the civil service list and could be selected as a candidate should the council choose to hire a mechanic in the future.