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Search continues for missing La Porte autistic teen; help needed (PHOTOS)

La PORTE CITY – The search for a missing autistic teenager will enter a third day today, widening from densely wooded areas into larger areas like farm fields.

La Porte City Police Chief Chris Brecher said Monday evening he remained “optimistic” 16-year-old Jake Wilson would be found alive.

“We are optimistic, but it’s getting to the point where now we just keep expanding where we’ve been and just keep praying,” he said.

Teams were able to use sonar, horseback, ATVs and UTVs in the search Monday.

“We don’t have a lot of great things that we found today as far as new information, but we were able to cross a lot of things off our list,” Brecher said. “We know where he’s not, and we’re in the process of elimination now.”

Volunteers are still needed, particularly those who had all-terrain vehicles. Volunteers would be given grids to “sweep” a 5- to 7-mile radius around La Porte City.

“Anything that you have to offer to help us out — and if you don’t, we just ask that you print off his picture and keep it with you ... No matter where you’re at, just keep on the lookout,” he said. “At this point, anything is a possibility.”

Family members said 16-year-old Jake Wilson left his home off of Commercial Street around 8:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday after asking to go to Wolf Creek, about two blocks away. When he didn’t return, relatives began searching and notified authorities.

Sheriff Tony Thompson said Monday authorities haven’t ruled out any possibilities.

“While it’s not criminal in nature, we are still going to process everything as though it’s a crime scene,” Thompson said. “We are going to process every piece of information, we are going to process every found glove or boot or whatever, simply because it allows for a very regimented way of documenting everything that we come across.”

Thompson reiterated all options remain on the table.

Photos: The search for Jake Wilson

“We are to a point where we need to expand our efforts a little bit as we are starting to restrict and more target our search efforts,” he said. “That is to say, we are reaching out a little bit more. We are doing quite a little bit more with partnering agencies such as the DCI, the FBI.”

He said the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is a partner in the investigation, which will rely more on video from home and business security systems overnight Monday and less on a physical search for Jake.

“That’s not any kind of indication,” Thompson said. “Again, we’re still holding out hopes, we’re giving prayers, and hope that we do find this young man alive.”

More than 850 volunteers assisted with the search Sunday, and an estimated 400 helped on Monday, Brecher said.

“We are very thankful for the amount of people we’ve had help,” Brecher said. “... I want you to know the city of La Porte thanks you, the family thanks you.”

Thompson said trained teams are carrying out specialized searches, checking confined spaces like storm sewer drains and culverts.

Sonar is also being used to scope out Wolf Creek and adjacent waterways, especially in areas with logjams from fallen branches, Brecher said.

“It’s brown creek water. You can’t see very far in front of you. What the sonar is going to allow us to do is look in the nooks and crannies that we couldn’t necessarily send a person down into. If there are any abnormalities or formations, we could investigate that further,” Brecher said.

Brecher said the creek depth ranges, with some areas being shallow and other dropping down past 10 feet.

“There’s a lot of fluctuation, and there are deep holes,” he said.

Officials said the sonar is useful because the streams feature a number of tangles of fallen branches, and the water is too dark to see through.

Authorities are also asking farmers and landowners within a five-mile radius of La Porte City to check their outbuildings and vehicles.

Jake is about 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs about 135 pounds with hazel eyes and dirty blonde hair, his mother said. He was wearing a dark brown zip-up jacket, dark sweatpants and cowboy boots.

He has autism with a mild intellectual disorder and functions as a 9-year-old, according to his mother.

Anyone with information on Jake Wilson’s whereabouts is asked to call Black Hawk County Dispatch at (319) 291-2515 or local authorities.


Matthew Putney / MATTHEW PUTNEY, COURIER PHOTO EDITOR  

Northern Iowa’s Aaron Graham celebrates pulling down a reception to the two-yard-line in the first half of the football game in the UNI-Dome Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, in Cedar Falls, Iowa.


Govt-and-politics
Iowa tax plan — and what’s not in it — debated at public hearing

DES MOINES — For much of a 90-minute public hearing Monday on tax reform legislation, representatives of banks and credit unions skirmished over provisions that weren’t part of the proposal.

Banks, taxed on their profits, called for the end of the “free ride” credit unions enjoy under the state tax code. Credit unions, taxed on their reserves, said they pose no threat to banks, which have 90 percent of the market share in Iowa and are enjoying record profits.

“Things seem to be working,” said Joe Hearn of Dupaco, a credit union based in Dubuque.

But Dave Nelson of West Bank argued there is no justification for the tax “break” credit unions enjoy.

“When some don’t pay, the rest of us pay more,” he said.

The tax changes for credit unions were proposed by Senate Republicans but are not part of House Study Bill 671, based on GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal. Conventional wisdom around the Capitol is the credit union tax won’t survive negotiations between the Republican-controlled House and Senate and the governor.

HSB 671 is based on Reynolds’ proposal to cut state income taxes by $1.7 billion by 2023 while maintaining expected growth rates in revenue. Her plan includes “triggers” the governor said will act as safeguards in the event of an economic downturn or accelerate tax cuts if there is significant economic growth.

HSB 671 also would reduce the state’s nine income tax brackets to eight, with the top rate of 8.98 percent being reduced to 6.9 percent and applied only to incomes of more than $160,950 rather than the current $73,260.

It would increase the standard deduction in 2019 from $2,070 to $4,000 for single filers and from $5,090 to $8,000 for married filers.

Reynolds also called for phasing out the deduction of federal taxes from Iowa taxable income — known as federal deductibility. If it is not phased out, Iowans would see an automatic state tax increase as federal tax changes lower their tax liability.

Ending federal deductibility drew little opposition, but other parts of the bill were criticized by public employee groups, child and family advocates and the ride-sharing company Uber.

Education and social welfare programs already are underfunded, and tax changes that would reduce state revenue would further imperil the quality of life for Iowans served by those programs, Ann Discher of the Iowa Child and Family Policy Center said at the House Ways and Means Committee hearing.

“I see this as the moment Iowans will decide if we follow Kansas down that destructive path or continue our state’s pragmatic, traditional approach to governing,” Discher said.

There was a lot of talk about Kansas, as well as West Virginia and Oklahoma, where teachers have walked out because of low wages and lagging school funding.

HSB 671 is “illogical” and “borders on insanity,” according to Brad Hudson of the Iowa State Education Association. The reduction in revenues would result in more “paltry funding” for K-12 schools.

“It’s clear your priority is to millionaires and out-of-state corporations,” Hudson said.

AFSCME members aren’t against cutting taxes, said Morgan Miller of the union representing state public employees, “but when facing a financial crisis, it’s dangerous and irresponsible.”

Business and industry groups were more supportive, because as Iowa Taxpayers Association lobbyist Jen Kingland said, the perception Iowa is a high-tax state is an impediment to business development.

John Stineman of the Chamber Alliance called for corporate tax relief, too. The last time the Legislature addressed corporate taxes was in 1981 when it raised them, he said.

However, corporate taxes are not included in HSB 671. They are part of the Senate GOP plan.

Lawmakers also heard about specific cuts, such as a solar energy tax credit that former House member and current Cedar Rapids City Council member Tyler Olson said has led to $160 million in capital investment in nearly 3,500 projects across all 99 counties.


Govt-and-politics
Paradise Estates wins zoning approval

WATERLOO — A major housing development near Orange Elementary School won zoning approval despite continued concerns about its impact on traffic safety.

Waterloo City Council members voted 6-0 Monday to rezone about 129 acres of farmland northeast of the Kimball Avenue and Orange Road intersection for a 210-lot subdivision.

Developer Hope Martin “Buzz” Anderson is required to complete a traffic impact study for the project before the final plat is submitted to council for approval, which would allow any construction to begin.

The Paradise Estates development has faced heavy opposition from the adjacent Orange Neighborhood as the zoning request worked its way through the process.

While several neighbors said they still oppose taking ag land out of production, adding traffic near the school and stressing the infrastructure there, resident Mike Henning said he now supported the zoning change.

“I now believe that you Mr. Mayor, the City Council, planning and zoning commission, city departments and the Waterloo schools have recognized and taken actions with needed focus on safety, traffic flow, a water pressure improvement study and drainage,” he said.

But Henning and others said they will continue to ensure the concerns, especially traffic safety, are addressed in the platting process.

“The traffic study is still a concern for me since there is a school right there,” said Councilman Chris Shimp. “The only thing that would stop me from voting in favor of this would be not seeing a traffic study.”

Two residents questioned whether the traffic study contracted by Anderson would be fair.

“I don’t see how you could get any more of a biased report having it paid for and arranged by the developer,” said neighbor Jesse Thompson.

Todd Obadal suggested the city do its own traffic study of the area, noting traffic issues already exist.

Anderson said that was acceptable to him.

“If somebody wants to pay for a study so you don’t think they’re being tainted by us, you may hire the traffic study and pay them,” he said. “It’s a very expensive deal. We want things to be right out there too.”

Anderson acknowledged the housing development was more complicated than he expected.

“We would like it to be a nice win-win project for everyone,” he said. “I’d like to be friends and neighbors and not antagonists here.”


MATTHEW PUTNEY, COURIER PHOTO EDITOR 

Pat Kinney at the former Waterloo Masonic Temple at East Park Avenue and Mulberry Street.