WEST UNION -- A West Union man faces burglary charges after deputies reportedly caught him in the act.
WATERLOO — A major highway construction project kicking off Monday may create headaches for motorists and emergency responders.
Contractors are expected to close U.S. Highway 63 from Franklin Street north to the intersection with Conger and Newell streets at 8 a.m. Monday. The projected two-year closure allows workers to rebuild the highway, including a new railroad overpass.
Meanwhile, workers are planning to close First Street, which serves as northbound U.S. 63, from Jefferson Street across the Cedar River bridge to Franklin. Mullan Avenue, or southbound U.S. 63, will be converted to two-way traffic while First Street is rebuilt.
Through traffic on U.S. 63 will be detoured from the junction of U.S. 63 and U.S. 218 by using U.S. 218, Airport Boulevard and Airline Highway. But local traffic is likely to find alternate, unmarked detours around the closures.
Waterloo Fire Rescue officials said they’ve been working with the Iowa Department of Transportation and Canadian National Railway on ways to mitigate potential delays for fire engines and ambulances responding from downtown to areas north of the closure.
“That’s really going to hurt us mostly because of the railroad traffic,” said Battalion Chief Mike Moore.
With the railroad underpass on U.S. 63 closed, emergency vehicles will be looking to use East Fourth Street or Logan Avenue, which frequently are blocked by trains.
Fire Chief Pat Treloar said his department is hoping the DOT will set up a camera at the Fourth Street railroad crossing with a live feed to the main fire station. That would let fire officials know if those tracks are blocked before sending equipment that direction.
Moore said fire officials are also concerned about the change in traffic on Mullan Avenue, expecting some level of motorist confusion in the early stages of the project.
“When that starts, we’re going to avoid it as much as possible … until people get used to it,” Moore said.
Cross traffic will be maintained across U.S. 63 on Franklin and Jefferson streets but not on Commercial Street.
Peterson Contractors Inc. of Reinbeck is under a $26.4 million contract to rebuild the highway from Franklin to Newell/Conger, including filling in the frequently flooded railroad underpass and building a bridge over the railroad.
That project is expected to wrap up by the end of 2019, meaning the underpass will be closed through next winter too.
Langman Construction Inc. of Rock Island, Ill., is handling the $19.4 million project on the U.S. 63 couplet between Jefferson and Franklin streets. Work on the Mullan section was completed last year, while work on the First Street phase is expected to wrap up in the fall.
For more information about this and other Iowa DOT construction projects in Black Hawk and Bremer counties, follow the Black Hawk and Bremer County Construction Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BlackHawkBremerCo#!BlackHawkBremerCo.
CEDAR FALLS — Quentin Hart and Jim Brown have at least one guy they can lean on — each other.
When the two men punched in on their first day as mayors of Waterloo and Cedar Falls, respectively, they started a support group of two.
Both were under 50. Both had kids at home. Both came with past government experience. Both were plunked down on top of multi-million-dollar operations for the first time in their lives. And both had critics who weren’t sure they were cut out for the job.
But they had each other’s backs.
The friendship is apparent. When Brown sees Hart is not wearing a necktie, Brown whips his off so as to not show up his counterpart for a photo shoot.
“He’s a nice guy,” Hart says of Brown when he’s not within earshot.
Their dialogue may result in long-term dividends for taxpayers of both communities.
Cooperation between local governments isn’t new. It goes back at least 45 years to the formation of the Iowa Northland Regional Council of Governments. But the friendship between Hart and Brown has made discussions easier.
A shared services task force has been meeting for about a year and a half. It involves Hart, Brown, Supervisor Frank Magsamen representing Black Hawk County, Hawkeye Community College President Linda Allen and University of Northern Iowa provost Jim Wohlpart when he served as acting UNI president prior to Mark Nook’s hiring.
Hart said the discussions actually started during the 2015 mayoral campaign, when he and Magsamen were both running for mayor.
“We just talked about, regardless of what happened, how could we all bring folks together and work together,” Hart said. “Not that anything’s broke, but how can we do that?”
Several areas of potential cooperation were identified. INRCOG director Kevin Blanshan was contacted to facilitate the task force, and Hart reached out to Brown. Invitations also were extended to HCC and UNI leadership.
“It’s the real deal,” Brown said. “Like the mayor (Hart) mentioned, it could be everything from insurance for physical facilities; health insurance consortium; training; purchasing; public safety; infrastructure.”
It can even be something as simple as how University Avenue is reconstructed between the two cities.
“It’s a prime example out here,” Brown said, pointing at University from The Other Place restaurant just inside the Cedar Falls city limits as the two mayors meet for lunch. “Our folks communicate with Waterloo because of the different construction schedules. ... They’re going to communicate and make sure it’s a good blend and a safe blend here at Midway,” where the two cities’ reconstruction projects meet.
One major venture discussed will be in the area of wastewater treatment. Both cities are looking at updating a study from the early 1970s on a possible intercity sanitary sewer connection.
“We’re looking now for both councils to support the study,” Brown said. “This study isn’t to go forward. It’s a study to say, ‘Is this plausible?”
Cedar Falls included $35,000 for its share of the study in the 2018-19 city budget approved two weeks ago. The Waterloo council will be asked to follow suit later this month.
The study is not completely out of date.
“I asked the question ‘It was 40 years ago; is it applicable?’ and the experts in the room said ‘Oh, it is,’” Brown said.
“The thing about any or all of this is it has to be feasible for a community,” Hart said. “There may be some areas where it may not be feasible. But we’re asking the questions. We’re having conversation. We’re taking away the politics of it, the emotion of it, and are just asking simple questions. How can we work together on this?”
“The mayor and I have been very candid on this,” Brown added. “In the big picture, it’s the benefit versus the cost and savings. We’re not going to do something because it looks good. We need to see how we can improve and how we can share the savings by sharing the cost. It’s a zero-sum game.”
“Working smarter,” Hart said.
The are proceeding with small, deliberate steps and plenty of opportunity for discussion.
“We’re in the early stages,” Hart said.
Brown said there has to be long-term buy-in from both cities — beyond either of their tenures — and from a succession of officials from many entities including the county and schools.
They acknowledge the friendship between them is an asset in those discussions.
“It makes it that much easier when you have that level of trust, and a friendship and a rapport,” Hart said. “But underlying is thinking about the greater good of our community. He’s taken an oath and I’ve taken an oath to try to move our communities on the best route — to work smarter and work harder.”
Neither of them, and neither city, can limit conversations to past conventions of thought, while recognizing and building on the accomplishments of those who have gone before.
“I hear from many individuals, business and civic leaders. That it is refreshing,” Brown said. “We’re not going to turn the tables upside down.”
“We can call and talk about it,” Hart said. “We may not have seen it a certain way. But it’s coming from a good place and we can address whatever those issues are.”
DES MOINES — The changes to Iowa’s tax laws could be dramatic, impacting every Iowan who pays taxes for years to come.
Similarly, the changes could impact every function of state government because of what could be a reshaped state budget.
But what would it mean for Iowa taxpayers and businesses?
Republican state lawmakers, who hold majorities in the House and Senate and occupy the governor’s office are working on plans to overhaul the state’s tax code.
Two plans have emerged.
Both reduce income tax rates for Iowa workers. One also cuts taxes paid by Iowa businesses.
But within the plans are significant differences. The Senate plan cuts taxes much deeper, providing more tax relief for Iowans and businesses but also taking much more money out of the state budget.
Eventually the two plans will have to be merged into one.
The Senate introduced its plan and approved it last week in rapid fashion.
The House last week began work on tax reform, choosing to work off a proposal introduced in February by Gov. Kim Reynolds.
Here is how the plans compare.
Both plans will reduce taxes paid by Iowa workers.
Under the Senate plan, the number of income brackets would be reduced from nine to five, with the top bracket paying 6.3 percent, down from almost 9 percent.
The governor’s plan also reduces rates but does not change the income bracket structure.
So what does that mean for Iowa taxpayers?
Under the governor’s plan, by full implementation in 2023 Iowans making between $40,000 and $60,000 annually would pay roughly $200 less in taxes each year, a reduction of around 12 percent.
Under the Senate plan, Iowans in that range would pay roughly $600 less, a reduction of around 25 percent.
The estimates were compiled by the state budget department for both tax plans.
On the higher end of the income scale, Iowans who make between $100,000 and $125,000 would pay $365 less under the governor’s plan and $872 less under the Senate plan.
In short, the Senate plan calls for bigger income tax cuts, meaning Iowa taxpayers would pay less under both plans, but less under the Senate plan than the governor’s.
But that comes at a cost to the state.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two plans impacts taxes paid by Iowa businesses.
Reynolds’ plan does not include a reduction of the state’s corporate tax rate; the governor said the state budget cannot withstand the additional loss in revenue and further study of the state’s tax incentive programs is needed.
Republican senators don’t want to wait. Their plan makes significant reductions to business taxes, lowering the top rate from 12 percent to 7 percent, and going from four tax brackets to two, taxed at 7 percent and 5.5 percent.
The changes would have a significant impact, reducing businesses’ tax burden by more than 50 percent, almost $265 million, according to the budget department estimates.
Businesses that make between a quarter-million and $1 million would receive the most significant savings from the Senate plan, an average reduction of more than $95,000, according to the projections.
Businesses that make more than $1 million would see a more modest reduction, just more than $5,000.
“This bill creates dramatic economic development and it says that we’re open for business,” said Randy Feenstra, a Republican state senator from Hull who oversaw the Senate plan. “We want to be a business-friendly state. We want to be bold. We want to grow.”
Both plans would mean less money coming into the state budget.
And that reduction is vastly different in the two plans.
The governor’s plan anticipates revenue will be reduced by $1 billion over the next six years.
The Senate plan would match that in one year.
Under the Senate plan, state revenues would be reduced by more than $4 billion over the next six years.
Republicans hope the revenue losses are not as significant as projected; they say economic growth as a result of the tax cuts could create new revenue.
“Yes, this is bold,” Feenstra said. “Senators, we must be bold if we want to drive Iowa’s economy by creating higher wages, more jobs and more opportunities.”
The governor’s plan would trim state revenue by just more than $88 million in the budget year that starts July 1 and gradually increase to a nearly $300 million reduction in the budget year that begins July 1, 2022.
The Senate plan would cut state revenue by more than $200 million in the next state budget year, and increase annually to the point where it would reduce state revenue by more than $1 billion annually by 2021.
Iowa’s entire state budget this year was just more than $7 billion.
Opponents of the plan, most prominently Democratic state lawmakers, fear such huge budget reductions would wreak havoc on the state’s finances and devastate state government.
“This is, in my opinion, the height of fiscal irresponsibility. Reducing the state of Iowa’s revenue by $1 billion will have a catastrophic consequence to public education, public safety and managed health care,” said Matt McCoy, a Democratic state senator from Des Moines. “We are taking a drastic, dark and disastrous path.”
Before any of the proposals become law, one plan must emerge from the Legislature and be signed by the governor.
Senate Republicans have already approved their plan.
House Republicans using the governor’s proposal have just begun work.
Republican leaders from the Senate, House and governor’s office eventually will have to work together to construct a compromise proposal. That final legislation could contain elements from both plans.
“We’re not going to preclude any topic at this point, I don’t think,” said Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, a Republican from Clear Lake. “The Senate sent a bill that they have an interest in doing and the governor has a bill. And we’re going to see what we can do to come up with something that’s just good for Iowans.”
CRESCO — A West Union man was arrested in connection with a Thursday morning death and standoff with police.
During the standoff, Brian Allen Fullhart, 34, allegedly fired at police with a compound bow. When officers searched his friend’s home after the standoff, they found Fullhart’s wife, 34-year-old Zoanne Fullhart, dead inside.
Brian Fullhart, who also lists an address in Decorah, was arrested for first-degree murder and going armed with indent. He allegedly told investigators he shot his wife “in cold blood,” according to court records.
Authorities said the Fullharts had been staying at a friend’s mobile home at 700 S. Elm St., No. 32, in Cresco for a few days.
Late Wednesday night or Thursday morning, the couple was in a back room when other people in the mobile home heard a gunshot, records state. They looked to see Brian Fullhart holding a gun and his wife with a gunshot wound, records state.
Police were called around 1:30 a.m., and when officers arrived, a witness recounted hearing an argument between Brian Fullhart and his wife and said Fullhart was armed with a handgun.
When police approached, Brian Fullhart told officers he would “shoot their heads off” and barricaded himself in the home. During the ensuing standoff, he shot at police with a compound bow, hitting a squad car at least once, records state.
Brian Fullhart surrendered around 6:45 a.m. and was taken into custody.
Authorities searching the home found Zoanne Fullhart dead inside, according to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
The slaying came about a week after Brian Fullhart was released from jail on a burglary charge.
WEST UNION -- A West Union man faces burglary charges after deputies reportedly caught him in the act.
On Jan. 15, 2018, he was found with a bottle of alcohol inside the Echo Valley Event Center in West Union, which was downstairs from his apartment. He had unscrewed a piece of plywood that had been covering the doorway, records state. When the owner approached him, he ran off and apparently got into his wife’s vehicle in the parking lot outside.
Zoanne Fullhart allegedly attempted to stop officers from arresting her husband and tried to drive away. Brian Fullhart was shocked with a Taser and allegedly threatened West Union Police Chief Paul Becthold during the incident, court record state.
Brian Fullhart remained in jail until Feb. 21, when he was released on a personal recognizance bond.
Brian Fullhart had other recent encounters with law enforcement.
In January 2017, Fayette County sheriff’s deputies found him staggering near a vehicle in a ditch on 100th Street. When he failed to follow instructions, a deputy started to place him in handcuffs, and he allegedly turned and punched the deputy in the chest. A struggle broke out, and a second deputy helped restrain Fullhart, records state.
During the ride to jail, he allegedly kicked the inside of the squad car door, causing more than $500 in damage, records state.
Another altercation broke out as Fullhart was removed from the car at the jail. A detention officer shocked him with a Taser, and he kicked the detention officer, records state. A breath test registered a .037 blood-alcohol level, and deputies suspected he was also under the influence of illegal drugs, records state.
Then on Dec. 31, a West Union officer noticed Brian Fullhart driving a Mercury Sable near the city library and attempted to stop him on U.S. Highway 18 west of town for having a suspended license, court records state. He pulled over but then drove off when the officer approached the vehicle.
The chase led to a landscaping business where Fullhart worked. He entered the building and hid in a locked bathroom where he was eventually detained, records state.