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WATCH NOW: Rented goats become new groundskeepers at Trinity Episcopal Church
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WATERLOO — When Tammy Domonoske waded into the overgrown prairie behind Trinity Episcopal Church, her herd of six goats followed on her heels. In minutes, the goats disappeared into the tall brush while Domonoske’s head could just be seen above stems of blooming goldenrod.

“You lead them into the brush, and they’ll follow and get the idea to start eating back there,” said Deb Paschal. Paschal and Domonoske are owners of Get Your Goat LLC Overgrowth.

CHRIS ZOELLER, Courier Staff Photographer 

Buck the goat and others inside their grazing area behind Trinity Episcopal Church on Tuesday.

For nearly two weeks, the Ventura, Iowa-based herd has been browsing on unwanted vegetation, weeds and scrub trees on the 1.5-acre plot.

Church member Bill Kline proposed the idea for natural weed control. The previously farmed land had grown into a weed patch, he said. After exploring such options as burning – “not allowed in the city limits” – and deciding against using herbicides to control or kill the growth, he suggested hiring the goat herd.

“I’d heard about goats clearing brush up around Clear Lake, and I knew it worked. We just decided to try it. Everything fell into place. So far, it’s been pretty slick.”

CHRIS ZOELLER, Courier Staff Photographer 

Get Your Goat Overgrowth Specialists co-owner Tammy Domonoske tends to her goats on Tuesday at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Waterloo. Based in Ventura, the service has been commissioned by the church to clear undesirable plants from its property.

Domonoske and Paschal build paddocks to enclose specific areas to be browsed, installing solar-powered electric fences to keep the goats corralled and protected from predators. The paddocks are moved every other day or so, to keep the goats busy browsing.

Interim pastor the Rev. Peter Fones said he enjoys checking on the goats and “making sure they have water. I can’t take any credit for the idea, but I liked the sound of it and seeing them out here, I like how it’s working out.”

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Domonoske is clearly the herd queen – the hierarchal female leader of the pack – and Paschal is a close second. The goats – all wethers, or castrated males — bleated and eagerly wagged their tails like dogs when their owners arrived, crowding around for pats and head rubs. “They can be trained like dogs, and they like to be petted like dogs. They’re very affectionate,” said Domonoske.

Goats are browsers, not grazers, she pointed out. “It’s not true that goats will eat anything. They are picky. They like trees, bark, brush and shrubs, and they get rid of noxious, invasive weeds. They’ll eat grass, but they don’t graze.”

CHRIS ZOELLER, Courier Staff Photographer 

Trinity Episcopal Church interim pastor Rev. Peter Fones pets the goats in their pen behind the church on Tuesday.

After snacking, the herd settles down to chew their cud and nap. For treats, they love apples, said Paschal. “And they’ll browse sharp plants like thistles, but it depends on the growth stage of the plant.”

CHRIS ZOELLER, Courier Staff Photographer 

Frosty the goat chews on some grass in the goats' grazing area behind Trinity Episcopal Church on Tuesday.

The sure-footed goats also browse in areas that might be dangerous for people to attempt to clear out. Their weight is light enough not to compact soil, which means the acreage can easily be reclaimed and replanted or controlled.

“And Buck likes to climb,” Domonoske said, as he stretched up to crop leaves off a nearly-stripped mulberry tree. Then the big, friendly buckskin goat migrated to Domonoske’s side, shifting over the smaller, spotted Domino with a gentle head butt and moving in for his share of neck and ear scratching. “He’s also a momma’s boy,” she laughed.

CHRIS ZOELLER, Courier Staff Photographer 

Smokey the goat stretches to reach some greenery on a tree branch in the goats' grazing area behind Trinity Episcopal Church on Tuesday.

These are Kiko cross goats, a hardy breed originating in New Zealand. The breed is parasite-resistant and does well in harsher conditions. There’s cream-and-tan Latte, Bandit with his two-toned mask, Frosty, whose white-bordered ears were frost-bitten as a kid, and the charcoal-colored Smoky, in addition to Buck and Domino. A seventh goat is undergoing treatment for a urinary tract infection.

With the exception of 2-year-old Domino, the goats are all 4 years old. Domonoske has raised them all. “I grew up on a farm, and I guess I missed it. Goats are easier than cattle. It’s a small herd, and that’s fine. We’ve rented them out to clean up prairies, acreages where people wanted to start a garden, along the lake shore and in cemeteries.”

Both Paschal and Domonoske have full-time jobs, so running the goat herd has been a hobby since 2017. Their business has grown primarily word-of-mouth.


Education
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Cedar Falls Schools still looking at judge's order on masks, superintendent says
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CEDAR FALLS — Superintendent Andy Pattee told the Board of Education Monday that Cedar Falls Community Schools’ officials were still processing the federal judge’s order from a few hours earlier on the use of masks in schools.

Judge Robert Pratt’s temporary restraining order immediately halted enforcement of a law passed in May that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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Pattee noted that he and other district officials “obviously have not had the chance to read through what that order states, what the details in that order are” as well as “what the next steps” are. “Obviously, we’ll now continue to work with our legal counsel, we’ll now continue to work with our local officials as far as the Black Hawk County Public Health” and state officials. The district will “gather additional details (on) what this means and what that looks like and make the best informed decision as we possibly can moving forward.”

Responding to questions from board members, he also explained that COVID-19 reporting requirements for schools have changed “significantly” since last spring.

“By code, last year we were able to do some of the contact tracing because of the pandemic and that was a (governor’s) proclamation issue,” said Pattee. “That is something we have no legal authority to do now. We cannot order any kind of quarantine orders, stay-at-home orders.

“That is again outside of our scope of legal responsibility,” he said, explaining that the district is sharing with close contacts if someone was exposed to the virus. Even that is not required by the state any longer.

“There’s a lot of things that we did last year that are no longer allowed and then some other things that we just have to figure out,” said Pattee. He suggested that the district will have to look at its practices “if numbers happen to grow, knock on wood.”


Dike-New Hartford junior Jerek Hall runs the ball against Columbus Catholic on Friday in Waterloo.


Govt-and-politics
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Board member: Community Main Street statement on zoning ordinances is 'disingenuous'
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CEDAR FALLS – With the exception of one board member, Community Main Street reaffirmed its commitment to a statement presented to city officials on the proposed ordinances that would overhaul downtown zoning.

At a Tuesday afternoon meeting, board member Darin Beck said all opinions weren’t fully reflected in the letter sent to Cedar Falls City Council and Mayor Rob Green prior to council’s votes on the first reading of two zoning ordinances, which passed in separate 4-3 votes on Sept. 7.

Beck called it “disingenuous” to depict the statement as “unanimous” in the support from the board when he felt it wasn’t, and contended that it was agreed-upon that the business organization recommend a “change in the language in the form-based zoning to keep what we have now. The one parking stall per apartment, and then I think it was a half a stall per extra bedroom.”

By the end of the hour-long discussion largely focused on challenges associated with parking but with many board members voicing how it is not a bad problem to have, and wanting to end the conversation on it, so the focus and resources instead can be dedicated to planning for the future — the board voted to support a motion by former president Crystal Ford:

Ford said board members should be encouraged to be “active citizens” and speak their “further personal opinions, views or voices” at the Sept. 20 and Oct. 4 meetings when second and third readings by council are expected to take place.

“We are in a place right now where people feel they give feedback and even if the results aren’t what they wanted, then they feel like their feedback was not heard, and that’s not always the case,” said president-elect Jenny Leeper.

Leeper, as well as other board members, defended the staff as doing a great job listening to all opinions and representing all stakeholders, while recognizing that not everyone will be happy at the end of the day.

The two ordinances, one for the zoning amendments and plans to establish “downtown character districts,” the other for the actual rezoning of property within the associated boundaries, are intended to help “guide future growth in the Downtown District and the surrounding neighborhoods to meet the current and future needs of the community,” according to Karen Howard, city planning and community services manager.

Beck

“I guess what irritates me is we took a vote last month at our meeting on what the letter was going to say to the city council and the mayor,” Beck said. “And that’s not what the letter ended up saying. It got watered down. I don’t know if that happened by choice of the director or by choice of the executive committee without board approval.”

Beck added that he’d like to see the proposed ordinances tabled until after the election, because if passed, the zoning flips to being form-based, with some “intricacies, such as what happens to buildings when they are sold, the parking requirements, that I think need to be ironed out.”

The Aug. 30 letter from Community Main Street, to council and the mayor, states:

“Community Main Street has been a part of the visioning process since it began. We feel like staff has done a great job reaching out to the community, those that live/work in the zoning code area, developers and our board, seeking feedback and input. The new zoning plans are both progressive and objective and will unify the vision for Cedar Falls’ future. It will also provide much-needed clarity/direction to developers, and hopefully spur new development ideas and activities that’ll keep Cedar Falls, and downtown specifically, marching forward.

“As you are aware there can be no conversation downtown without addressing parking and we have received feedback with concerns regarding the parking requirement in the code. Our role as CMS is to advocate for our constituents, the fear is reducing the requirement in new development will force those tenants into spots the consumers should be utilizing. We ask that you be mindful of how this may affect existing development in the District.”

The letter is signed by Executive Director Kim Bear, on behalf of the 14 board members.

According to its website, Community Main Street was organized in 1987 by citizens concerned about the continuing threats to commercial architecture of Cedar Falls’ central business district and aware of the need to stimulate economic revitalization in downtown.

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Govt-and-politics
Iowa special redistricting session set for Oct. 5
  • Updated

DES MOINES — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Tuesday set a special legislative session for Oct. 5 to approve redrawn legislative and congressional district maps, and the chief justice of the state Supreme Court signed an order giving lawmakers extra time to complete their task.

Reynolds signed a proclamation convening the special session to take up redistricting, a once-a-decade process that was complicated this year by a delay in releasing U.S. Census Bureau data blamed on the coronavirus pandemic.

Sydney Czyzon Courier 

A poll worker helps a voter feed their ballot into the counting machine. Some Iowa voters may find themselves voting for different candidates after the state Legislature considers newly drawn political districts on Oct. 5. 

Also Tuesday, Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Susan Christensen signed an order allowing the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency to submit maps to the Legislature as outlined in Iowa law even though they will be completed after the legally mandated deadline. She has given them until Dec. 1 to come up with new maps.

The census data was made public Aug. 16 following a five-month delay from its original deadline. The delay sent states scrambling to revise redistricting deadlines.

The Iowa Constitution requires the process to be completed before Sept. 1. If new maps are not approved by Sept. 15, the Iowa Supreme Court is given the power to “cause the state to be apportioned” by Dec. 31.

Christensen’s order said the court, using its constitutional authority, permits the LSA and the Legislature to proceed with the process as outlined and have new maps by Dec. 1.

Iowa law spells out in great detail how the LSA must draw the maps to minimize gerrymandering and political influence in initial drafting. The LSA has said it will release the first maps on Thursday.

State law gives the five-member Iowa Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission 14 days to hold public hearings to gather comment once the maps are released and prepare a report for the Legislature.

The commission has scheduled hearings for Sept. 20, 21 and 22.

Republicans hold a majority in the Legislature so they will have the power to approve or reject the first set of maps. They must be approved or rejected without modification.

Democratic leaders have committed to voting in favor of the first maps the LSA draws, saying Iowa’s process assures that the maps will be nonpartisan and fair.

Republican leaders have declined to make such a pledge.

“Iowa House Republicans are eager to get to work on redistricting after months of delays. Iowa’s nonpartisan redistricting process is considered one of the fairest in all 50 states. We’ve worked with the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency and the Supreme Court to ensure that the integrity of our highly-praised redistricting process is maintained,” House Speaker Pat Grassley said in a statement.

If the first maps are rejected, the LSA has 35 days to draw up a second set of maps. Lawmakers again must vote them up or down. If that plan is rejected, the LSA again has 35 days to draw a third set. Lawmakers may amend the maps like any other legislation before approving them.

In 2000, the Legislature rejected the first set of maps but approved the second. In 2010, lawmakers approved the first set of maps.

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