As 2023 continued to roll along into the second quarter, April to June, plenty of news stories impacted the Keokuk and surrounding areas. Here’s a few we likely all remember.
Lee County Conservation dedicated it’s newest public property along Valley Road. Several gathered for the dedication at the John C. Clark Reserve.
The family of John H. Clark wanted a way to preserve about 163 acres of property along the Des Moines River west of Keokuk, and in such decided to donate the land to Lee County Conservation.
LCC Director Heather Huebner said the process began before she came on board as the director. She said the donation makes a great wildlife refuge available for the citizens of Lee County to explore.
“It should provide great educational opportunities for our naturalist,” she said.
There could be a time in the near future where students would be able to take a trip there and learn about the natural wetlands.
In a press release from conservation, the department states the property provides an outstanding habitat for all types of wildlife species ranging from the monarch butterfly to migratory birds to even reptiles and amphibians.
“It is our hope that not only the public will enjoy this beautiful piece of land, but that it can be used to educate our local groups and conservationists alike,” the release says.” The article read.
A dog breeder near West Point ran afoul of the USDA again.
A Lee County dog breeding business has seen its license suspended by the United States Department of Agriculture for 21 days.
“Steve Kruse, who operates Stonehenge Kennels at 2345 Highway 16 near West Point was notified by the USDA of the suspension on March 30 by a letter from the department.
“Our evidence reveals that, between March 7, 2023 and March 14, 2023, you failed to provide appropriate methods to prevent, control, diagnose and treat diseases and injuries, and failed to provide the date and a description of the problem, examination findings, test results, plan for treatment and care, and treatment procedures performed when a problem was identified (such as a disease, injury, or illness)” the letter, which is available online, states.” It said in the April 15 article.
Lee County residents along with residents across Iowa were slightly stunned at the increase in their property assessments.
“Lee County Assessor Patti Meierotto said ultimately, the market is responsible for the assessment increases. Her office has been busy answering questions since new assessment letters came out recently, with many residents seeing, what they feel, is a large increase in property assessment.
“Sales of properties that occurred in Lee County during 2021 and 2022 were used to determine the 2023 assessments. The assessment increases are the result of sales ratio studies for residential and commercial properties and productivity factors for agricultural properties,” Meierotto said.
It is Iowa code that mandates residential and commercial assessments must be valued at 100% of market value in odd numbered years. Meierotto said agricultural properties are also revalued every odd numbered year using a five-year average of productivity and net earning capacity capitalized at 7%.
Meierotto said the state will take it upon themselves to increase assessments if the county assessors do not do so. She said the Iowa Department of Revenue would increase assessments in the fall of 2023, which is called a state equalization order.” The April 13 article explained.
While the year would ultimately end with Cole O’Donnell no longer being Keokuk’s city administrator. The council attempted to separate the city from his employment early in the second quarter.
“The Keokuk City Council held a special meeting on Thursday at Keokuk City Hall, where most of the meeting was held in closed session.
While details of what was discussed in the closed session are not public, Mayor Kathie Mahoney read the reason the council could go into closed session for the matter under Iowa Law.” The April 1 article read.
A vote to accept O’Donnell’s resignation failed. A motion was then made to terminate the administrator, which also failed, leaving him in the position.
A track student was saddened when she had to participate in her Senior Night, at another school, because of the condition of Keokuk High School’s track making it unusable.
“Keokuk High School track athlete Lily Gobart experienced her senior night, a long-awaited honor for students, at a rival school. Senior night is usually held during the Keosippi (Keokuk) Relays, formerly one of the largest meets in the state where greats like Tim Dwight and Carl Lewis ran in Calvert Stadium.
Instead, the “Keokuk” Relays were held in Fort Madison, where Gobart said Keokuk seniors were announced after Fort Madison athletes, some even being unable to step forward for recognition due to other athletes “walking in front” of them. Gobart was devastated. “I have put in literal blood, sweat, and tears to this program. I am losing out on something I have looked forward to for four years because Keokuk has not gotten a new track,” she said.” The April 29 article read.
The school has since started its plan to resurface the track and add artificial turf to the football field.
For a couple decades, if you tuned into KOKX in Keokuk, you’d likely hear Suzy Glasscock, known as Suzy G on the radio. She decided to retire in 2023, though we can still hear her from time to time on Radio Keokuk. She was given a retirement party at the Southside Boat Club, that was packed with supporters.
A new event was created with cooperation between Keokuk and Hamilton residents.
“Hamilton City Council Member Tommy Buckert saw a story about a group that lined a bridge in the Quad Cities, holding the American flag for Flag Day. He was talking with the American Legion Post 41 Commander Dustin Cackley about it and soon, a plan was formed to do a similar event between Keokuk and Hamilton on the bridge.
The Flags of the Mississippi event will be from 4:30-7 p.m. with line up at 5 p.m. and parking at the River City Mall on Wednesday, June 14.
According to organizers, more than 100 flags will be lined across the Keokuk-Hamilton Bridge.” The May 20 article read.
The event went well for its first run. It very well may be back in 2024.
After years of attempts, it appears the city-owned buildings in the 600 block of Main Street would be rehabbed and saved.
“The Keokuk City Council looked over a proposal for the 600 block Main Street buildings the city owns and has been trying to find a developer for over several years to take on a rehabilitation project.
Michael Mohrfeld, president of Green Oak Development says the company is ready to go on an agreement.
The proposal sent to the city includes a plan for 619,623, 625 and 629 Main Street.
At the regular city council meeting on Thursday at City Hall. Mike Norris, executive director of Southeast Iowa Regional Planning introduced Mohrfeld. He said the city had almost everything lined up for the project, except the most important piece.
“The only thing we were missing was a developer,” Norris said.” The June 2 article stated.
As of Dec. 26, it does not appear a lot has been done at the property.
While it was thought early in the year that Rollin’ on the River was going away, the organization moved the event to the Grand Theatre and announced the main acts for the August event in June.
And the story that got the most web traffic for the Daily Gate City happened in late June when a derecho storm blew through causing millions of dollars in damage.
A severe storm lashed Keokuk Thursday morning, leaving devastation in its wake with tipped semis, blown-over power poles, and scores of fallen trees. With power outages throughout South Lee County and numerous roads blocked, the local community is rallying to clear debris and manage the aftermath.
The tempest hit at 10:20 a.m., causing several semis to tip over on 218/27 in Lee County and closing Connable Road in Hamilton. The extent of the damage prompted LeeComm to request additional assistance from state troopers. Hancock County deployed extra deputies.
Due to the storm, with winds that have been estimated to have possibly reached 120 mph, the Lee County Board of Supervisors on Friday declared a state of emergency, “authorized under Iowa state statute and will execute the expenditure of emergency funds from all available sources, the invoking of mutual aid agreements and the applying of the State of Iowa for assistance.” The June 30 story states.