Year in Review - Part II: Top local news stories from July-December 2020


New CEO at VMH ... Michael Coyle, the new CEO of Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waukon, pictured in his office at the hospital. Coyle brings years of experience to the position and began his duties August 3 following the retirement of Mike Myers, who served Veterans Memorial Hospital in that CEO role for 22 years. Submitted photo.

To read the the full article, Year in Review - Part 2: Top local news stories from July-December 2020, pick up this week's print edition or subscribe to our e-edition by clicking here.

Below is a portion of that article, July through August, summarizing the top news stories that appeared in The Standard.

JULY
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing significant adjustments to most all events planned for this summer, the 167th Allamakee County Fair has certainly been no exception. One of the Allamakee County Fair’s more recent traditional events, the Fair Queen Contest, is being modified a bit for several reasons, but is still being retained as part of this year’s festivities. Fair Board officials say that due to the Iowa State Fair not having a Queen Contest this year, it has been decided to have just an Allamakee County Fair Royalty Team and not select a Fair Queen.

This year’s Fair Queen Contest had two entries registered. Shara Cota of Harpers Ferry and Madelyn Moser of Waukon will now serve equally as the Allamakee County Fair Royalty Team.

As summer activity has increased, it was expected that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 would also increase. Eight new confirmed positive COVID-19 cases have been reported in Allamakee County within the past week’s time by Allamakee County Public Health.

Some of those cases have resulted in the temporary closure of a pair of local entities after case exposure was announced by each of them this past week. Village Creek Bible Camp in rural Lansing and Expresso Convenience Store in Lansing each experienced confirmed case exposure within this past week or so and, as a result, temporarily closed their normal business operations until further notice.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) investigated and continues to assess a fish kill in a tributary of Paint Creek south of Waukon which was found to be the result of a pair of incidents that took place in succession Monday, July 20, according to an initial media release from the DNR.

Shortly after 11 a.m. that Monday, operators at the City of Waukon Wastewater Treatment Plant on the southeast edge of Waukon reported to the DNR that Aveka Nutra Processing in north Waukon spilled approximately 76,000 pounds of yeast, which was running into the treatment plant through the City’s sanitary sewer system. Normally, the treatment plant routes such spills into a lagoon before being treated in the plant.

However, the City of Waukon reported that the lagoon pump at its treatment facility failed after a power loss, allowing the yeast to spill into the creek and causing a fish kill. Treatment plant operators were able to reroute the yeast to the plant by 11:45 a.m. The DNR media release further explained that the influx of yeast further overwhelmed the treatment plant’s capacity, causing an ongoing release of partially treated wastewater.

AUGUST
Monday, July 27 the Eastern Allamakee Community School District (EACSD) released its Return to Learn plan to the public for the 2020-2021 school year. The overall plan is available for viewing in its entirety at www.e-allamakee.k12.ia.us, along with a bullet-pointed quick facts document and a video featuring EACSD Superintendent Dr. Dale Crozier offering further insight and explanation.

Within the plan itself, EACSD officials state that the objective of the district’s Return to Learn plan “is to meet the educational needs of our students while taking heavily into consideration the health, safety, social and emotional needs of our students and staff members which are also part of the educational process.”

Beginning with the first day of the 2020-2021 school, August 24, and currently planned through at least the end of September, the EACSD will implement a hybrid plan for learning which will include a combination of on-site instruction in classrooms Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, with required learning from home each Wednesday. The district says that hybrid approach of two days in school with one day in between learning from home and the two-day weekend will serve multiple purposes, including allowing extra time to those unable to be in school, the ability to meet in smaller groups for those who need extra help, preparing for future shut-downs and at-home learning if that situation were to occur, as well as providing extra time for cleaning and sanitation.

Following an initial announcement in mid-July of planning to return to in-person learning to start the 2020-2021 school year, the Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) Board of Directors and administration met in a July 29 work session to discuss details and scenarios of the district’s approach to the new school year. The ACSD Learning Plan details were announced early last week, with the complete learning plan for the new school year now being made available to student households and also available on the school district website at www.allamakee.k12.ia.us.

The Allamakee Community School District will begin the school year Monday, August 24 with each building hosting in-person learning in all its classrooms. The district’s learning plan cited guidance from the Iowa Department of Education, the Iowa Department of Public Health and Allamakee County Public Health in making its decision with reference to the American Academy of Pediatrics released guidance that states “schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being.”

Despite a two-month delay in the start of the project, the Waukon wastewater treatment plant upgrade in Waukon is moving right along. That’s according to City of Waukon Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper, who said the $12.3 million project, which started in April of 2019, is “progressing well.”

Cooper explained the original plant, which utilized “trickling filters,” was not built to handle the type of waste the city has today. As the community of Waukon’s treatment needs have changed, there was a need for a newer style treatment plant. “The old plant was designed mainly for domestic waste and not industry or factory waste,” said Cooper.

In addition, Cooper explained the Iowa DNR has mandated its nutrient reduction strategy for all communities. “To help the hypoxic or ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico, we need a strategy for phosphorous and nitrogen removal,” he said.

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