Year in Review - Part II: Top local news stories from July-December 2021

Plans move forward following receipt of $100,000 grant ... The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) recently announced $2.6 million in grant funding to help 26 communities across the state revitalize their downtown districts through the Community Catalyst Building Remediation program. Among the $100,000 grant recipients was the City of Waukon for use in a proposed development agreement and renovation project for the former JCPenney/Tierney’s building (pictured above) on the corner of Main Street and Spring Avenue in the heart of downtown Waukon to be transformed into a steakhouse restaurant. Receipt of the grant funding allows for the estimated $400,000 building renovation project to move forward through a development agreement between the City of Waukon and Arturo Barreda and Jose Velarde, both of Waukon and owners of Fiesta Vallarta Mexican Restaurant just a couple blocks directly east of the former JCPenney/Tierney building location in Waukon. City officials say that development agreement is still being finalized between the involved parties but, in addition to the recently-awarded grant funding, will include a contribution of $200,000 from Barreda and Velarde, along with a $100,000 contribution from the City, part of which is also being funded by another recently received grant through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Derelict Building Program. Standard photo by Joe Moses.

To read the the full article, Year in Review - Part II: Top local news stories from July - December 2021, 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 September, summarizing the top news stories that appeared in The Standard.

The Eastern Allamakee School District (EACSD) is one of six districts in the state of Iowa to win a competitive grant to establish a therapeutic classroom in the district. The EACSD, the smallest school district to receive the grant, will receive $216,000 to support the programming this year.

The therapeutic classrooms will be for learners whose social-emotional or behavioral needs impact their ability to be successful in their current learning environment. The grant was written by the administrative team of New Albin Elementary School Principal Donna Thomas and Kee High School and Middle School Principal Dr. Sarah Updegraff, with support from Keystone Area Education Agency (AEA), specifically Chami DeLong, Carissa Otto, Joleen Doyle and Laura Smith.

Two Allamakee County young ladies are vying for the title of 2021 Allamakee County Fair Queen. Those two candidates for this year’s crown include Madelyn Moser and Morgan Stortz, both of them being students at Waukon High School this past school year.

The crown of Allamakee County Fair Queen and all the honors and responsibilities that accompany it will be bestowed upon one of those two candidates Tuesday evening, July 20 during the Allamakee County Fair Queen Coronation event being held at the Allamakee County Fairgrounds Pavilion in Waukon to kick off the 168th Allamakee County Fair.

The 14th annual North Iowa Tractor Ride will be making its way through the tri-state area during the three-day event this week, Thursday, July 22 through Saturday, July 24. Approximately 200 vintage and restored tractors will be traveling two different day-routes along some of Allamakee County’s roadways, crossing over just a bit into Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Those tractors and their drivers and support crews will begin arriving at Waukon High School Thursday afternoon, July 22 in preparation to begin their ride routes each of the following two days from that parking lot location, arriving back there those same evenings.

Olivia Marti, who completed her freshman year at Waukon High School this past May, has been selected for the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program (CBYX). The program will send Marti, age 15, to live and study in Germany this fall for her sophomore year, with an August 21 departure date currently planned.

A highly competitive program (in recent years, the admission rate has been less than two percent), CBYX is a “unique, fully-funded scholarship program giving young people ages 15-18 a first-hand experience of the importance of international friendship and cooperation, which rests on shared political and cultural values” (

A town hall meeting with Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand was held Friday, July 23 in the Waukon City Park as part of Sand’s annual 99-County tour, an effort to hear from Iowans in each county across the state. Sand provided a brief introduction discussing the format of the meeting, explaining that the meeting’s focus would primarily be on questions from those in attendance and, time permitting, an update from his office relating to a variety of matters at the State level.

Prior to conclusion of the meeting, Sand responded to a question relating to whether he has political aspirations beyond his current role as Iowa State Auditor. Sand replied that he likes his job and the role the Iowa State Auditor performs, which includes looking into the work and decisions of other elected officials and holding them accountable.

Iowa’s Lt. Governor Adam Gregg met with representatives of Allamakee-Clayton Electric Cooperative (ACEC), the City of Waukon and contractors involved in fiber optic installation projects during a meeting at the ACEC facility in Postville Wednesday, July 21 as part of a discussion and update relating to broadband and fiber optic cable installation projects in Allamakee County.

Gregg provided an introduction for the discussion, noting that broadband connectivity is a priority for the State of Iowa and Governor Kim Reynolds. Gregg said that he has been honored to be part of these discussions in his role as Chairperson for the Empower Rural Iowa Task Force.

He emphasized that broadband connectivity is important for rural prosperity, with the COVID-19 pandemic further shining a light on the issue with many facets of life and the economy now relying on this connectivity. Gregg relayed that increased broadband connectivity was trending prior to the pandemic, with that need continuing to increase for businesses and the public.

Waukon teenager Carson Johanningmeier has one goal in mind: to become a professional motocross racer.

He is well on his way to achieving that goal, having recently qualified for the 2021 Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn Ranch - the world’s biggest amateur motocross race - currently taking place this week in Hurricane Mills, TN. Johanningmeier has qualified in both the 250cc and 450cc races for this year’s national grand finale. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the national championship event has been hosted since 1982 at the ranch home of country music legend Loretta Lynn and has served as a career launch pad for some of the biggest names in professional motocross and supercross racing, including Ricky Carmichael, James Stewart, Ryan Villopoto and Ryan Dungey.

Members of the Kee baseball team were presented a State Runner-Up trophy and banner after having a late comeback rally end up a bit shy for a 7-5 loss to second-seeded and fourth-rated Council Bluffs St. Albert in the Class 1A State Tournament Championship game played Thursday, July 29 at Merchants Park in Carroll. Having been unranked and awarded a number-four seed heading into their first State Tournament appearance since the 2011 season, the baseball Hawks opened the tournament with a 4-3 opening-round win over fifth-seeded and seventh-rated New London Monday, July 26 before upsetting top-seeded and third-rated Remsen-St. Mary’s, 5-3, in a nine-inning marathon in the semifinal round Wednesday, July 28 for a state of Iowa record 17th trip to a summer State Tournament championship game, where the Hawks had a four-run sixth inning rally end up short of a complete comeback to claim another state of Iowa best eighth State Tournament Runner-Up finish. Full coverage, including photos and game reports, of all three of Kee’s State Tournament battles can be found on special pull-out pages (13-16) inside this edition.

Dr. Dustin Rounds of Rounds Chiropractic Clinic in Waukon was selected as Waukon’s 2021 Person of the Year by the Waukon Chamber of Commerce. Nominated by several individuals, all of those nominations focused on the fundraising and community support efforts put forth by Rounds and his secretary, Casey Moen, during this past year after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down or slowed many local businesses. One nomination noted that those “positive efforts created a chain reaction of hope-filled donors and recipients and put a spotlight on building up community, while promoting shopping at local businesses”.

Jim’s Full Service of Waukon, owned and operated by Jim Evanson, was named the 2021 Business of the Year by the Waukon Chamber of Commerce. Nomination information for Jim’s Full Service in its selection as this year’s recipient of the award focused on the fact that the business truly lives up to its name as a full-service service station, where they not only pump gas or diesel into vehicles but also wash windows, check tire pressure and lights, and look for any leaks or other issues under the hood, along with offering oil changes and other vehicle servicing, in addition to having tires, batteries and other vehicle accessories for sale. For over 50 years, the business has provided total car care, picking up and delivering vehicles for service appointments. The nomination for the business stated, “Jim takes care of cars like they were his own and has many long-term customers. Patrons with busy schedules really appreciate the courtesy and attention”

Eight young women involved within Iowa’s dairy community will compete to win the title of 68th Iowa Dairy Princess. The coronation ceremony will be held Wednesday, August 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the Multi-Media Center of the Cattle Barn at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.
Among those eight candidates is Madalyn Palmer, 18-year-old daughter of Eric and Stephanie Palmer of Waukon. She was crowned the 2021 Allamakee County Dairy Princess at this year’s Allamakee County Dairy Banquet held June 12.

The Iowa Governor’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Advisory Council has announced that the Eastern Allamakee Community School District (EACSD) has been awarded a STEM BEST Grant. BEST stands for Businesses Engaging Students and Teachers.

The grant supports school-business partnerships on curriculum and projects. There were 22 grants awarded statewide. The district will receive up to $25,000 to support that initiative. The program will initially partner with Main Street Lansing, the Lansing Works organization headed by MaryAnn Baldwin, the Rural Iowa Business Association, Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC), Allamakee County Economic Development(ACED) and Keystone Area Education Agency (AEA).

Daniel Baldwin has a mission - and it’s one that speaks directly to an issue of immense concern in the rural Midwest, and the country-at-large. Opioid addiction is a crisis that, according to “The Opioid Crisis in Rural and Small Town America,” by Shannon M. Monnat and Khary K. Rigg, has in recent years seen the most dramatic increase in opioid deaths in the rural Midwest.

The long-time actor, director and producer - one of the four “Baldwin brothers,” along with Stephen, William and Alec, all actors – spoke after the 10 a.m. Mass at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Waukon Sunday, July 25, while in the area as a special guest of the Spring Grove-Caledonia Film Festival. Baldwin’s multiple award-winning documentary, “My Promise to P.J.,” one of the festival’s featured films, won its award for  “Best Documentary.”

Another new business is preparing to open on Lansing’s Main Street. That is good news, in itself; but it gets better - because this business, a co-working space conceived on a membership model, is opening a place for multiple entrepreneurs, small business owners and, of particular note in the face of a changing workforce, remote workers to have a workplace outside their homes without having to purchase or rent “brick-and-mortar” spaces of their own.
Called Lansing Office Works + Innovation Lab, it’s the dream-project of Maryann Baldwin, former owner of the Lansing Fitness Center.

Building new traditions. That’s the driving force of a new $500,000 capital campaign under way to revitalize the Allamakee County Fairgrounds. “With an aging fairgrounds and a strong community that is heavily involved in agriculture, it’s time to make some improvements,” said Allamakee County Fair Board Treasurer Bobbi Baxter about the initiative.

Back in 2019, the Fair Board took a good look at the buildings and had many discussions on the best way to revitalize the livestock buildings at the fairgrounds. The board decided on a project that will benefit all youth exhibitors of all livestock species.

The project, which has had some initial preparation steps already completed, includes a number of renovations and upgrades to several current buildings, in addition to construction of a new one. Some of the improvements listed below are also labeled in the photo at right in an effort to further visualize the project.

Step 1. Take down the current dairy barn.
Step 2. Relocate the cattle barn currently located behind the pavilion. That existing building that houses some of the beef cattle during fair time will be moved and set on a new foundation. It will become the new sheep and goat barn.
Step 3. Build a new all-species show barn. This will be centrally located behind the pavilion.

Senator Joni Ernst toured TransferMaster, a manufacturer of adjustable beds for hospitals and those with disabilities, in Postville Friday, August 20 as part of her annual 99-County Tour. Ernst learned about the company’s operations and discussed the challenges the business has faced and worked to overcome during its time in business in the small northeast Iowa community.

The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors met in regular session Monday, August 23 to address a full agenda of items including discussion of Allamakee County becoming a Second Amendment Sanctuary County. Allamakee County resident Gene Averhoff addressed the next agenda item relating to discussion of Allamakee County being declared a Second Amendment Sanctuary County. Averhoff read aloud a statement relating to this written proposal: “In a time when some cities choose to declare themselves sanctuaries for not abiding by the laws of the land, this document reaffirms our county’s promise to live by our Constitution and particularly the Second Amendment. In a nutshell, this proposal reaffirms and clearly states that the County Supervisors, as highest ranking County officials, you understand, accept and will continue to adhere to the Second Amendment and will always uphold it as it relates to the actions you performs for the citizens in Allamakee County. This includes those offices and officers you supervise as they deliver their services their positions provide for as well. If you sign the Second Amendment Sanctuary County declaration, you will become the ninth county in Iowa and 1,930th county locale in the nation to do so as well.”

Dennis Peterson of Winneshiek County discussed the importance of protecting Constitutional rights, stating that, “The Sheriff’s Office is constructed around the idea of that their chief law enforcement responsibility is defending the Constitutional rights of everyone within this county and I think this application would reflect that; that the priority of Allamakee County is to protect the citizens of Allamakee County from the Federal government.”

Schellhammer recommended that Allamakee County Attorney Anthony Gericke review this proposal prior to any official action being taken by the Supervisors. Byrnes noted that a resolution relating to this matter would provide an opinion of the Supervisors, which he said would not change the Sheriff’s Department’s requirement to enforce Federal gun laws with local laws not being able to supercede Federal laws.

Byrnes quoted a recent Des Moines Register article that included comments from Representative Steven Holt. Byrnes read aloud, “Holt said Republicans who control state government have shown they support the Second Amendment, but he’s concerned there could be ‘unintended consequences’ of the county resolutions depending on how the language is written. That’s because Iowa has passed laws that limit the ability of local governments to regulate firearms. ‘Obviously, we’re strong on the Second Amendment,’ he said. ‘But we have to be careful that the wording doesn’t come in conflict with state law, and that’s one of my concerns, frankly.’”

Byrnes advised that a Second Amendment Sanctuary declaration may send the wrong message to citizens or create confusion relating to the law. Byrnes provided an example that a convicted felon may misunderstand or misinterpret that they are able to possess a firearm under the Second Amendment Sanctuary declaration. Reiser discussed being in favor of the declaration and that its intent would allow for protections against the Federal government and gun confiscation, reaffirming the County Sheriff’s authority.

Schellhammer again advised that no action should be taken at Monday’s meeting with the County Attorney to review the matter. Byrnes further quoted the Des Moines Register article: “State Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, who has led the passage of some pro-gun measures in the Iowa Legislature, said the state hasn’t passed its own sanctuary language in part because ‘we do have some legal concerns about people misconstruing that and getting themselves in trouble.’”

Byrnes suggested that from an information and education perspective, this declaration sends a message that would be difficult to understand and questioned whether a term other than “sanctuary” should be used. No official action was taken by the Supervisors at this time.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig visited the Waukon Feed Ranch Agronomy Center west of Waukon Thursday, August 26 to meet with management and stakeholders to hear concerns and discuss matters relating to agriculture and agribusiness in Allamakee County. Naig began the meeting with discussion of drought conditions that are being seen throughout the state. He noted that some areas in Iowa are not far from the D2 or D3 drought categories, which can be described as categories where crop or pasture losses are likely. Naig commented that parts of the state are in 12-inch rain deficits, which will likely not be made up until this fall, and that river navigation on both sides of the state are a concern with low river levels.

The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors met in regular session Monday, August 30 to address a full agenda of items including consideration of a resolution declaring Allamakee County as a Second Amendment Sanctuary County. The discussion and consideration of the resolution declaring Allamakee County a Second Amendment Sanctuary County was next addressed by the Supervisors. Allamakee County Attorney Anthony Gericke noted that the Supervisors can approve this resolution and that there is nothing preventing this from happening from a legal standpoint. Gericke added that this is not enacting a law, but rather making a political statement that this is what those who represent the County believe is best for the County. Gericke recommended that a better forum may be to have the public make a decision on this matter at the ballot box.

Reiser made a motion to approve the resolution declaring Allamakee County as a Second Amendment Supportive County. The motion died without a second from Byrnes, with Schellhammer explaining, “I think this takes us into the political arena where, as a board, I don’t think we need to go. I think Dan and I work very hard to keep politics out of there. I feel the wording here is primarily symbolic. I am a supporter of the Second Amendment; I probably won’t be construed that way from the public now.”

Schellhammer further explained that he is appreciative that this was brought forth for discussion, adding that this is more of a political statement that potentially opens up the door to other issues outside of matters customary for this board.

Byrnes commented on the Board of Supervisors’ support of the Constitution. He read aloud, “Iowa Code 63.10: I do solemnly swear that I support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Iowa and that I will faithfully and impartially to the best of my ability discharge all duties of the office of Allamakee County as now or hereby required by law.” Byrnes noted that this oath summarizes the board’s duties and feelings relating to the Second Amendment.

The Iowa and Wisconsin Departments of Transportation (DOT) are holding a public information meeting and providing information online as a means to gather public input for a proposed replacement of the Iowa 9/Wisconsin 82 (Black Hawk) Bridge in Lansing over the Mississippi River, connecting Allamakee and Crawford, WI Counties. The public meeting is scheduled for Monday, September 27 between 5 and 6:30 p.m. at Kee High School, located at 569 Center Street in Lansing.

The September 27 in-person public meeting will be conducted utilizing an open house format. Iowa DOT staff and consultants will be present to informally discuss the proposed improvements, design and right of way. No formal presentation will be made.

Voters in the city of Lansing elected Melissa Hammell to the office of mayor in a Tuesday, September 14 special election. Listed as the lone candidate on the election ballot, Hammell garnered 156 of the 162 votes cast in the election.

The six remaining votes cast were all write-in individuals. According to the results, four of those write-in votes were for Don Peters, one was for Dave Janzen, and the other - although marked - was left blank. The Allamakee County Auditor’s office reports that all but one of the votes in the election were cast in-person on election day, with that lone other vote cast absentee before election day.

Hammell was sworn into office at the Lansing City Council meeting Monday, September 20  following the official canvassing of the election results during the Allamakee County Board of Supervisors meeting earlier that day. She is replacing Kyle Walleser, who was elected in November 2019 but resigned from the office in June of this year due to a change in his employment no longer allowing him to fulfill the duties of the mayor’s office. Hammell will serve out the remainder of the current four-year mayoral term through the end of the year 2023.

U.S. Representative Ashley Hinson from Iowa’s First District hosted a town hall discussion Thursday morning, September 16 at the Allamakee County Courthouse in Waukon as part of a northeast Iowa trek that day that also included a tour of the Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation facility in Calmar and a tour of the Fareway grocery store in Manchester. Approximately two dozen area residents were in attendance at the hour-long session in Waukon, which included an introduction by Hinson of her priorities as a legislator followed by fielding questions from the audience in attendance in an effort to gather information and feedback to take with her to Washington, D.C. from the area she represents.

The City of Waukon and Steve Pladsen, owner of RW Pladsen, Inc., have been working cooperatively relating to the planning and potential development of property adjacent to the Waukon City Park on the south end of the community. The land, known locally as the McCabe property, was recently auctioned through Hertz Farm Management by a sealed bidding process for three distinct parcels, with each creating unique opportunities for development. With Pladsen winning the bid on the two parcels (Parcels 2 and 3) of the property located directly east of Second Street SW, between the Southcrest Assisted Living complex and the Waukon City Park, the City of Waukon has expressed interest in purchasing the southerly portion of Parcel 2. The City’s land purchase from Pladsen would consist of approximately 14.4 acres of the McCabe property’s southerly portion of Parcel 2, just north of the campgrounds portion of the Waukon City Park.