Year in Review - Part I: Top local news stories printed from January-June 2022

Lansing will be “tire-dip” final destination for RAGBRAI 2022 … The Friday evening, January 28 announcement of the route for RAGBRAI XLIX to be held in late July this year revealed that Lansing will be the final destination for the annual event’s famous “dipping of the tire” in the Mississippi River to bring the ride to a close. That announcement was made at the RAGBRAI Announcement Party held Friday at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines. Pictured in the foreground in the photo at right, members of Lansing’s local organizing committee display their excitement and the sign that revealed Lansing as the final destination community for this year’s RAGBRAI, as the remainder of the route reveal team displays signs on stage for the other communities involved as the starting point and overnight stops for this year’s 430-mile, seven-day ride. Pictured left to right in that photo foreground are Allamakee County Economic Development Executive Director Val Reinke, Lansing residents Andrew Boddicker and Ian Zahren, Lansing City Council member Curtis Snitker, and Main Street Lansing members Mary and Bruce Palmborg. Submitted photo.

The items below summarize the top news stories that appeared in The Standard during the first six months of 2022, January-June.

Physicians and staff at Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waukon have announced that Alaina Lucille Larkin is the first baby of the year 2022 born at the hospital, earning the hospital’s annual honor of First Baby of the Year. The newborn is the daughter of Samantha and Sean Larkin of Harpers Ferry and she joins two siblings, Jonah and Charlotte, at home. Alaina was born January 1, 2022 at 1:40 a.m., just one hour and 40 minutes into the new year. She weighed 7 pounds, 2 ounces and measured 19 inches long at the time of her birth. Dr. Nicole Barbee assisted with the delivery. Alaina’s grandparents are Becky and Greg Benjegerdes of Waukon, Shari and the late Alan Brink of Postville, Angie Anderson of West Union, and Bob and Peggy Larkin of Dorchester. Her great-grandparents are Curt and Linda Gjere of Decorah, Rose Larkin of Lansing, Dale and Eleanor Underbakke of Burr Oak, and Lucille  Brink of Postville.

A trio of local men were among four honored by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds for their actions during the February 2020 fire at Gus & Tony’s Pizza and Steakhouse in Waukon. Dan Mathis, Dan Liddiard and Barry Nobles, all of Waukon, were among those in attendance at the combined 2020 and 2021 Governor’s Lifesaving Awards ceremony held Thursday, December 16 in the State of Iowa Capitol Rotunda in Des Moines. A total of 35 individuals from communities across the state of Iowa were recognized for their courageous responses during the December 16 event that combined awards from the years 2020 and 2021 due to the 2020 ceremony not being held during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the ceremony, Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens remarked, “These Iowans intentionally and selflessly provided aid and assistance in times of need. It’s an honor to celebrate those who placed the needs of others above their own and answered the call to serve.”

According to a report from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), suicide remains one of the leading causes of death in the world, accounting for one in every 100 deaths. “The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the risk factors associated with suicidal behaviors and calls for prioritizing its prevention,” PAHO reports. Allie Klein, born in Waukon and living now in Prairie du Chien, WI, founded the Driftless Foundation in 2020 to provide “outreach to our local Driftless Area communities in the area of mental health awareness and suicide prevention” ( The Foundation has held social events to get people out and connected, and to educate and discuss these topics with people - “to help normalize talking about it and to help stop the stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness,” Klein says. She says it’s a myth “that talking about suicide causes spikes. (Talking about it) actually allows people to open up and feel they can discuss that they are having problems,” she says. “We as a society need to make it more of an okay topic to talk about.”

Residents of Waterville now have a convenient place to pick up a few things they may need, thanks to Provisions. Provisions is a community convenience store recently opened at 56 Main Street in Waterville by Clark White and Christopher Jordan. They describe Provisions as a mini-market serving the needs of area residents and visitors.
The store has both perishable and non-perishable items, including milk, bread, eggs and butter, along with baking supplies, cleaning supplies and canned goods. Christopher and Clark welcome feedback from customers to improve and provide a product assortment that mirrors community members’ wants. “The reaction so far has been positive,” says Clark. “We really appreciate that, and want to learn and support what our community needs.”

A procession of dozens of law enforcement and emergency response vehicles from Allamakee County, the State of Iowa and surrounding areas escorted Allamakee County Sheriff Deputy John Grampovnik to Martin Funeral Home in Waukon following his memorial service held at Iron Ridge Church in Waukon Thursday, February 3. Grampovnik passed away Thursday, January 27 at the age of 51 at the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis, MN following complications from a medical procedure. A 1988 graduate of Kee High School in Lansing and the son of John “Jack” and the late Judy (Harty) Grampovnik of Lansing, Grampovnik was serving as a Deputy for the Allamakee County Sheriff Department at the time of his passing, a position he had held since May of 1997. The End of Watch call issued by the Allamakee County Public Safety Dispatch Center following his memorial service described Grampovnik as “a true servant of the public” and expressed grateful appreciation for his years of service.

Waukon City Manager Gary Boden provided an update to The Standard relating to Waukon’s water system challenges in conjunction with the Sunday, February 13 evening fire on Allamakee Street. In his update regarding water issues, Boden explained that Waukon’s water system and pumps within that system were heavily burdened in fighting the downtown fire. He advised that, normally, one-third of a million gallons of water would be used by industry and residents within Waukon in an average 24-hour period, but in comparison, the February 13 downtown fire required over one million gallons alone in that time frame by the area fire departments fighting the blaze. Boden further noted that the Decorah Fire Department’s aerial truck used 60,000 gallons of water per hour in fighting the downtown fire. As a result of the increased water use by area fire departments in fighting the blaze, two electric water pumps were damaged from running at significantly higher than normal operational levels and could not maintain sufficient water supply in the north water tower in the Allamakee County Fairgrounds, where water levels became significantly low and negatively impacted water pressure typically supplied by that tower. As a precaution, City of Waukon Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper called for a boil order of water from the City’s water system early in the morning of Monday, February 14 due to significantly low water pressure potentially creating an environment allowing for bacteria leaching or growth.

Right now, people all over the world are watching, mostly helplessly, while what Reuters News Service has referred to as “the largest military assault by one European state on another since World War Two” is taking place before their eyes - the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Lesya Ryzhenkova of Waterville - originally from Ukraine, a United States citizen since April 2021, and co-owner with her partner, Mike Kolsrud, of The Good Life Gallery and Frame Shop in Lansing - has been spending most of her time since the Russian attack on her birth country trying to get in contact with friends and family members; following phone updates on a Telegram group formed by people on the ground in Ukraine; and watching Ukrainian news on television via Youtube. “I’m not sleeping well; I’ve been crying for three days,” she said during an interview Saturday, February 26.

“We are in a mental health crisis, big time,” according to Ryan Nesbit, who - with his high school friend, Troy Belmar - founded Alive & Running Iowa for Suicide Awareness and Prevention in 2009 in honor of their friend, Rodger, who they lost to suicide when they were sophomores at Dunkerton High School in 1991. Alive & Running Iowa began as a running event held annually in Dunkerton but has since grown into a non-profit organization to help raise awareness about suicide and suicide prevention. Nesbit conducted a series of presentations at Waukon High School Monday, February 28, educating students and the community on the foundation and techniques of the QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) Institute. Waukon High School Guidance Counselor Amy Wasson brought Nesbit and his training presentation to the school because she knew South Winneshiek High School had done the same thing and their school officials had positive things to say about his presentation. “We just have really recognized a need for mental health education for our students and community,” Wasson said. “We’ve had some suicides in our community.”

During the Monday, March 21 meeting of the Waukon City Council, Veterans Memorial Hospital (VMH) officials shared their intent to file a petition to invoke a vote for a City to County conversion of ownership of the hospital, and that expressed intention received the council’s support. VMH will now begin a petition for voter support on the conversion April 4. Approximately 400 signatures are needed to file the petition with the Allamakee County Commissioner of Elections in order to bring the matter to a required public vote later this year. Like most rural hospitals, VMH faces growing financial challenges. Changes made by the hospital’s current leadership team have helped the hospital become solvent over the past two years. COVID relief dollars also helped offset expenses and fund minor renovations. Converting to a County-owned hospital will build on this progress and help ensure long-term sustainability with the support of recurring annual appropriations. “The main goal of this conversion is to make sure Veterans Memorial is here for the community for the long term,” said  Michael Coyle, CEO of VMH. “To do that, we need additional resources not only to retain inpatient services like OB, but to bring other specialties to Allamakee County and the surrounding area.”

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