Keokuk, IA – Iowa lawmakers may soon take up the issue of helping small businesses deal with higher health insurance costs. Cities and counties across Iowa have seen the impact of the rising cost of health insurance as they have crafted budgets for next year. State Representative Phil Wise says small businesses are also feeling the crunch. The Keokuk Democrat says a panel of 5 republicans and 4 democrats has been working for months to come up with a way to help businesses with between 2 and 50 employees.
Fort Madison, IA – Property taxes should be on the decline in Lee County. The Board of Supervisors has finalized Lee County's spending plan for the next fiscal year. The budget includes an 8% reduction in the county's urban property tax rate, and a 4 percent drop in the rural rate. The spending plan does contain staff reductions. The conservation department is slated to lose two workers due to the supervisors cutting the roadside management program from next year's budget. Conservation director Tom Buckley says that would have a major impact on the department.
Macomb, IL – A corporate gift has paid for the installation of another "smart classroom" at the Macomb Campus of Spoon River College. Nursing Dean Cheryl Hoffman says the equipment can serve as a whiteboard, for Power Point presentations, or to show a whole class the results of an internet search. It also coordinates with the college's electronic Blackboard web page for teaching or for quizzes. She says the equipment is more compact than the previous method of bringing in various items of equipment and rigging temporary wiring. This is the fourth Smart Classroom at the Macomb campus.
Augusta, IL – Investigators are continuing their probe into the cause of Friday's fire that heavily damaged a Hancock County high school. No one was injured in the fire at Southeastern High School. The Augusta Fire Department says the top floor of the three-story, red brick part of the school was destroyed. The second floor sustained smoke and water damage and the first floor was damaged by water. The school district says classes will resume on Wednesday for high school students. They're being asked to meet at the Bowen Methodist Church at 8:15 a.m.
Burlington, IA – A Burlington lawyer has announced he will run for state representative in Southeast Iowa. Andrew Hoth says he wants to represent the residents of House District 87 and make it a better place to live. District 87 encompasses Des Moines, Louisa, and Muscatine Counties, including the cities of West Burlington, Wapello, and Columbus Junction. Hoth says one of his top priorities will be Highway 61. He says he also wants to help small businesses deal with the rising cost of health insurance, and to promote the use of renewable fuels, including E85.
Keokuk, IA – One Southeast Iowa lawmaker says he will push for more guards at the Iowa State Penitentiary. Iowa legislators will have to decide whether to upgrade the prison in Fort Madison or build a new facility. The age and the operating costs of the current facility will be major issues in the debate. Democratic Senator Gene Fraise of Fort Madison says the age of the facility has nothing to do with the cost of operations. Fraise says he will push for adding money to next year's budget for more guards at the Fort Madison prison.
Virginia, IL – The Cass Rural Water District will receive more than $1.8 million to begin work on a countywide district. Congressman Ray LaHood says the funding shows the role of the federal government in helping infrastructucture projects in areas where local units of government don't have the ability to pay for them. The district will receive $1.33 million in grant money and a loan of l$468,000 from the Department of Agriculture's Rural Development. LaHood says the funding will mesh with a previous $750,000 grant to the City of Virginia for a water treatment plant.
Rushville, IL – County Clerks in western Illinois will receive grants to buy new handicapped-accessible voting machines. However, some are concerned about the on-going costs of running the devices. Hancock County Clerk Kerry Asbridge estimates it could cost up to $1,000 per year per machine for ballot coding, programming and maintenance for the machines. In McDonough County, Clerk Florine Miller says she's not yet figured the cost of running the handicapped-accessible machines. She is, however, weighing whether to continue leasing the ballot-counting machines at $28,000 per year.