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Week in Review

County shields mold tests from employees, public

The Jasper County Board of Supervisors failed to act on or publicly disclose a recommendation for professional mold remediation issued in April after an air quality company found confirmation of black mold spores in the basement of the county annex building.

The lab analysis studied areas throughout the 88-year-old building but only found elevated levels of mold spores in the basement of the annex, which houses four county department office spaces. Professional mold remediation is recommended for an area in the northeast side of the building which serves as the Jasper County Health Department’s home health care aide’s office. However, the findings and recommendations were never disclosed to the health board or employees working in the area, according to the Jasper County Public Health Board Chairwoman Margot Voshell.

Tanner Francisco, a biologist and environmental hygienist with Midwest Indoor Air Quality who conducted the testing and sampling, said a six-page summary of its testing and recommendations provides an accurate breakdown of the findings.

New Berg Middle School construction on schedule

Progress on the new Berg Middle School building is well underway, and members of the Newton Community School District Board of Education toured the site to view the project.

The new construction will replace the previous building, which was approved by the voters last fall for a general obligation bond of $26.9 million. Building a new building was deemed more cost efficient than remodeling the current building.

Hansen Company senior project manager, Sherm Welker, said the crew has been consistently hitting milestones despite having to work around a rainy fall. The construction crew has added a second drilling rig to speed up the process at the site.

Foundation fix for annex building could exceed $600K

An engineering firm’s June assessment of the Jasper County Annex building’s exterior foundation details extensive work needed to tackle its persistent water infiltration and carries a price tag of more than $600,000.

Shive-Hattery was tapped in May to assess the building to determine the long-term viability for the Jasper County Supervisors. The findings of the investigation were reported to the board at its June 26 meeting with recommendations including extensive excavation work to the building foundation.

Bauer said the infiltration is widespread around the entire building, including the window wells, which he said are starting to fall down. The bricks that were used to build the window wells are starting to lean with some bricks beginning to fall out and according to the report, the existing window wells are deteriorating and bowing and need to be reconstructed as they are “unsafe and could collapse.”

Jasper County Maintenance Director Adam Sparks disagreed with the assessment of the condition of the window wells. While he knows there are issues with the foundation, he asserted the area is safe for those who work in it.

“I’ve worked here for 10 years and those window wells have been in the same condition almost the whole 10 years. There’s no risk on those window wells falling in and hurting anybody,” Sparks said.


re-opens new building

After being closed for four months for a complete demolition and rebuild, the First Avenue location of McDonald’s restaurant reopened Thursday morning.

More than 200 people lined up at the door to take in the new building and receive a free Big Mac card. To promote the reopening of the Newton store, McDonald’s announced they’d be giving out 100 cards, good for a free Big Mac, once a week for an entire year. Cara Van Steenis, who owns the Newton location, said the cards are a great way to get residents excited about the new store.

Van Steenis owns nine McDonald’s locations around the state and said the Newton store was in need of replacement when she decided to tear it down to make way for a brand new store. The store has a bevy of upgrades, including two drive-thru lanes, which Van Steenis said will cut down on traffic congestion outside the store.

Baxter council hires part-time interim police officers

The Baxter City Council approved the hire of two part-time interim police officers during a special meeting last week. The city will continue the hiring process for a full-time position but agreed adding temporary police coverage was necessary.

The city is set to hire a part-time police officer from the Monroe Police Department and one officer from the Prairie City Police Department at an hourly rate of $25. Once hired on, the officers will be responsible for patrolling at random hours.

Mayor Stephen Smith said the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office will continue responding to emergency calls only in the City of Baxter, but now free of charge.

Setting sights on competitive PCM trapshooting club

Sporting enthusiasts in the PCM community are getting some positive signals from the school board in their efforts to create a district-sanctioned trapshooting club for high 9-12 grade Mustangs.

As of Oct. 16, prospective trapshooting coach Chad Wood said 37 PCM students, ranging from 9-12 grade, have expressed interest in creating a team. In a presentation to the school board last week, Wood said the enthusiasm has spread solely through word-of-mouth.

Wood said the club will be self-funded and is not looking for any type of financial contribution from the district. The possible trapshooting coach is seeking the board’s approval to use PCM’s name and logo and for the district to recognize trapshooting as a lettering sport.

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