The state’s historic aviation museum in Greenfield hosts a dinner tonight and will add new names to its Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame. Creston native Walt Cunningham, Iowa’s first astronaut, will be among them. Cunningham will be signing copies of a book he’s written. New inductees also include Louis Schalk who test-piloted the S-R 71 Blackbird spyplane, and the Wright Brothers, who spent a few formative years when they were just boys growing up in Cedar Falls.
Archives for May 2003
A couple of state beaches still have problems with high levels of bacteria. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says a swimming advisory remains in place at the Lake Geode beach in Henry County — while the beach at Backbone State Park in Delaware County is still closed. The Lake Geode beach had a high reading and the D-N-R says it will stay high for at least two weeks. The D-N-R will conduct additional testing in the Lake Geode watershed next week to see it potential bacteria sources can be identified. The beach at Backbone remains closed while the D-N-R continues to investigate the wastewater treatment plant at Strawberry Point for alleged violations of its discharge permit, and whether those discharges have impacted the water. Bacteria levels at Iowa’s 31 other state park beaches tested within acceptable levels.
If you “dig” fossil-hunting, thousands of beautiful examples can be found at the Devonian Fossil Gorge, north of Iowa City. The acre-and-a-half area was scoured during the floods of ’93, unveiling a rich collection of tiny creatures that lived in Iowa more than 300-million years ago. John Castle is general manager of Coralville Lake, which includes the Gorge. While the fossils in the gorge are common in Iowa, it’s -not- common to find so many of them in a large flat area, all from the same age. Castle says there are several types of creatures that can be found in the area. Trilobites resemble large pill bugs. Crinoids look like a plant with a stem and are kind of fern-like on top, but they’re animals. Also, brachiopods are shell creatures. There’s also lots of fossilized coral. Castle says, sorry, you won’t find any tyrannosaurus bones in Coralville. The Devonian period is about 365-million years ago, while the dinosaurs were around between 160 to 180-million years ago. The gorge is north of Iowa City on Dubuque Street, three miles from the Interstate 80 crossing. For details, go to “www.coralvillelake.org”. While it’s okay to unearth, pick up, look at and photograph the fossils, taking them away is punishable by a fine of up to 500-dollars.
Early storms in May helped the state soak up the first above-average rainfall total for the first time in eight months. State climatologist Harry Hillaker says we didn’t go above normal by much. He says the first part of the month was extremely wet, but then it became extremely dry, ending up at four-point-six inches of rainfall, about a half-an-inch above normal. While swelled rivers and basements with water were common at the start of the month, Hillaker says everything’s had time to dry out. He says about all but a half inch of the total rain came in the first half of the month. The month was also colder than normal.He says temperatures average about two-and-a-half degrees below normal. Hillaker says the year thus far has been average in rainfall. He says the year started out unusually dry, but it evened out to be within an inch of normal. Hillaker says things so far have been warmer than normal. He says we had a mild January and the other months have been very near to normal.
Iowa’s jobless rate was up just a tick this month, a tenth of a percentage point. Ann Wagner is labor-market analyst at the state Workforce development office. Says that’s a tenth of a percent higher than the March rate of four-percent, same as it was one year ago. That 4.1% translates into 68,100 people jobless in the state, up from 65,800 the previous month and 66,000 a year ago. Wagner says the numbers we get aren’t raw data…most often the labor department distributes “seasonally adjusted” jobless figures. When they don’t, the numbers are affected by construction, winter layoffs, school closings, the Christmas retail surge, and those all make figures fluctuate in a recurring pattern. If you remove the seasonal swings, Wagner says you get a clearer idea of the economy is doing.
Construction workers will rally in the Quad Cities today (Saturday) to protest plans by builders of a big new Wal-Mart store to hire non-union labor. Rory Washburn is executive director of the Tri-City Building Trades Council and says it’s just one of many big national chains that tend to bring along their own construction crews.It’s not about wanting exclusively union contractors or workers, but he says all the work should be done by local workers, union or not. Washburn says outside contractors not only don’t pay union wages, they don’t offer benefits like healthcare, and often bring in workers from other states who are paid even less than the local going rates for non-union labor. The unions had a “project agreement” while building a previous Wal-Mart, a verbal agreement that the union workers would get the jobs on that and the next store the chain built here, but he says now the company’s bringing in crews from Southern Illinois, Kentucky and Alabama, and he charges he thinks they even include illegal immigrant workers. There is no state law or city rule on the books requiring developers to hire local workers, or union labor, though Washburn says they’ve talked with local leaders about it. Washburn says there should be some “responsible contracting ordinance” in place that would require them to at least pay taxes and provide benefits to the workers. That lack of benefits like health coverage is one of the biggest concerns for construction workers, according to Washburn. He says a young man was hurt recently when he fell at that construction site, and the construction company he worked for gave no health benefits at all…a contractor from Kentucky. Members of the Tri City Building Trades Council, The Quad City Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO and other organizations in the Quad Cities will hold a rally at the new Wal-Mart store being built on West Kimberly Road in Davenport from nine till eleven this morning.
Governor Tom Vilsack had 30 days to sign or veto bills that passed the Iowa Legislature’s regular session, which ended April 30th. Vilsack signed the two budget bills that were left for his review, but used his item veto authority to nix some language in the bills — like the wording that set plans in motion to sell the state-owned Iowa Communications Network. Some legislators had worried Vilsack would veto entire budget bills as leverage to force lawmakers to complete work in their special session on that part of the budget as well as the so-called “Iowa Values” economic development fund. In other action yesterday, Vilsack vetoed the bill which would have made Iowa clergy “mandatory reporters” of child sex abuse — a move prompted by scandals in the Catholic Church. Vilsack objected to another part of the bill which lowered the age of consent, a move he said would make children who have sex with other children into criminals and discourage them from seeking counseling. Vilsack also vetoed the bill that would have made it easier for counties and cities to merge. Vilsack says the bill didn’t give voters enough of a voice in making decisions about how municipal elections would be run for newly-merged governments.
The boys’ state high school track and field meet is underway in Drake Stadium and this year’s event features a new scoring system. Beginning this weekend, the top eight place winners in each event will score points for their team. Previously, only the top six place winners garnered team points. Dave Anderson of the Iowa High School Athletic Association says the coaches advisory committee aske for the change. The relays are scored 10, eight, six, five, four three, two one for first through eighth place and the individual events are scored from eight points for first down to one point for eighth. Anderson says the change was requested by the state’s coaches.He says the coaches believe that anyone who makes the finals should score points for his team. Anderson says he doesn’t necessarily agree, as you could someday have a case where a team wins a meet with a kid walking to finish as race. With the relays garnering more team points, it is not uncommon for some runners to withdraw from an individual race and focus on the relay race. Anderson says this scoring change does not address that situation.The meet opened this morning with the finals of the 32-hundred meter run. After a second place finish a year ago, Kevin Balster of Monticello won the class 2A crown and says his only feeling after the race was that of being tired. Balster says he was thinking more about the time he wanted to run rather than where he might finish.
The boys’ state track and field meet begins this morning in Drake Stadium. Williamsburg is looking to repeat as the class 2A team champ after edging Tipton a year ago despite having just one champion. Coach Greg Stoultz is hoping for another consistent performance in which they have place winners in many events. Williamsburg is coming off the team title at the Eastern Iowa Hawkeye Conference meet. Stoultz says several other teams will contend for the team championship. He says all he every looks for is a good performance from his team, and he doesn’t expect it to be a high scoring meet.Action begins this morning at 11 with the 32-hundred meter run.
The Iowa Utilities Board has approved rates for MidAmerican Energy’s proposed Council Bluffs electric plant. Board spokesman Rob Hillesland says the 2001 law approved by the legislature allows the board to set the rates before a company begins a plant to reward companies for making the investment.He says the primary objective was incentive to build more generating plants in Iowa, and he says this is the third time the board has used the new rules. Hillesland says utilities used to build the plants and then hope the board set a rate that would let them recover costs. He says the old system had the board going through a rate proceeding to see what costs would be passed on to customers and how the plant would be regulation. Hillesland says the old plan allowed for changes in the plan, but now the plan stays the same through the life of the plant. Hillesland says the board has approved a plan that will let MidAmerican recover 60-percent of the cost of building the plant.He says the board approved a plan that lets the company recover 675 million dollars of the cost of the plant. He says it also sets the company’s return on it’s investment at 12-point-two-nine percent . The plant is scheduled to be running by the summer of 2007.