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Dubuque & Tri-State News

Flexsteel Hires Dittmer as New President, CEO

The search is over for a new leader of Dubuque-based Flexsteel Industries. The furniture making company has hired Jerald Dittmer as its new President and CEO. He replaces Karel Czanderna, who abruptly retired in September. Dittmer has 25 years of experience in the furniture industry. He was most recently head of HON Company, an office furniture designer and manufacturer. Dittmer is originally from the Clinton County town of Wheatland. He then graduated from Iowa State University. Flexsteel is currently putting the finishing touches on a new 25-million dollar facility in Dubuque’s Industrial Center South. That facility is expected to be complete by the end of January.

Parents Give Dubuque Schools an “F” for Equity

Courtesy: KCRG

A group of Dubuque parents gathered early yesterday morning to deliver a report card of sorts to the local school district. They say the district gets an “F” when it comes to student equity. The parents protested outside the district offices on Chaney Road. Their action came a day after a review showed ten Dubuque schools are not meeting requirements under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Derrick Clark has two kids who attend Prescott Elementary School, one of those ten. He says something has to change. Dubuque Schools Superintendent Stan Rheingans says he understands the parents’ concerns, and notes that the district has made improvements at some schools, such as Audubon Elementary. But he says the state could help by changing the way school funding is doled out. Rheingans says he’s open to exploring the possibility of redistricting, but worries that it might have the unintended consequence of pulling students away from the resources they need.

Cascade, Western Dubuque to Host Parent Meetings on Vaping

Courtesy: Lindsay Fox

As new reports highlight the dangers of what’s known as “vaping,” two Dubuque County high schools plan to share information about the issue with parents. Both Cascade and Western Dubuque high schools will host informational meetings on the topic in early January. “Vaping” is the slang term for using an electronic cigarette. A survey released this week shows vaping is now the second-most common form of substance abuse among teens, with nearly 40 percent of high school seniors having tried it. Cascade Assistant Principal Adam Kedley explains there are several reasons it has caught on among teens. They’re drawn to the various available flavors, the smokeless nature of vaping, and the significant dose of nicotine it delivers. According to Kedley, vaping is such a new trend that most parents have little to no knowledge of it. A recent poll conducted by Cascade administrators asked students about the perceived popularity of vaping. Results show Cascade students believe a quarter of their classmates use electronic cigarettes on a daily basis. The school has scheduled information meetings for parents to coincide with their next round of parent-teacher conferences. Kedley says those sessions may be the first some parents have heard of vaping. The Cascade meetings will be held on January 9th and 16th beginning at 4:30 PM. At Western Dubuque High School, similar meetings are scheduled on January 7th, also beginning at 4:30.

ACA Enrollments Climb in Dubuque, Going Against National Trend

Dubuque has bucked the nationwide trend for enrollment in the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplace. This year’s ACA enrollment period ended on Saturday with a decline in the number of nationwide sign-ups. But here in Dubuque, enrollment was up from last year. Administrators at the Crescent Community Health Center say they helped 260 people sign up for coverage. That’s an increase over last year of about 100. Crescent’s Angela Petsche chalks up the increase to more people being eligible, and some learning they could get a better plan through the ACA. Across the country, enrollments dropped by about 300,000 this year.

Dubuque Native Chosen to Lead Quad City School District

A Quad Cities school district has gone ahead and hired a Dubuque native to be their new superintendent. Earlier this week, we told you that Dr. Rachel Savage was one of three finalists to take the top job at the Moline-Coal Valley school district. The school board there wasn’t expected to announce their choice until next month. But board members defied those expectations and unanimously approved a three-year contract for Savage at a meeting this week. Savage is currently the principal at a middle school in Waterloo, a job she’s held since 2015. Before that, she was the superintendent at the school district in Williams, Arizona. Savage graduated from Senior High School in 1991, then earned a degree in Spanish from Loras College. She taught world languages at Western Dubuque and Hempstead High Schools until 2009, when she moved to Arizona.

Iowa Traffic Fatalities Could Hit Low Mark in 2018

2018 is shaping up to be one of the safest years on record on Iowa’s roads…at least by one measure. The state has seen at least 300 traffic fatalities in virtually every year since World War II. Over that time, the year with the lowest fatalities was 2013, when 317 people died on Iowa’s roads. The state just recorded its 300th fatality of this year on Tuesday. With less than two weeks left in the year, law enforcement leaders are hoping the fatality count can fall below than 2013 mark. Sergeant Darin Snedden of the Iowa State Patrol says there are many reasons why fatalities have been down this year. But he says one of the biggest factors is that cars are safer than ever. This year’s low fatality rate comes just two years after one of the deadliest years on Iowa’s roads. The state saw a little more than 400 traffic fatalities in 2016.

Victim of Fatal Grant County Crash Identified

Authorities have released the names of those involved in a fatal crash in Grant County last weekend. The crash happened shortly after 9:30 Saturday night south of Dickeyville. According to the Wisconsin State Patrol 32-year-old Justin Fox was driving south on US Highways 61/151 when he crossed the center line and collided nearly head-on with an oncoming car. Fox was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. The driver of the other vehicle, 40-year-old Patrick Pennekamp, and a passenger, 34-year-old Hannah Pennekamp, were both taken to Mercy Hospital in Dubuque to be treated for injuries the patrol describes as “non-life threatening.”

UPDATE: Gym Teacher Had Cans of Alcohol at School, BAC Nearly Three Times Legal Limit

A Dubuque gym teacher is out of a job after being found with a blood alcohol content nearly three times the legal limit during the school day. 38-year-old Erin Ellerbach had been a physical education teacher at Jefferson Middle School until her arrest yesterday afternoon. School administrators called police at about 2:15 yesterday afternoon – a few minutes before students were dismissed – and said there was an intoxicated person on school grounds. An officer reports that Ellerbach showed several signs of intoxication, and a breath test registered her blood alcohol content at .224, almost three times the legal limit to drive. The report says school officials searched Ellerbach’s office and found one open can of what’s called “hard lemonade.” Two other unopened cans were also found. Ellerbach has been charged with Public Intoxication. A district spokesperson had initially said Ellerbach was placed on leave. They’re now saying Ellerbach is no longer employed by the district.

Report: Blum “Likely” Broke Several Ethics Rules


Soon to be former Congressman Rod Blum likely violated several ethics rules in his private business dealings, according to a report released on Monday. The Office of Congressional Ethics began reviewing Blum earlier this year after the Associated Press revealed details of an internet marketing business he owned called Tin Moon Corporation. The company boasted “reputation management” services that could help companies bury damaging information in internet searches. The report found Blum failed to list Tin Moon as an asset and his role as director of the company on a financial disclosure form. Investigators also found that Blum undervalued his stake in the company in an amendment to form that Blum submitted later. The report also found that Blum may have misused House resources by allowing the company to use his official Congressional photo on its website and by posting a fake video testimonial from one of Blum’s Congressional staffers. The report was released Monday by the House Committee on Ethics. Committee leaders aren’t expected to take any further action against Blum, who is leaving Congress after losing to Democrat Abby Finkenauer last month.

Gehrts: Chances of a White Christmas Dwindling


The chances of the Tri-States having a white Christmas this year are dwindling. That’s according to our weather coverage partners at KCRG-TV. They tell us that not only is there little precipitation in the forecast between now and Christmas Day, but temperatures are expected to be warm enough that anything that would fall would be rain, rather than snow. Meteorologist Justin Gehrts says the main chances of precipitation come overnight Wednesday into Thursday, and possibly on Christmas Day. Of those two systems, the one later this week brings the stronger chance of precipitation, but will likely be more of a rain event. Gehrts does not expect much to come from the system that would arrive on Christmas Day. Over the past thirty years, Dubuque has about a 50/50 chance of having a white Christmas. Dubuque averages a high temperature of 28 degrees and a low of 13 on Christmas Day. The record high is 58 degrees, set in 1936. The record low of -19 dates all the way back to 1879.

Dubuque Native Among Finalists for Moline Superintendent

Savage (Courtesy: Waterloo Schools)

A Dubuque native is in the running to become the next superintendent of a Quad Cities school district. Rachel Savage is one of three finalists for the top job at the Moline-Coal Valley school district. Savage is currently a middle school principal in the Waterloo school district, a position she’s held since 2015. Prior to that, she had been the superintendent at the unified school district in Williams, Arizona. Savage graduated from Senior High School in 1991, then earned a degree in Spanish from Loras College. She taught world languages at Western Dubuque and Hempstead High Schools until 2009, when she moved to Arizona. The Moline-Coal Valley school board is expected to announce its choice for the superintendent position in mid-January.

Card Skimmer Found on Dupaco ATM

Courtesy: Dubuque Police

Dubuque’s Dupaco Community Credit Union says it located a card skimmer on one of its ATMs on Monday, and believes its surveillance cameras caught someone placing another skimmer over the weekend. An employee at Dupaco’s Key West branch found the skimmer during routine inspection of the ATM yesterday morning. Police and Dupaco’s fraud team reviewed security video and found that the skimmer was placed on the machine on Saturday afternoon. That prompted a review of video from Dupaco’s other branches. Another suspected skimmer was seen being placed on the Hillcrest Road location on Saturday morning as well. But that skimmer was removed several hours later. Credit union administrators say skimmers may also have been placed on the same ATMs on December 9. Dupaco is now contacting members who used the compromised machines while the skimmers were in place. Anyone with information about who put the skimmers on the ATMs is asked to contact Dubuque Police or the local CrimeStoppers tipline.

Darlington Woman Seriously Injured in Car-Buggy Crash

An Amish woman from southwest Wisconsin was seriously injured after a driver crashed into her buggy on Friday. According to the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Office, the crash happened a few minutes before noon on State Highway 81 between Darlington and Argyle. 19-year-old Tyler Knight of Janesville was eastbound on Highway 81, when he lost control of his car going around a curve. The vehicle crossed the center line, then collided with a horse and buggy being driven by 39-year-old Katie Ebersol of Darlington. The sheriff’s office says Ebersol was ejected from the buggy and suffered what are called “serious” injuries. She was initially taken to Memorial Hospital in Darlington, but airlifted to UW Hospital in Madison not long after arrival. Knight cited for failing to keep his vehicle under control.

Dubuque Council Asked to Consider Updated Five Flags Study

A Dubuque committee is urging the city to take a look at some updated specifications for a proposed expansion of the Five Flags Center. At a meeting on Friday, the city’s Civic Center Advisory Commission advanced the most recent study into improvements at the 40-year-old arena. Those upgrades would push the price tag for expansion to 85-million dollars. Some of that cost could come from private investors or selling naming rights to the venue. But city officials say the bulk of the cost will have to come from city funds. The City Council will take up the commission’s recommendation at its meeting tonight. The council is only being asked to receive and file the recommendation, and not take any additional action. The council meeting is scheduled for 6:00 tonight at the Historic Federal Building.

Biden, Sanders, O’Rourke Top Register Caucus Poll

The 2020 Iowa Caucuses are still nearly 14 months away, but a survey finds that Democrats across the state may have already found some of the top contenders. Former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke topped an Iowa Poll conducted by the Des Moines Register last week and released over the weekend. Biden was the clear leader, earning 32% support of the Democrats polled. Sanders trailed at 17%, while O’Rourke was the only other candidate in double digits at 11%. None of those three have officially said that they’ll seek their party’s nomination in 2020. Most candidate announcements are expected to come in the first quarter of next year.

Dubuque Man Arrested After Report of Gunfire

The fifth confirmed shots fired call in the city of Dubuque in 2018 has resulted in a local man’s arrest. 26-year-old Tyler Trebian was taken into custody shortly before 11:30 Friday night near his home in the 17-hundred block of Garfield Avenue. Police had been called there after a witness reported possibly hearing a gunshot in the area. When officers found Trebian, they also found evidence he had recently fired a gun, according to an arrest report. No one was injured and no property damage has been reported. Trebian’s been charged with Reckless Use of a Firearm.

One Killed, Two Hurt in Grant County Crash

One person was killed and two others were hurt in a two-vehicle crash in Grant County Saturday night. The Wisconsin State Patrol reports that the crash happened south of Dickeyville shortly after 9:30 PM. One vehicle was northbound on US Highways 61/151 when an oncoming car drifted into the northbound lane and hit the first vehicle nearly head on. The names of those involved in the crash are being withheld by authorities until family members are notified. The crash remains under investigation.

High School Students Among Academy Nominees

Five area high school seniors are among the nominees selected by Iowa Senator Joni Ernst for admission to attend one of the U.S. Service Academies. Daunte Burns of Dyersville and Aiden DeWitt of Dubuque have been nominated to attend the U.S. Naval Academy. Approved for admission to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point are Elias Brehm of Dubuque, and Jack Gehl and Grace Ries both of Asbury. DeWitt was also nominated to attend West Point.

Delaware County Jail Concerns

A Delaware County official warns that if residents don’t approve a new jail soon, the state may step in. The county’s supervisors are planning to ask voters to approve a new jail after the first of the year. This would be the third time in the past decade that a jail improvement proposal has been on the ballot. The current facility can house 13 inmates, but any more than that have to be transported to a nearby county’s jail, at a cost of 50 dollars per day. But Supervisor Jeff Madlom says many of the adjacent counties also have full jails. If the county doesn’t approve an expansion soon, Madlom fears that state inspectors could close the county jail. Madlom says supervisors are considering a 40-bed facility. It’s not known how much the expansion would cost, but the last time the issue went to the voters, the county was asking for nearly 5-million dollars.

Tranel Reappointed Tourism Chair

Wisconsin Assemblyman Travis Tranel of Cuba City has been reappointed as chair of the Assembly Committee on Tourism for the 2019-2021 legislative session. The reappointment was made by Speaker Robin Vos. This will be Tranel’s third legislative session as chair of the committee. Last year tourism had a 20.6 billion dollar impact on the state’s economy. Tranel will take the oath of office and be sworn in for his 5th term as the 49th Assembly District Representative on January 7th. That district covers all of Grant County and parts of Richland, Lafayette and Iowa Counties.

Police Explain Bomb Threat Evaluation Procedure

Dubuque Police are explaining some of the ways they assess the credibility of a bomb threat, in the wake of this week’s threat at a Dubuque school. On Wednesday, a Hempstead High School student reported finding graffiti written on a bathroom wall containing a bomb threat. Police and school officials determined that the threat was not credible, and classes continued as usual. Police Lt. Joe Messerich says those determinations typically made considering the type of threat that is received and how it is received. There are resources the department can utilize to determine if a bomb is located where the threat comes from. Bomb threats are not unique to schools. In October, police investigated a threat at Stonehill Franciscan Services. Last month there were two threats within the span of a week at Rite Hite. Messerich stresses that all bomb threats reported to the department are taken seriously. Under Iowa law, making a false bomb threat is a Class D felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Desoto House, KCRG Targeted in Nationwide Bomb Hoax

A Galena hotel appears to have been one of the targets in a scheme that used bomb threats to extort money. Across the country, dozens of institutions received emailed threats on Thursday. Authorities say the threats came from an automated message claiming that a bomb had been placed inside the recipient’s building. The only way to stop it from going off would be to pay the sender $20,000 in a cryptocurrency. None of those threats are considered credible, and police warn recipients to not respond to the email. The Desoto House Hotel in Galena received one of the threats, as did our coverage partners, KCRG-TV.

Chase Suspect Still at Large

A woman who ran from police after they tried to pull her over is still on the loose. According to the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Office, a deputy attempted a traffic stop on a vehicle travelling on US Highway 61 just before 3:00 yesterday afternoon. But the driver of the car sped off, leading authorities on a chase. The pursuit left the highway at Twin Valley Drive, continued onto Rockdale Road, then to Old Mill Road. The chase ended when the woman drove through a yard on Kelly Lane, ditched her vehicle, and ran into the woods. Authorities suspect the woman has a warrant out for her arrest, but are continuing to investigate the case.

Hempstead Bomb Threat Deemed “Not Credible”

Some graffiti in a bathroom sparked a bomb threat investigation at one of Dubuque’s high schools on Wednesday. According to an email sent to parents of Hempstead students, the writing was found on a bathroom wall by a student, who then reported it to school staff. Based on guidelines from the Iowa Department of Public Safety, the school and Dubuque Police have determined that the threat is not credible. Classes at Hempstead operated on their normal schedule the rest of the day yesterday, and are expected to continue as usual today.

Hair Extension Thief Arrested Nearly Two Years After Burglary

Dubuque Police have made an arrest in a nearly two-year-old burglary that saw the suspect make off with more than a thousand dollars in hair extensions. 20-year-old Destiny Wilson of Dubuque was taken into custody on Monday morning. She’s charged with 3rd Degree Burglary in connection with a break-in at a beauty store in January of 2017. That’s when the owner of Beauty by Moke on Crescent Ridge reported her business had been broken into. According to the owner, someone broke a window, causing about $300 in damage. The burglar then swiped the hair extensions, which had a total value of more than $1,000. Police say fingerprints found on the broken window match Wilson’s. She also matches the description of the suspect that police developed based on surveillance video and a witness statement. If convicted on the burglary charge, Wilson could spend up to five years in prison.

Students, Alumni React to Clarke Program Eliminations

Current students and alumni from a Dubuque college are voicing their frustration over the school’s decision to eliminate several majors. Clarke University announced this week that it would be dropping a handful of academic programs, including religious studies, Spanish, musical theater, and art history. Administrators say the cuts are due to low enrollment in those programs. But both current students and alumni of the programs question whether the school had fully backed the programs. Megan Schumacher earned drama and speech degrees from Clarke, and now works with youth performers at Washington Middle School and Senior High School. She says Clarke choked off the theater programs with a lack of funding. Anna Kluesner is a senior in Clarke’s musical theater program and also questions the school’s support. In addition to eliminating the six major programs, Clarke will also stop awarding Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees.

New Public Parking Lots Open in Millwork District

Visitors to Dubuque’s Historic Millwork District have some new parking options. The city has announced that construction on a new parking lot wrapped up earlier this month, and the lot is now open to the public. That lot, located at the intersection of 11th and Elm Streets, has room for 81 vehicles. In addition, an 82-space lot that had been permit only will open for public parking this coming Monday. That lot sits at the corner of 9th and Elm. The city is still looking at ways to turn those two lots into paid parking, though any changes aren’t expected before next spring. Vehicles can be in either lot for up to four hours on weekdays. Any vehicle occupying a spot longer than that will be subject to a ten dollar ticket. There will be no time limit on nights and weekends.

Dubuque District Sues Construction Company Over Flooding Costs

Dubuque’s school district has filed a lawsuit against the contractor that performed the renovation work at Senior High School. The suit claims Conlon Construction failed to provide adequate flood protection for the school, which later sustained hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage from a storm in July of last year. The district hired Conlon in August of 2016 to do the renovation work, which was completed a couple months ago. Court documents say the district paid about 350-thousand dollars in clean-up costs due to water damage in the school. Insurance only covered 25-thousand of that cost. An attorney representing Conlon has rejected the district’s claims, saying the damages were unrelated to Conlon’s work. The two sides will meet on January 2nd to determine a date for the issue to go to trial.

City to Host Public Meeting on New Water Tower

Courtesy: City of Dubuque

The city of Dubuque will share its plans for a new water tower at a meeting next week. Late last month, city leaders said they had begun putting together ideas for a new water tower, to be placed in the northern part of the city. The new tower would replace the one currently located at Eagle Point Park. It would also have more than double the capacity of the current tower, which can hold about 500-thousand gallons of water. The proposed tower would be able to hold 1.2-million gallons. The site of the proposed tower is along Roosevelt Street, north of its intersection with Golden Eagle Drive. An environmental review of the site is currently underway, and the city is also seeking state funding to help pay for the project. A public meeting about the new tower is scheduled for Tuesday evening at 5:30 at the Municipal Services Center on Kerper Court.

Dyersville Man Killed in Crash with Semi on Highway 20

Courtesy: KCRG

A Dyersville man was killed when his van started on fire after crashing into a semi last night. According to the Iowa State Patrol, the crash happened on US Highway 20 near its intersection with County Road X-47 a few minutes before 7:00 PM. The semi had just turned right from X-47 into the eastbound lane of Highway 20. That’s when a van being driven by 60-year-old Russell Faust rear-ended it. Faust’s van then started on fire, and he was trapped inside. Faust was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. The driver of the semi was not injured.

Red Cross Accepting Nominations for Everyday Heroes

Tri-State area residents are being encouraged to nominate someone they consider a hero for recognition from the local chapter of the American Red Cross. Nominations are now being accepted for the annual Everyday Heroes of Northeast Iowa honors. Nicole Breitbach from the Red Cross says they’re looking to recognize anyone who’s gone “above and beyond” for their community. In the past, several of the heroes recognized were people that helped save a life or prevent a potentially life-threatening situation. But Breitbach says not all of the nominations have to rise to that level. Nominations will be accepted for the next six weeks. After that, a group of Red Cross staffers will narrow the nominations down to this year’s winners, a process that Breitbach says can be difficult. The Everyday Heroes will be recognized at a breakfast to be held on March 14 of next year.

Missing Delaware County Man Found Dead

A Delaware County man who had been reported missing last week has been found dead. The local sheriff’s office reports that 47-year-old William Roling’s body was found in a farm field near where his vehicle had crashed. Roling had last been seen in Delhi on Thursday night, and was reported missing the following morning. Officers from the sheriff’s department went to his home to investigate, and found his vehicle along 220th Avenue. It had left the road and gone into the ditch before crashing into a creek. Roling’s body was discovered a few hours later nearly a mile from the crash site. The State Medical Examiner’s Office has performed an autopsy on Roling, but the results are not yet complete.

Worker Killed at Dubuque Manufacturer Identified

We’ve learned the name of the man who was killed in a workplace accident at a Dubuque manufacturer last week. 46-year-old Dennis Hall of Potosi died from injuries he sustained at AY McDonald’s location on Chavenelle Road. Emergency responders were called to the site just before 8:30 last Thursday morning after Hall became trapped in a piece of equipment. He was transported to Mercy Hospital, where he later died. The Iowa Division of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is now investigating the incident.

Dubuque District Moves to End Agreement with Hills & Dales

Althoff (Courtesy: Hills & Dales)

The Dubuque school district has informed Hills and Dales that it will be terminating its “applied behavior analysis” contract with the organization. Hills and Dales has been providing ABA therapy to students with autism and behavioral problems for the past four years. Now the district wants to provide those services itself. But according to Hills and Dales CEO Marilyn Althoff, it’s illegal for the district to do so without hiring certified therapists. Althoff says the only kids that will be affected by the ending of the contract are the ones already served by Hills and Dales, but that’s left a lot of parents confused. Althoff is also concerned about what kind of information the district is sending to parents who have kids with autism or a disability. Althoff hopes the kids are not short-changed when it comes to the therapy they need. Althoff says the termination of the ABA contract will not affect the rest of their partnership with the district.


Holidays Bring Increased Demand at Dubuque Food Bank, Pantry

Dubuque organizations that help provide food for struggling families say they’ll have a hard time keeping shelves stocked through the holidays. Both the Dubuque Food Pantry and St. Stephen’s Food Bank are already seeing an increase in demand. At St. Stephen’s location off of Cedar Cross Road, the warehouse currently looks full. But Executive Director Kathy Hutton says food doesn’t stay on their shelves for long. According to Hutton, demand for food increases by about 20% in the month of December. At the Dubuque Food Pantry on Jackson Street, Manager Theresa Caldwell expects that 90% of their current food supply will be gone by Christmas. But Caldwell is confident that the community will step up to fill their needs if demand reaches even higher. The nonprofit organization Feeding America estimates that one in eight Iowans struggles with hunger at any point in time.

Tri-State ShopKo Stores Avoid Latest Closures

It appears that all four of the ShopKo locations in the Tri-States have been spared from the latest round of store closings. The Wisconsin-based retailer announced last week that it would be closing nearly 39 locations across 19 states. Those closings will put as many as one thousand employees out of work. Affected stores began liquidation sales on Friday and are expected to be completely closed by the end of February. ShopKo has four stores across the Dubuque area. There are full-sized stores in both Dubuque and Dyersville. Savanna and Lancaster are also home to smaller ShopKo Hometown outlets.

Dubuque Called “Can’t Miss” on ‘Saturday Night Live’

‘Saturday Night Live’ cast member Aidy Bryant appears as 7th grade travel expert Carrie Krum during a sketch on Saturday (Courtesy: NBC).

The Key City was mentioned…positively…on this weekend’s edition of a long-running sketch comedy show. Dubuque was one of the cities mentioned during the ‘Weekend Update’ segment of this weekend’s “Saturday Night Live.” The mention came during a bit where cast member Aidy Bryant was playing a 7th grade “travel expert,” whose advice largely revolved around her own family’s travels. But she did have good things to say about Dubuque during her discussion with ‘Update’ anchor Michael Che, even if she initially fumbled the pronunciation of the city’s name. This is not Dubuque’s first connection to “Saturday Night Live.” Former Hempstead student Brooks Whelan was a member of the show’s cast during the season that ran from 2013 into 2014.

Police Encourage Door-Locking After String of Burglaries

Dubuque Police are asking residents to be on the lookout for suspicious activity after a string of recent burglaries. According to a posting on the department’s Facebook page, several residential burglaries were reported late last week and over the weekend in the Central Hill and West End neighborhoods. Police say that the suspects were able to enter the home through unlocked doors in several cases. They’re reminding residents to lock all of their doors, and also asking anyone who sees any suspicious behavior to report it.

Supporters Host Send-Off Celebration for Finkenauer


Eastern Iowa’s incoming Congresswoman told supporters that “hope won” this fall. Congresswoman-elect Abby Finkenauer delivered that message at a send-off celebration held for her in Cedar Rapids on Sunday. Finkenauer will be sworn in early next month as one of the first women ever elected to the US House from Iowa, along with Cindy Axne, who will represent the state’s 3rd District. Finkenauer says she’s excited to not be making history alone. Finkenauer says she’s eager to be eastern Iowa’s voice in Washington. About 100 people attended Sunday’s event. The 116th Congress convenes on January 3.

Ernst Announces Re-Election Bid, Tells Challengers “Bring It On”


One of Iowa’s US Senators will definitely be running for re-election in 2020, and is telling potential challengers to “bring it on.” During a conference call with reporters late last week, Senator Joni Ernst put to rest any doubt about whether she’ll seek another six-year term. The Republican from Red Oak defeated Democrat Bruce Braley in 2014 to take over the seat that had long been held by Democrat Tom Harkin. This will be Ernst’s first run for re-election. In making her announcement, Ernst also said she’ll be fully supporting President Donald Trump in his bid for a second term. He’s expected to face a challenge from within the Republican party, possibly from outgoing Ohio Governor John Kasich. No one has yet announced plans to challenge Ernst for her seat.

22nd Street Scheduled to Re-Open This Week

A Dubuque street that’s been closed for more than half of 2018 so far will finally reopen this week. The city’s public works department says 22nd Street will be opening up at its intersections with White and Jackson streets. Portions of 22nd Street have been closed since late April for work on the final phase of the Bee Branch Creek Restoration project. 22nd is currently closed between Washington Street and Central Avenue. Its intersection with White Street is expected to reopen Tuesday morning. Work on the intersection with Jackson Street will finish late in the day on Thursday. Once that intersection opens back up, the entire area will be back open to traffic. The city says the work being done with week is the last of the construction on 22nd Street that will be happening in calendar year 2018.

Santa Claus Scuba Dives at River Museum

Courtesy: KCRG

Visitors to the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium got to see Santa Claus in a very different way this weekend. That’s because this Santa was scuba diving. Santa dove into one of the museum’s larger water tanks and swam around with some of the fish and other creatures. Visitors were able to take photos in front of the tank, while “Scuba Santa” posed in the background. Andrew Brunner of the museum says they enjoy putting the jolly old elf in a bit of a different location than people are used to seeing him. “Scuba Santa” appeared for an hour on both Saturday and Sunday.

Dubuque Shots Fired Calls Drop to Near Zero


Just three years after hitting a record high, reports of gunfire in Dubuque are on pace to stay in the low single digits for calendar year 2018. So far this year, there have been just four reports of shots being fired in the city. That’s down by three-quarters from just last year, and ranks well below the 33 reports police took back in 2015. Dubuque Police Chief Mark Dalsing says his officers and investigators deserve much of the credit for bringing the number of reports down. According to Dalsing, shots fired reports present some unique challenges for law enforcement. In many cases, police will seek federal charges against those involved in gunfire incidents. Dalsing says that’s because those charges carry heavier penalties while requiring less proof. While Dalsing is pleased to see the gunfire reports down so significantly, he knows next year could bring another increase. Since hitting 33 in 2015, shots fired cases dropped to 26 in 2016, then to 20 last year, and are currently at four for this year.

BB Pistol Found in Jefferson Student’s Locker

Jefferson Middle School (Courtesy: Dubuque Community Schools)

A BB gun was found in a student’s locker at one of Dubuque’s middle schools on Tuesday. In an email to parents, Jefferson Middle School administrators said the BB pistol was confiscated once school staff learned about it. The gun was never used or displayed in a threatening way. An investigation is underway, and the school says disciplinary action against any students involved is something being considered.

Federal Gun Crime Suspect from Clayton County Pleads Innocence

A Clayton County man accused of a federal gun crime says he’s innocent. 42-year-old John Kottman of Luana has pled not guilty to a single count of Being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm. Prosecutors allege that Kottman had a 12-gauge shotgun in November of last year, despite being barred from possessing guns due to his criminal history, specifically a 2000 conviction for possessing heroin with intent to deliver. Kottman is also facing a similar state-level charge. Court documents connected with that case say he sold that shotgun to another man sometime last fall. Kottman’s trial on the federal charge is scheduled to begin in mid-January.

Domestic Assault Suspect Pleads Not Guilty

A Dubuque man accused of causing multiple fractures to his girlfriend’s skull has pled not guilty to a pair of charges. 27-year-old Cody Bauer faces one count each of Willful Injury Causing Serious Injury and Domestic Assault with Intent to Inflict Serious Injury. Those charges stem from a November 12 incident that led to his girlfriend’s hospitalization. According to police, a neighbor called and said they were concerned about the woman’s well-being. When officers responded to Bauer’s apartment, he initially blocked them from entering. They eventually got into the apartment, and found the woman with what are described as “obvious” injuries to her head and face. The woman was initially taken to Mercy Hospital here in Dubuque before being transferred to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. Her injuries included multiple skull fractures, broken ribs, and a lacerated liver.

Second Arrest Made in Check Cashing Scheme

A Dubuque woman is facing a felony charge for her role in a check cashing scheme. Back in September, Dubuque Police were contacted by a Manchester man who said three of his personal checks had been forged and cashed in Dubuque. The checks had been written out for a total of $1,300 and were all deposited by 21-year-old Skylar Maanika at various financial institutions. The victim told police he did not know Maanika, and he believed his checks had been stolen while he was living at the Dubuque Rescue Mission over the summer. Surveillance images showed Maanika using an ATM to deposit one of the checks. In one case, Maanika was accompanied by 34-year-old Timothy Tuthill of Dubuque. In another instance, Tuthill used Maanika’s bank card to deposit one of the fraudulent checks. Maanika is now facing one count of Forgery. If convicted, she could face up to five years in prison. Tuthill was arrested on a Forgery charge about three weeks ago.

Committee Assignments for Lundgren, McKean Announced

Lundgren, McKean

We now know all of the committees that a couple of local state representatives will sit on when the Iowa Legislature returns to session next month. Earlier this week, we told you that State Representative Shannon Lundgren of Peosta would be chairing the House Human Resources committee. In addition, Lundgren will also be a part of the Commerce, Economic Growth, and Veterans Affairs committees. She’s also been chosen for the Health and Human Services budget subcommittee. Fellow state rep Andy McKean of Anamosa also has a chairmanship this term. He’ll lead the House Ethics Committee. Other committee assignments for McKean include Environmental Protection, Judiciary, Local Government, and State Government. Committee assignments for Senate Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature have not yet been released.

Theft Suspect Faces New Charges After Wal-Mart Shoplifting

A Dubuque woman awaiting trial on charges she helped rob a Dubuque bar is now also accused of shoplifting more than $400 in merchandise from a local retailer. 33-year-old Elizabeth Hammer is one of two women arrested after an incident at Wal-Mart over the weekend. Store employees tell police that Hammer and 26-year-old April Johnson of Dubuque went to a self check-out lane on Sunday morning. But instead of swiping the items in their cart, they scanned barcodes for pieces of felt that cost less than a quarter. In reality, the items they had held a total value of $453 and change. When confronted by store security, the two reportedly ran into the parking lot and drove off in a pickup truck that was later stopped by police. Hammer and Johnson have each been charged with 4th Degree Theft. Hammer is scheduled to go on trial early next month on additional theft charges stemming from an incident earlier this fall. She was charged with 3rd Degree Theft, 5th Degree Theft, and Possession of Burglary Tools in October. In that case, managers at the Yardarm accused Hammer of taking several shirts from their merchandise stand and trying to steal a tackle box from a nearby boat.

911 Outage Impacting Landline Phones in Delaware County

Residents of Delaware County will need to use a mobile phone to call 911 for the time being. That’s due to an outage affecting landline calls to the emergency number. Local officials say the outage is a result of a fiber optic line being cut on Monday night. Anyone in the county who tries to call 911 from a landline won’t get through. But the service does still appear to be working for those who call from a cell phone. County emergency managers do not yet know when the problem might be fixed.

Wolbers Named New UnityPoint CEO

A Dubuque native will be returning to his hometown to take over leadership at one of the city’s hospitals. UnityPoint Health has named Chad Wolbers as the new CEO of their Dubuque operation, which includes Finley Hospital. Wolbers will begin his new role in mid-January. He comes to UnityPoint from the Studer Group, a Florida-based consulting firm. Wolbers has worked at Finley in the past, serving as UnityPoint’s local Chief Operations Officer from 2008 through 2015. He also spent some of that time as Finley’s interim President and CEO. Wolbers is a graduate of Senior High School.

Sheriff Wants Evidence Storage Building

Dubuque County Sheriff Joe Kennedy wants the Board of Supervisors to sign-off on a nearly half million dollar storage building that would house evidence that is seized during investigations. Kennedy recently addressed the supervisors about his proposal, which he plans to include in his budget request for fiscal year 2020. Right now the county and the city leased multiple storage units for evidence obtained during joint investigations. Kennedy says he envisions a 60-foot-by-120-foot building. Currently the county is paying around 15-thousand-500 a year to rent evidence storage space and that cost is spilt with the city and the county attorney’s office. Kennedy will deliver his budget proposal to the board early next year.


Cascade Man Convicted Of Document Fraud

A jury recently found a Cascade man guilty of using someone else’s social security number to obtain a job. The federal jury in Cedar Rapids found 45 year old Luis Gonzales Esparsa guilty of unlawful use of an identification document and misuse of a social security card. Gonzales-Esparsa used another person’s social security card and a fraudulent green card when he applied for a job in Peosta in June. Gonzales-Esparsa faces up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced, a half million dollars fine and three years of probation.

Gas Leak Affects Travel near NW Arterial

Construction crews working in the area of Dodge Street/Highway 20 and the N.W. Arterial ruptured a gas line late Thursday morning causing the emergency closure of both westbound lanes of Highway 20 at Northwest Arterial. The ruptured gas line was on the north side of Highway 20 across from Finnin Kia and was struck at around 11:50. There was only one eastbound lane of 20 that was accessible to traffic. Crews from Black Hills Energy worked for hours to cap off the leak.

Police ID JD Bridge Fatality

Police in East Dubuque have released the name of the passenger who was killed after a disabled car he and the driver were pushing across the Julien Dubuque Bridge was rear ended early Wednesday morning. The deceased has been identified as 30 year old Luke Billmeyer of Dubuque. At around 1:10 a.m. a car driven by 37 year old Nathan Scott of Dubuque broke down as it was traveling east on the Illinois side of the bridge. A car driven by 27 year old Whitaker Ingles of Dyersville was also traveling east and rear ended Scott’s car, pushing it into the bridges’ retaining wall. Billmeyer was pronounced dead at the scene. Ingles, his passenger, 27 year old Sara Wells of Dubuque and Scott were all transported to area hospitals. Their conditions have not been released. Scott was cited for driving with a revoked license. The crash closed the bridge for almost 8 hours.

UPDATE: Julien Dubuque Bridge Crash Kills One


East Dubuque police have released more information about a crash on the Julien Dubuque Bridge early this morning. Police now say one person was killed and three others injured in the two vehicle crash that happened on the Illinois side of the bridge at around 1:10 a.m. The name of the deceased has not yet been released. A press release from the police department says 37 year old Nathan Scott of Dubuque was driving his vehicle east across the bridge when it broke down. As he and his passenger were attempting to push the vehicle over the bridge, a vehicle driven by 27 year old Whitaker Ingles of Dyersville rear-ended it. The impact pushed Scott’s car into the bridges’ retaining wall. Scott’s passenger was pronounced dead at the scene. Ingles, his passenger, 27 year old Sara Wells of Dubuque and Scott were transported to area hospitals, where their condition is unknown. Scott has been cited for driving while his license was revoked. The bridge was closed for nearly 8 hours.

Dubuque Area Businesses Featured in Iowa Gift Guide

A handful of Dubuque area businesses are featured in a gift guide spotlighting products produced in Iowa. The Iowa Tourism Office’s annual “Made in Iowa” gift guide includes three dozen items from stores and manufacturers across the Hawkeye State. Among the Dubuque area businesses featured in the guide are:

– Teeny Weeny Toys, which is located in Cable Car Square. The store’s wooden peg toys, including one based on the ‘Star Wars’ movies, are spotlighted in the “Babies and Kids” section.

– Shimlee Signs’ custom wood photo prints are included in the “Home Goods” section. Shimlee is based in Edgewood.

– In the “Food and Cooking” area, Garnavillo’s Great River Maple’s bourbon-aged maple syrup is one of the featured selections.

– Finally, the “Stocking Stuffers” section features the chocolate-covered caramels made at Monastery Candy, just outside of Dubuque.

UPDATE: Julien Dubuque Bridge Back Open

KCRG’s Dubuque CityCam shows vehicles moving again on the Julien Dubuque Bridge following a closure earlier this morning.

Traffic has resumed on the Julien Dubuque Bridge. The bridge was closed following a crash on the East Dubuque side at about 1:10 this morning. Police are describing the wreck as a “serious injury crash” but have not released any additional details.

Music Store Asks for Help Finding Stolen Guitar

Courtesy: Rondelli Music/Audio

A Dubuque retailer is hoping the public can help find the person who stole from their store. Rondelli Music and Audio posted to Facebook this week asking for help after a recent theft. According to the post, an ESP Evertune guitar was stolen during the day on Tuesday. That guitar typical retails for about 900 dollars. The store is asking that anyone who sees the guitar contact local police.

KCRG Investigates Concerns Over Dubuque Initiatives

In the second part of their investigation into a Dubuque non-profit, our coverage partners at KCRG-TV examined some of the concerns about Dubuque Initiatives. That’s the group which has been responsible for brokering several significant agreements between businesses and local government entities. But the organization meets completely in private and rarely discloses their work until projects are complete. That’s concerning to some citizens, especially with the Dubuque Initiatives board made up of a mixture of city officials and business leaders. But board president Doug Horstman says projects are more likely to be a success if discussions are kept private. Horstman notes that the group has a stringent policy against conflicts of interest. Luis Del Toro is not one of the members of the Dubuque City Council who sits on the Dubuque Initiatives board. He says there’s probably room for the group to be more transparent. But City Manager Mike Van Milligen, who is on the group’s board, says all the information the public needs is available on the Dubuque Initiatives website.

To view KCRG’s full reports, click here for Part 1 of their investigation, and here for Part 2.

ALERT: Julien Dubuque Bridge Closed Until Further Notice

The bridge connecting Dubuque and Illinois is going to be closed for several hours following a crash early this morning. Police have closed the Julien Dubuque Bridge between Dubuque and East Dubuque as they investigate what’s being called a “serious injury crash.” The wreck happened at about 1:10 AM on the East Dubuque side of the span. Traffic that usually crosses the bridge will be rerouted. Drivers can still get across the river using the Iowa-Wisconsin Bridge. That’s about a nine-mile detour, so those whose morning commute takes them across the river need to factor in that extra time.

KCRG Investigates Dubuque Initiatives

A non-profit organization based in Dubuque has helped facilitate and, in some cases, pay for several large projects including the redevelopment of the Roshek Building. But the group works entirely in secret, with city officials serving on its board. Our coverage partners at KCRG this week are investigating the group known as Dubuque Initiatives. The organization was started through a state grant in 1980, and has grown to a $40 million dollar outfit. Dubuque Initiatives President Doug Horstman says a recent agreement with Flexsteel is an example of how the group works. When the manufacturer announced it would be moving out of its current plant, Dubuque Initiatives stepped in to ensure the company stayed in Dubuque County. Flexsteel donated its former plant to Dubuque Initiatives, giving the company a tax write-off, which the company used to help pay for its new location. Dubuque Initiatives is then able to apply for grants to demolish or redevelop the facility. Horstman says Dubuque Initiatives serves as a go-between when city government and private businesses aren’t able to make a project come together. You can see part two of KCRG’s Dubuque Initiatives investigation during their newscast at 6:00 this evening.

Iowa Sees Nation’s Largest Gas Price Drop

While gas prices have been falling across the country, drivers in Iowa have seen the biggest decrease. According to national auto club AAA, the average price for a gallon of unleaded gas in Iowa is down by 41 cents in the past month. That’s a bigger drop than any other state, though several others have also seen decreases of a quarter per gallon or more. AAA spokesman Nick Jarmusz says the drop is the result of a combination of factors, including decreases in driver demand and the price of crude oil. Jarmusz believes the downward trend among gas prices will continue through the rest of the year. On average, Iowa drivers are saving six dollars each time they fill up their gas tanks. Jarmusz says that extra money is especially welcome this time of year. The current average price for a gallon of gas across Dubuque County is $2.41. That’s more than a dime higher than Iowa’s statewide average of $2.30.

Dubuque Woman Accused of Driving Drunk with Drugs in Vehicle

Dubuque County authorities have accused a woman of trying to run from them while driving drunk with drugs in her vehicle. 34-year-old Amber Sheppard of Dubuque was arrested a few minutes before 1:00 Monday morning about four miles east of Bernard. According to an arrest report, deputies had been told to be on the lookout for Sheppard’s vehicle. It was spotted driving on US Highway 151 near its intersection with Curoe Road…or just east of the Fillmore Fairways Golf Course. Deputies tried to pull the vehicle over, but Sheppard reportedly sped away. Officers caught up with her a few minutes later and took her into custody. Inside her vehicle, they located more than 24 grams of methamphetamine, as well as nearly two dozen syringes. Sheppard has been charged with Possession of Meth, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Eluding, a 3rd Offense of Operating While Intoxicated, and Driving with a Revoked License.

Speeding Most Common Thanksgiving Traffic Violation

More than half of the traffic tickets handed out by the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Office over Thanksgiving were for speeding. The department has released the results of its recent holiday enforcement project, which ran through the week surrounding Thanksgiving. During those eight days, deputies wrote up 50 drivers for exceeding the posted speed limit. That was far and away the most common violation. Among other infractions that were ticketed by deputies were driving without insurance, having window tint that was too dark, and travelling with an open container of alcohol. In addition to writing out tickets, deputies also assisted with five crashes and made a total of six arrests. Deputies also report that about 95% of the drivers they observed were wearing seat belts.

Iowa Corn, Soybean Harvest Nearly Complete

The vast majority of Iowa’s corn and soybean crops had been harvested before the snowstorm that blanketed parts of the state last weekend. The US Department of Agriculture reports that 96% of Iowa’s corn crop had been harvested by Sunday. That’s despite southwest Iowa lagging behind the rest of the state, with about 13% of its corn still in the ground. The statewide average is only about four days behind the five-year average. That’s not bad, considering how farmers were delayed by the wet fall most of the state experienced. As for soybeans, 98% of the harvest had been done by Sunday. That’s a full 12 days behind the five-year average.

Police: Man Tries to Steal $1,500 in Groceries

Dubuque Police say a man racked up more than $1,500 in charges at a local grocery store, then tried to pay for none of it. 34-year-old Robert Riddell was arrested at about 11:00 Sunday night. According to court documents, police had been called to the Hy-Vee on the Northwest Arterial on a report of shoplifting. Employees at the store told police that a man had left with a shopping cart full of items he hadn’t paid for. Those workers followed the man into the parking lot, where he reportedly grabbed a few of the items from the cart and ran off. Police caught up with Riddell in a nearby parking lot. He tried to escape through a cornfield, but was eventually taken into custody. Riddell has been charged with 2nd Degree Theft and Interference with Official Acts.

Tri-States Largely Dodge Significant Snowfall

While most of the Tri-State area was not impacted by yesterday’s snowstorm, some areas just beyond our region were hit harder. The system bringing the storm stayed well to the south of the Dubuque area, with no snowfall reported anywhere in Dubuque, Clayton, or Grant counties. But the area around Maquoketa saw some significant snowfall. Travel to the south and east of the community is still being discouraged this morning, with the Iowa Department of Transportation describing state Highway 136 between Delmar and Fulton as “impassable.” Among some of the more significant snowfall reports around the region, parts of the Quad Cities received as much as 13 inches of snow. 11 inches were reported in both Dewitt, Iowa, and Mount Carroll, Illinois. To our east, Freeport took on about five inches, while accumulation of more than a foot was reported in the Rockford area. Some slight additional precipitation chances are in our forecast later this week. But it’s still not clear whether that would be rain, snow, or a mixture.

Thanksgiving Weekend Alcohol Arrests Flat

Courtesy: Torch Magazine

The number of alcohol-related arrests around Dubuque County was flat this year, but still shows a downward trend. According to online records, Dubuque Police and the county sheriff’s office made a total of 13 arrests for either Public Intoxication or Operating While Intoxicated from Wednesday night through Sunday. That’s the same number of arrests on those charges that were made a year ago. But those totals both represent a significant drop from 2016, which saw the highest number of such arrests over the past five years. Over that timeframe, there has been an average of about 16 alcohol-related arrests in the county over Thanksgiving weekend. Nearly half of those arrests happen on the night before Thanksgiving, which is generally considered one of the busiest bar nights of the year.

Four Teens Arrested in Connection with Galena Territory Burglaries

Authorities in Jo Daviess County believe four Tri-State area teenagers are behind a string of car break-ins in the Galena Territory. Officers from the county sheriff’s office arrested the four teens following a traffic stop early Saturday morning. A deputy had been called about a vehicle matching the description of one used in several of the burglaries. The car was stopped in rural Elizabeth. After a K-9 indicated there were drugs in the vehicle, the teens were arrested and the car searched. Deputies say they found several stolen items in the vehicle, including a gun. 19-year-old Theodore Forsberg of Apple River, 19-year-old Benjamin Gourley of Dubuque, a 16-year-old from Galena, and a 15-year-old from Dubuque have now each been charged with felony Burglary. The sheriff’s department has not released the names of the juveniles. 

Dubuquer Pleads to Federal Meth Charge

A Dubuque man has admitted his role in a meth dealing operation. 35-year-old Jeremy Kieffer recently pled guilty to a federal charge of Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine. In exchange for that plea, prosecutors agreed to drop three other counts against him. According to prosecutors, Kieffer worked with two other people to move more than 500 grams of a meth mixture in Dubuque between December of 2016 and this past March. That’s when authorities raided Kieffer’s home on Chaney Road. Agents reportedly found more than two pounds of meth and $11,000 in cash. It’s not clear when Kieffer will be sentenced, or what kind of a prison term he could be facing.

Sabula Woman Arrested with Several Drugs in Vehicle

A Jackson County woman is facing nearly a dozen charges, including seven felonies, after being stopped with several types of drugs in her vehicle. According to police in Fulton, Illinois, 22-year-old Patrisha O’Bryant of Sabula was pulled over at about 1:30 Saturday morning. A search of the vehicle turned up methamphetamine, heroin, three kinds of prescription drugs, and a gun. Six of the charges were related to the drugs in the vehicle. Among the others O’Bryant is facing are Child Endangerment, Possessing a Firearm as a Felon, and Driving While Suspended. O’Bryant was taken to the Whiteside County Jail to be held until she could make an initial court appearance.

Environmental Restoration Planned for Eagle Point Park

Courtesy: City of Dubuque

After decades of enduring weather and other problems caused by Mother Nature, Eagle Point Park is suffers the effects. That’s why the city of Dubuque is set to launch a plan to restore the park’s recreational and natural spaces. Planning Services Manager Laura Carstens says the park has been affected by severe soil erosion. The restoration plan is currently in the concept phase and may include a variety of practices. The city is hosting a public input meeting this week to discuss the restoration plan. That meeting will be held Tuesday at 6:00 PM at Carnegie Stout Public Library. The restoration of the park was originally supposed to take about 10 years. Dubuque has secured more than $925,000 from state and federal resources for the project.

Dubuque Proposes New Water Tower

Officials in Dubuque are beginning the process of building a new water tower to improve water pressure that has worsened due to residential growth. Officials have started an environmental review for a proposed 1.2 million gallon tower to replace a one currently located at Eagle Point Park. The new tower would be higher and bigger than the current one, which holds 500,000 gallons. The city is seeking state funding to help pay for the project. Officials hope to have the new tower completed in 2020.

UPDATE: Dubuque County Fatal Crash

The Dubuque County Sheriff’s Department has released the names of the people involved in a fatal crash that happened Thanksgiving morning in a rural part of the county. A press release says the crash occurred at around 7:45 at the intersection of St. Joes Prairie and Skyline Road. A car driven by 81 year old Roger Emerson of Dubuque was traveling south on St. Joes Prairie Road, when he failed to yield to through traffic and collided with a westbound pickup truck driven by 49 year old Raymundo Pena-Gutierrez of Moline, Illinois. Emerson was pronounced dead at the scene. A passenger in his car, 66 year old Richard Horn of Dubuque was transported to a local hospital to be treated for non-life threatening injuries. Gutierrez was also taken to an area hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries. A passenger in the pickup, 61 year old Juanita Pena of Moline was transported to a local hospital, before being airlifted to U of I Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. Her condition is not known. The crash remains under investigation.

Dubuque County Fatal Crash

A two vehicle crash in Dubuque County Thanksgiving morning has claimed the life of one person. The accident happened at around 7:45 a.m. at the intersection of St. Joes Prairie Road and Skyline Road. A release from the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Offices says a car traveling south on St. Joes Prairie Road failed to yield to through traffic and pulled in front of a westbound pickup truck. The two vehicles collided. The driver of the car was pronounced dead at the scene. A passenger in the car was transported to a local hospital suffering from non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the pickup was taken to an area hospital with serious, but non-life threatening injuries. A passenger in the pickup was also transported to a local hospital, before being airlifted to U of I Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. The names of those involved in the crash, including the deceased will be released later today.

UPDATE: Dubuque Police Make Three Arrests in Convenience Store Robbery

Dubuque Police have arrested three suspects in connection with a robbery at a downtown convenience store. Police were called to the FasMart in the 21-hundred block of Central Avenue just after 7:00 last night. According to court documents, the three suspects came out of the store’s bathroom and charged at the clerk working the cash register. One of them tackled the clerk, while another raided the register and the third kept a lookout. The three then ran from the store in different directions. About two hours later, three people matching the descriptions of the suspects were spotted near the intersection of 9th and Main Streets. 21-year-old Mathew Foxhood, 18-year-old Anthony Crary, and 17-year-old Derek Sanders were arrested and have each been charged with 2nd Degree Robbery. Police say Foxhood and Crary admitted to their roles in the hold-up, while Sanders refused to speak with officers.

Fire Forces Guests Out of Galena Hotel

Guests at a hotel in Galena had to find other accommodations on Tuesday night after a fire broke out. The fire began in the laundry room of the Ramada Inn at about 12:45 Tuesday afternoon. Firefighters were able to contain the fire to that room. But other parts of the hotel sustained smoke and water damage. All of the guests were evacuated out of the hotel, and no one was allowed to stay there overnight Tuesday into Wednesday. A manager says they’re hoping to re-open sometime today. The Ramada Inn is located along US Highway 20 on Galena’s northwestern edge.

AAA Offering “Tow to Go” Program Over Thanksgiving Weekend

Tonight is often considered one of, if not the biggest bar night in Dubuque and the surrounding area. With that in mind, a national auto club will help make sure people get home safe. AAA will be offering its “Tow to Go” program beginning today. That’s a service that sends a AAA affiliated tow truck to pick people up and take them and their vehicle home. Nick Jarmusz of AAA tells us the program is open to both club members and non-members, and won’t count against a member’s service limit. The ride is free up to ten miles, and only a small fee is charged for trips beyond that. Jarmusz says “Tow to Go” is only meant to be used in emergencies or as a last resort. AAA first began offering the “Tow to Go” service in the southeastern US in the early 90s. It’s been available in Iowa and Wisconsin over the past couple of years, and Jarmusz says it’s starting to catch on in those states. “Tow to Go” will be available through Sunday.

Hillcrest Again Hosts Walking Preview of “Reflections in the Park”

Courtesy: Hillcrest Family Services

For the fourth year, an annual holiday light display will let visitors walk through the area before car traffic begins. Hillcrest Family Services’ “Reflections in the Park” officially opens on Thanksgiving night. But once again this year, people can walk through the light display the previous evening. Paula Paider-Licht from Hillcrest says the walk through has continued to grow in popularity since it was first offered in 2015. Paider-Licht says there are some definite differences that people pick up on when they walk through the park, rather than drive it. In the years that the walk through has been going on, visitors have begun to make it more of an event unto itself. Murphy Park will be open for the walk through between 6:00 and 8:00 Wednesday night. The cost is ten dollars per person, and children under the age of four get in for free.

UD’s Smith Named 2018 Iowa Citizen Hero


A Dubuque basketball coach will be one of two heroes honored during Friday’s Iowa football game. Justin Smith, an assistant women’s basketball coach at the University of Dubuque, has been chosen as the 2018 Iowa Citizen Hero, according to the American Red Cross. Smith and a hero from Nebraska, will be recognized during a ceremony prior to the Iowa-Nebraska game. Each year, the Red Cross and Hy-Vee select citizen heroes from each of the two states to honor as part of the game’s festivities. Last December, Smith helped avert disaster when the team bus driver suffered a medical issue on the way back from a tournament in Nashville. Smith grabbed the wheel of the bus and was able to maneuver it to the side of the road, avoiding a potentially serious crash.

Another Phony Bomb Threat at Dubuque Business

For the second time in a week, a phony bomb threat forced employees at a Dubuque business to evacuate. Dubuque Police were called to Rite-Hite in Industrial Center West shortly before 10:30 yesterday morning. An employee had found a written message that indicated there was a bomb in the building. Workers were moved out of the building, which was then searched by police. But no explosives were located. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s nearly exactly what happened at Rite-Hite a week earlier as well. Last Tuesday, another message about a bomb inside the building was found. The building was evacuated and searched in that instance as well, but nothing was found. Police are continuing to look into both incidents.

Field of Dreams Vandal Given Deferred Judgment, Avoiding Jail Time

The vandal who drove a truck over the Field of Dreams Movie Site was able to avoid jail time after striking a deal with prosecutors. 21-year-old Austin Pape of Dyersville was given a deferred judgement in Dubuque County Court on Monday. Pape had been charged with Reckless Driving and 2nd Degree Criminal Mischief after the incident in January. In September, he agreed to plead guilty to the criminal mischief charge in exchange for the Reckless Driving count being dropped. He could have still faced up to five years in prison. But the judge instead gave Pape two to five years of probation as part of the deferred judgement. If Pape is able to stay out of trouble during that timeframe, the charge could be dropped from his record. Pape’s attorney says he has already paid restitution to the movie site to cover the $5,000 in damage done. Pape has also completed about 50 hours of community service.

Van Milligen: No Conflict Between Community Foundation, City

Nancy Van Milligen

The head of a Dubuque nonprofit is disputing the claim there’s a conflict of interest between her group and the city. Earlier this month, Iowa’s state auditor completed a review of the city of Dubuque’s finances from fiscal year 2016. As part of that review, the auditor raised concerns about the relationship between the city and the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque. One of those concerns stemmed from the Community Foundation CEO being married to Dubuque’s city manager. But Nancy Van Milligen, who heads up the foundation, says just because she and her husband, Mike, have those jobs doesn’t mean there’s a conflict. Van Milligen says neither she nor her husband personally benefit from the foundation’s relationship with the city. Nancy Van Milligen also points out that she does not personally report to the city in a move aimed at further avoiding potential conflicts. The auditor’s review showed that the city paid the community foundation more than $230,000 for programs in fiscal year 2016.

Dyersville Man Faces Felony Charge for Punching Son

A felony charge has been filed against a Dyersville man accused of punching his son. 36-year-old Peter Triervieler is charged with Child Endangerment Causing Bodily Injury. According to court documents, Triervieler’s son and daughter had been at his home for visitation on November 11. Both children gave interviews to police indicating that Triervieler had punched the boy in the ribs with a closed fist. Police say the child had a red mark under his arm that was still tender. The boy also complained of pain while breathing. An emergency room doctor at the hospital in Dyersville concluded that the injury was the result of a physical assault. A warrant for Triervieler’s arrest was issued last Thursday, and he turned himself in to the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Office Monday morning. His initial court appearance has not yet been scheduled. If convicted on the charge, Triervieler could face up to five years in prison.

Recount Ordered in Clayton County Legislative Race

House District 55

A legislative district that includes part of Clayton County is one of two in Iowa that will have its votes recounted. House District 55 covers the northwestern portion of Clayton County, as well as parts of Fayette and Winneshiek counties. After an initial canvas of votes, Republican incumbent Michael Bergan led Democrat Kayla Koether by just seven votes. Koether has requested that the votes from Clayton and Winneshiek counties be recounted. The recount will be conducted by a three-person board. Each candidate can appoint on member, with the third being agreed on by the two sides. The recount will be done next Tuesday morning at the Winneshiek County Courthouse in Decorah. The other recount will take place in House District 82 in the southeastern part of the state.

Iowa State Patrol Updates Likely Cause of Crash Involving Dyersville Semi Driver

An investigation into a fatal crash involving a driver from Dyersville has revealed that he was trying to avoid the crash. Back on November 9, a semi being driven by 34-year-old Adam Nurre of Dyersville collided with a pickup truck on US Highway 30 in a rural portion of Tama County. The driver of the pickup, 38-year-old Tamie Cockrell of Van Horne died as a result of the injuries she suffered in the crash. Initially, the Iowa State Patrol reported that Nurre had drifted into the oncoming lane of traffic. But after further investigation, the State Patrol now says it was Cockrell who was across the center line prior to the crash. A release from the agency says both drivers took “evasive action,” but were unable to avoid the crash. A spokesman for the State Patrol says that’s likely the reason that Nurre’s semi was in the oncoming lane.

Dubuque Salvation Army Chapter Launches Kettle Campaign

It may still be five entire weeks until Christmas, but the Dubuque chapter of the Salvation Army has already launched their annual kettle campaign. Bell ringers began staking out positions in front of various Dubuque businesses on Friday, and will be there through Christmas Eve. Between the kettle campaign and its mail appeal, the army is hoping to raise just shy of $230,000 this year, according to Captain Matt Phelps. The Christmas campaigns are the local Salvation Army’s largest fundraiser of the entire year. The army is always looking for volunteers to fill bell ringing shifts. With red kettles positioned at dozens of Dubuque-area businesses, Phelps says there’s always a spot for someone who wants to bell ring. This is the first Red Kettle Campaign for Phelps in Dubuque. He and his wife, Emily, took over leadership of the local Salvation Army chapter in August, following the retirement of Majors Tom and Kay Mason.

Big Opening Weekend at Sundown

Tri-State snow enthusiasts didn’t waste any time taking advantage of last weekend’s snow and chilly weather. A big crowd of skiers and snowboarders headed to Sundown Mountain for its opening weekend, which kicked off Friday afternoon. As we told you last week, this is the earliest Sundown has been able to open in several years. Sundown General Manager Mark Gordon says a lot of factors came together to allow the resort to open so early. The pre-Thanksgiving opening is a significant change from the past couple of years, when warmer temperatures didn’t allow Sundown to open until closer to Christmas. Greg Kubitz has been skiing recreationally for more than 50 years and was one of the first patrons at the mountain on Friday. The early opening gives him hope of breaking a personal record this season. It’s not yet known exactly how many people visited Sundown over the opening weekend. Gordon says those who did were able to get to more of the mountain than on past openers. About half of their territory was available.

Mobile Home, Grain Bin Destroyed in Weekend Fires

A grain bin and a mobile home were destroyed in separate fires across the Tri-States this weekend.
The first fire was reported a little after 6:30 Saturday morning at a mobile home in the Leisure Lake area southeast of Bernard. Firefighters from Bernard and LaMotte were called to the home, which is described as a “total loss.” The cause of that fire is still being investigated.
The second fire happened late Saturday night at a farm about a mile and a half north of Rickardsville. County sheriff’s deputies and firefighters from Holy Cross were dispatched to the area at about 10:15 PM on a report of a grain bin on fire. The bin and its contents were destroyed, causing a loss of about $50,000. The cause of that fire hasn’t yet been determined, though the Sheriff’s Department says it is not considered suspicious.

Four Dubuque Recruits Among Camp Dodge Evacuees

Iowa Law Enforcement Academy (Courtesy: KCCI-TV)

Four police academy students from the Dubuque area were among the nearly 60 people treated for carbon monoxide poisoning in suburban Des Moines yesterday. Firefighters were called to the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy at Camp Dodge after people began falling ill. A building within the academy was evacuated and those showing symptoms were taken to area hospitals. Among those hospitalized were three Dubuque Police Department recruits and one deputy candidate from the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Department. All four are expected to be OK.

Suspected Burglars Still Loose After Chase Through Three States

Suspected burglars are still on the loose after evading authorities from all three of the Tri-States yesterday. At about 1:00 PM, the Grant County Sheriff’s Department was called about an attempted burglary at a home on Bluff Road in the far southwestern part of the county. The homeowner had confronted the intruder, who then left. But the suspects are believed to have successfully broken into another nearby home. After the initial report, Dickeyville Police were called to try to find the suspect vehicle. It was spotted a few minutes later near Kieler, and a high speed chase began, with the suspects heading south on US Highway 151. They eventually crossed the bridge into Iowa, where Dubuque Police continued the chase until the vehicle crossed the Julien Dubuque Bridge into Illinois. Several other agencies picked up the chase there, but the vehicle was lost near Elizabeth. The vehicle is described as a grey Chevy Equinox with no front license plate. At least two people were inside. Anyone who sees the vehicle should contact Grant County Crimestoppers or a local law enforcement agency.

Zwingle Woman Arrested for Drunk Driving After Crash on Julien Dubuque Bridge

We’ve learned a few more details about a crash that closed the Julien Dubuque Bridge early this morning. According to East Dubuque Police, a pair of westbound vehicles collided on the approach to the bridge a few minutes before 1:30 AM. The lead car had to stop due to construction work being done on the bridge. The trailing vehicle, being driven by 25-year-old Christine Oberbroeckling of Zwingle, didn’t stop in time and rear-ended the first car. Oberbroeckling has been charged with Driving Under the Influence and Failing to Reduce Speed to Avoid an Accident. Two of the people in the other vehicle were taken to hospitals in Dubuque to be treated for unknown injuries. The crash closed the bridge for about an hour.

Second Chances Common Among Iowa Work Release Inmates

Kolthoff (Courtesy:

Administrators in Iowa’s corrections system are taking time to explain some of their procedures after a Dubuque work release inmate escaped from the program for a second time. 25-year-old Tremaine Walton was taken back into custody following a traffic stop last week. He’d been on the run from the Elm Street Correctional Facility for about three months. This comes after Walton spent more than a year at large after previously escaping the work release program in 2016. Ken Kolthoff is the director of Iowa’s First Judicial District, which includes Dubuque. He says the work release program is designed to ease an inmate’s transition from prison to normal life. Kolthoff says that of the 8,000-9,000 inmates in Iowa’s prisons, the vast majority will eventually be released. According to Kolthoff, it’s not uncommon for those who violate their work release to end up back in the program later. Kolthoff says situations like Walton’s are incredibly rare. Walton had an Escape charge added to his rap sheet following his arrest last week. If convicted, he could have another five years added to his sentence.

Sundown Mountain to Open Friday

A snow machine sprays artificial flakes at Sundown Mountain earlier this month (Courtesy: Sundown).

A Dubuque area ski area will be able to open not just on time, but ahead of schedule this year. Sundown Mountain has announced that it will open for the season on Friday afternoon. Sundown managers typically say they aim to be open sometime in the days following Thanksgiving. But it’s been several years since they’ve been able to start the season before the calendar turns to December. Not only is the mountain opening earlier than in recent years, Gordon says a larger portion of their area will be available than during previous opening weekends. While most people dread the onset of winter, Gordon says his business aims to attract the exceptions. Beyond the ski areas, Sundown has also made some improvements to its lodges to bring in people who may never get out on the slopes. According to KDTH’s story archives, it’s been four years since the last time Sundown was able to open in the month of November.

Grassley Nominated for Senate President Pro Tempore


One of Iowa’s US Senators will move to the third place in the presidential order of succession early next year. Charles Grassley will become the Senate’s President Pro Tempore when the new Congress convenes in January. Grassley’s fellow Republican Senators unanimously nominated him for that position this week. The position has historically been given to the most senior member of the Senate’s majority party. After assuming that position, Grassley will follow only the Vice President and the Speaker of the House in the line of succession to the presidency. Grassley was first elected to the Senate in 1980 after serving three terms in Congress. Between his time in Congress and the Iowa Legislature, Grassley has held public office for nearly 60 years.

ATV/UTV Committee Meets in Cascade Tonight

The first public meeting of a citizen committee that is looking into whether or not all-terrain vehicles will be allowed on Dubuque county roads will be held this evening. The committee is made up of people both for and against the idea, as well as several county officials. They are currently gathering information on the pros and cons of allowing ATVs and UTVs on county roads. A report by the committee is expected to be completed in January and submitted to the county supervisors. They will ultimately decide whether ATVs and UTVs can use county roads. The meeting will be held at 5:30 PM at Cascade City Hall. The committee has already had a meeting, but this is the first that the public can attend.

Theisen’s Gives Out $350,000 Through Annual Grant Program

A Dubuque-based retailer has awarded $350,000 in grants to non-profit organizations across Iowa and Wisconsin. The annual Theisen’s “More for You” community grant program recently distributed awards to almost 270 different groups located in communities with a Theisen’s store. The grants are intended to help those groups serve the “basic needs” of those in their community. Those needs include shelter and education. The awards are expected to benefit more than 700,000 people in two dozen communities. The largest of the grants was a nearly $4,800 award given to Camp Albrecht Acres to help replace the roof of the Hawk Lodge. The “More for You” community grant program is managed by the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque.

Northern Iowa Men Face Drug Charges After Dyersville Traffic Stop

A pair of men from northern Iowa are facing drug charges after being stopped by police in Dyersville. Early Wednesday morning, police stopped a car just west of Dyersville for speeding and having a defective muffler. During the traffic stop, officers say they could see a marijuana cigarette inside the car. The driver and passenger were arrested and the vehicle was searched. Among the items found by police were another two pounds of marijuana, about two grams of a white powder that tested positive for methamphetamine, a meth pipe, and about $8,200 dollars in cash. The driver, 35-year-old Nicolas Bradley of Humboldt, and his passenger, 36-year-old Ian Stevenson of Goldfield, have each been charged with Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Deliver, second offenses of Possession of Meth, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. They’re currently being held in the Delaware County Jail.

Downtown Dubuque Road Work Nearly Complete

Drivers should begin having an easier time getting around downtown Dubuque over the next week. That’s because some road closures that have been in place for the past several weeks will be coming to an end. Civil Engineer Jon Dienst tells us intersections involving Central Avenue, White Street, 17th Street, and 22nd Street will all be back open by Thanksgiving. As for 17th Street, it will also be opening back up between Elm Street and Central. Dienst says those projects are the last of what he calls the “major construction” within the city. The work happening on White Street and Central Avenue has been a joint project between the city and the Iowa Department of Transportation. The DOT is bringing the condition of those streets up before they become city property when the Southwest Arterial is finished. Dienst says city crews were largely able to work around or through this fall’s rainy weather. Some of the same repairs down on White Street this year will be performed on Central Avenue next spring and summer.