The Marengo Pioneer-Republican is the flagship newspaper for Marengo Publishing Corporation.
When there are upwards of 20,000 bicycle riders traveling through Iowa County, it is hard not to take notice.
RAGBRAI passed through the northern half of the county Thursday, July 24, with riders coming in as early as 5:30 a.m. and some not leaving until Saturday, July 26.
On day five of the 471-mile bike ride across Iowa, riders left the day four overnight town of Tama/Toledo, and headed west through Vining, Chelsea, Belle Plaine, Luzere and Blairstown. From Blairstown, the bikers headed south on V66 and entered Iowa County north of Marengo. They then continued west on F15 Blvd. to West Amana and then turned south to South Amana.
Riders then got onto Highway 6, which took them to Homestead, the last stop before the day ended in North Liberty.
The village of Homestead was filled with guest RAGBRAI riders from morning until evening. The most riders arrived around 2 p.m. They helped themselves to homemade brats served by Henry’s Village Market, walking tacos, pizza, smoothies, beverages and live music.
Tony Patti, the organizer for the Homestead events, said things couldn’t have worked out better. The volunteers and booth workers were prepared and the RAGBRAI riders were courteous and gracious guests, he said.
“This has just been great,” Patti said. “I couldn’t have hoped for it to go any better.”
The curfew for riders to leave Homestead was 4:30 p.m., but there were still a few stragglers by 6:30 p.m., said Iowa County Sheriff Nick Roggentien.
Roggentien said the sheriff’s department had very little trouble with the RAGBRAI riders. He said there were some complaints about riders not staying on their side of the road, but overall there was little trouble.
There was one arrest in Iowa County, Roggentien said. A 33-year-old man from Madison, Wis., was arrested Saturday, July 26, at 6:38 a.m. The rider was passed out in a ditch near Homestead and blew a .17 in the blood-alcohol contect (BAC) test.
“He said he was lost,” Roggentien said.
There were several local riders that rode in RAGBRAI this year.
Nate Hopp, West Amana, cruised through his hometown Thursday morning. Hopp said it was a little weird to arrive at home and then have to ride another 20 miles to North Liberty. He said he was coming back to West Amana later that night to do laundry.
Marengo Police Chief Galen Moser rode on RAGBRAI for his second time this past week. Moser rode with a group that included local residents Dale Kinzenbaw, Marengo, Mike Peska, Marengo, and Mark Vogt, Homestead. The four of them rode the entire distance, Moser said.
Driving the team’s bus, The Grain Train, was Cliff Dalton, Williamsburg.
Even though Marengo wasn’t a stop along the route, Moser said a large number of riders visited town.
Having experienced RAGBRAI once before, Moser said the second time around was a little easier and more relaxing. He said he was able to take the ride more casually and enjoy the scenery. Moser said RAGBRAI takes riders through many small Iowa towns they would ordinarily not visit. He said he was also able to spend more time visiting with other riders and folks he met along the route.
Day five of the trip had the worst weather, with some light rain and high winds, Moser said, but it was also nice to ride through familiar territory. His wife, Linda, rode with Galen for one day from Tama to North Liberty. He said Mike Peska and his wife, Robin, borrowed a tandem bike and rode together from Marengo to North Liberty.
Moser said he is ready for next year.
“My legs are still a little bit sore, but not too bad. I took a few days break, but I’m want to get back on it,” Moser said.
The Iowa County Sheriff’s Department arrested three Kentucky men under suspicion of growing massive amounts of marijuana in an Iowa County cornfield.
Eugene Cecil Burnett, 56, Kelly E. Burnett, 25, and David Wayne Criswell, 46, all of Monticello, Ky., were arrested Monday, June 23, following an anonymous tip from a concerned rural Williamsburg resident, said Iowa County Sheriff Nick Roggentien.
“This was caught because of an alert citizen. Thanks to him this was made possible,” Roggentien said.
At approximately 10:48 p.m. that Monday, the Iowa County Sheriff’s Office received a report of suspicious activity in rural Iowa County. The suspicious activity consisted of repeated trips past a rural residence during the day.
The caller provided a vehicle description and license plate numbers, which were registered in Iowa. An Iowa County Sheriff’s deputy located and stopped the vehicle near the Marengo exit of Interstate 80.
The driver pulled over and fled into a field. Backup units were called in, consisting of a Williamsburg Police officer and an off-duty Iowa County Sheriff’s deputy.
Inside the stopped vehicle were allegedly hundreds of marijuana plants, as well as Kelly Burnett. Kelly Burnett was arrested and deputies continued the search for the driver who fled. That man, Eugene Burnett, was located at 12:15 a.m. and was arrested as he walked near Kinze Manufacturing.
Deputies continued their investigation and located a second vehicle with Kentucky license plates and an attached U-Haul trailer at Super 8 Motel in Little Amana. Deputies also located hundreds of marijuana plants as well as gardening supplies and other gear in a cornfield approximately four miles east of Williamsburg, the area where the suspicious activity was first observed.
Both Burnetts were jailed and their vehicles impounded. Eugene Burnett’s bond was set at $9,750 and Kelly Burnett’s bond was set at $10,750.
Wednesday, June 25, two individuals came to the Iowa County Sheriff’s Office to bond out the Burnetts. One of these individuals was David Criswell. The U-Haul trailer located at the Super 8 was rented in Criswell’s name. Criswell was also a registered guest at the motel, as were the Burnetts.
After bond was posted for the Burnetts and they were released, sheriff’s deputies arrested and jailed Criswell. Bond was posted for Criswell Friday, June 27, and he was released.
In all, 971 marijuana plants were recovered from the operation. Because of the size of the seizure, federal authorities have expressed an interest in handling the prosecution.
Sheriff Roggentien said during the investigation notebooks were discovered detailing directions to other possible fields. The National Guard has been flying over parts of Iowa County and Poweshiek County searching for other growing areas.
The June 23 marijuana bust might be the largest in Iowa County history, Roggentien said.
Iowa County Sheriff’s deputies discovered a similar operation two years ago in the same area, however, no perpetrators were caught at that time. Roggentien said he is of the opinion that the two cases are related.
Oct. 2, 2006, approximately 1,000 marijuana plants were located in a cornfield near Williamsburg. The marijuana farmers had removed two rows of corn in the middle of the field, each row exactly 600 feet. The marijuana was cultivated somewhere else before being transplanted in the cornfield. The marijuana had an estimated worth of $500,000.
The situation that arose last week was very similar in nature, Roggentien said. This time, the authorities caught the criminals before the marijuana was planted.
“I don’t know that we have found a growing operation this large before,” Roggentien said. “This is a bit unusual that the suspects are from out of state.”
When asked why the suspects would allegedly travel from Kentucky to Iowa to grow marijuana, Roggentien said he did not know.
“But we are trying to figure out what all they were up to,” he said.
Three of the five school districts in Iowa County will soon be managed by one superintendent after the English Valleys, Deep River-Millersburg (DR-M) and Iowa Valley school boards approved employing superintendent Alan Jensen through a three-way sharing agreement at a special meeting held Tuesday, June 24. Jensen is the current superintendent of the English Valleys and the DR-M school districts.
According to the terms of the two-year sharing agreement, which takes effect July 1, Jensen will receive a cash salary of $135,000, and an annuity of $10,500, for the 2008-2009 school year. The three districts will divide the costs with the Iowa Valley and English Valleys districts each paying 45 percent ($65,475 each) and DR-M paying 10 percent ($14,550). Salary for the second year of the agreement will be addressed at the end of the first year.
The salary laid out in the new agreement is more than $19,000 higher than Jensen’s current earnings as a shared superintendent for the English Valleys and DR-M districts.
The three boards determined how to divide the costs based on EV and DR-M’s current agreement, in which DR-M pays 20 percent, and the approximate student enrollment of each district, among other factors.
Iowa Valley School Board President Don Cronbaugh said the district’s choice to share a superintendent since superintendent Laurene Lanich announced her resignation in May, was primarily based on the board’s knowledge of skilled professionals in the area, rather than finances.
“We felt there were people around us who we respected as superintendents and who we felt would do a great job,” Cronbaugh said.
The Iowa Valley School Board selected Jensen from four candidates from surrounding districts being considered the position, according to Cronbaugh.
“We just felt he was a very good match for our district. He had experience with sharing in the past (and) he’s just a man of high integrity and qualifications,” Cronbaugh said.
Jensen, who began his superintendent career in the Tri-County district in 1992, has worked as a two-way shared superintendent for seven of the 15 years of his superintendent career—first sharing between the Tri-County and EV districts, and later the EV and DR-M districts.
Cronbaugh said the Iowa Valley School Board does not believe Jensen’s employment for two other districts, one of which is in the midst of a long-term reorganization, will negatively affect his time available for IV school matters.
“From the interview with him and his description of how he would utilize his time we felt very confident he would be able to provide adequate time for us,” Cronbaugh said.
Superintendent Jensen expressed similar confidence.
“I think managing two helps prepare one for managing three,” he said, adding that he could be superintendent of two districts by the end of the 2009 school year, if DR-M’s reorganization progresses.
Jensen, who said he partly accepted the third superintendent position as a challenge, said he intends to hold office hours in and visit each district more than once a week.
“(I intend to spend) whatever time it takes to get the job done,” Jensen said. “It takes a lot more than an eight hour day to do the job. I will definitely be there enough to justify the 45 percent, 45 percent, (and) 10 percent, but in some cases more hours may be spent in a given day in one district than another.”