Our choice for the top story of the year was the mass exodus of long-standing community leaders from their jobs in government, education and business.
Our choice for the top story of the year was the mass exodus of long-standing community leaders from their jobs in government, education and business.
December 31, 2013



1) Year in transition

Carroll County saw a collection of strong, veteran leaders depart from a variety

of positions. At the courthouse, treasurer Peggy Weitl, auditor Joan Schettler

and assessor Diane Janning retire from exceptional careers effective today.

Long-time Carroll Area Development Corp. (CADC) executive director Jim Gossett left that position for one with Raccoon Valley Electric Cooperative in Glidden. Steve Schulz, the provost at Des Moines Area Community College and president of the CADC, moved to the presidency of Mason City's North Iowa Area Community College. Schulz also had served as middle school principal and superintendent in the Carroll Community School District.

Just days ago, city officials honored two councilmen with a collective 24 years of service, Mike Eifler and Jeff Scharfenkamp. Neither sought re-election.



2) Mental health fight

The Carroll County Board of Supervisors, led by its chairman Mark Beardmore, waged a fierce fight to keep Carroll County out of the state's developing regional system of mental-health services. Beardmore went so far as to talk with the governor one on one - on a Sunday, no less. The two Republicans talked for nearly 30 minutes about the state's mental-health redesign.

Ultimately, Carroll County did not receive an exemption.

The county expects to spend $1.3 million on mental-health services for the fiscal year starting July 1, meaning this isn't just about service for people with mental issues, it's about taxpayers.

Carroll County has maintained robust reserves for such services, and supervisors don't want to see that money, built over years, used to lift any economically troubled counties in a region Carroll could be forced to join.

In a promising turn to the story, supervisors have worked with their counterparts in Crawford, Calhoun, Sac, Ida and Buena Vista counties on an agreement for a regional network of mental-health services. That plan is now awaiting state approval. Cherokee County has expressed some interest in joining the group.

"Everything has gone real well," said Carroll County Supervisor Gene Meiners. "They have the basic philosophies we have and desires we have."



3) St. Anthony Clinic

St. Anthony Regional Hospital in June opened a $2.3 million renovated-and-expanded clinic, brimming with patient comforts, efficiencies and state-of-the-art medical technology.

"This was an opportunity for us to gain efficiencies in how we provide medical care on our campus," said Ed Smith, president and CEO of St. Anthony.

The St. Anthony Clinic developed in space once occupied by the McFarland Clinic, now located on South Grant Road.

Smith said the design of the 15,000-square-foot St. Anthony Clinic is aimed squarely at improving the patient experience. The St. Anthony Clinic combines specialists in family medicine, internal medicine, OB/GYN and pediatrics in one setting.

St. Anthony officials say the combined specialties will better serve people in the greater Carroll area with comprehensive services right on the St. Anthony campus.



4) Crime in Carroll this past year was eclipsed by three homicides in adjoining counties.

The first, just after New Year's Day, was Kirk Levin's brutal attack on his mother in her rural Early home in Sac County. The then-21-year-old left an eastern Iowa prison on Jan. 1 and two days later waited for his mother, Marilyn Schmitt, to go to sleep in her upstairs bedroom before he surprised her with a knife and cut and stabbed her 88 times. Levin also choked her with a belt and bashed her on the head with a large glass bottle filled with coins.

Levin was arrested after he kidnapped another woman but drove too fast on a slick gravel road and went into a ditch. A jury convicted him in June of first-degree murder, and he is serving a life prison sentence at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison.

The second homicide, in March in Crawford County's Dow City, happened as the result of a bar fight between two residents.

Benton Wingrove, 27, and Adam Lary, 29, had fought outside of the bar Cheers about 1 a.m. after an argument inside the bar. It's unclear what sparked the argument.

A shooting was reported about 40 minutes later several blocks away. Wingrove allegedly fired a handgun more than a dozen times at Lary's car, which veered around a corner, accelerated for several blocks and crashed into a house. One of the bullets struck Lary in the chest and killed him.

Wingrove faced a first-degree murder charge but later pleaded guilty to three felonies in August and was sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.

The victim of a third homicide in September was a beloved Rockwell City police officer who was among a group of law officers in an overnight standoff with Corey Trott, 32, who was wanted for allegedly attacking his mother and stealing $300 from her.

Officer Jamie Buenting approached a window of the house and was shot in the neck by a semiautomatic rifle fired from inside the house. The standoff ended hours later when Trott gave himself up.

He faces a first-degree murder trial in April.

The most significant crimes closer to Carroll included a string of burglaries and vehicle thefts committed in July by two area teenagers - Zach Wailes, 19, of Breda, and Josey Wilson, 19, of Carroll - who narrowly escaped capture by sheriff's deputies three times in less than a day. They were eventually arrested hiding in an upstairs bathroom of a Grand Junction house after a resident there telephoned a tip to law officers.

The pair pleaded guilty to a series of felony charges and were ordered to live in residential facilities for rehabilitation.

The other major criminal scheme was a blackmail attempt against a Sac County farmer by his daughter-in-law.

Elizabeth Aschinger, 24, a co-owner of Anytime Fitness in Carroll, allegedly bought the business with the help of the farmer, had an affair with him, and then enlisted the help of two others to blackmail the farmer for more than $55,000 in May, according to court records. They allegedly threatened to reveal the affair to the farmer's wife.

Sac County investigators used cellphone records to foil the plot when they allegedly traced calls to the farmer from Jason Heffelmeier, 29, of Buckingham, and Andrew Menken, 37, who quit his job as the Carroll County juvenile court officer after he was arrested for the scheme.

Heffelmeier and Aschinger have since pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion and received deferred judgments, in which they will not go to prison or be officially convicted of a felony if they abide the terms of their probations.

Menken has maintained his innocence and faces a trial in January.



5) The Carroll Community School District joined a new age of education this year when it put Google Chromebook laptop computers in the hands of more than 900 Carroll High School and Middle School students. It's commonly referred to as the "1-to-1 computer initiative."

Superintendent Rob Cordes said the move to electronic learning might make textbooks for certain subjects obsolete.

Some of the anticipated benefits of the laptops are:

- Endless online research sources.

- Improved collaboration on projects among students.

- Improved ability for teachers to track students' understanding of lessons so that they can adjust if necessary.

- Students are active in researching information so they're more likely to retain what they find instead of memorizing from books and lectures.

- Chromebooks allow students to research and do assignments at any time, nearly anyplace.

- The opportunity to create sharp presentations demonstrating communication skills and thorough understanding of materials.



6) This past year marked a dramatic change in the lives of some children in the Carroll area. Their struggles and triumphs where highlighted in the pages of the Daily Times Herald.

First there was the Carroll 3-year-old, Wade Lengeling, who survived a nerve cancer with the help of doctors and surgeons in Omaha, Neb.

Medical tests last year revealed the 3-by-5 cm tumor that straddled Wade's left kidney and reached for his spine. The cancer had spread to his femurs, ribs and neck. But chemotherapy, a surgery to remove the weakened turmor, and his community's undying support led to Wade's cancer-free diagnosis this spring.

For two other teens, the struggle to return to normal life will likely be longer.

Mackenzie Gorden, 19, of Lake City, and Hannah Streeter, 16, of rural Lake City, were both paralyzed in separate crashes in the past two years on the same highway north of Glidden.

Streeter crashed in September on her way to school in Glidden. Her sport-utility vehicle dipped slightly onto the gravel shoulder of the roadway, and Streeter apparently steered to swiftly back across the highway. The vehicle overturned and threw Streeter. Her legs didn't move for several weeks as her body recovered from the crash, but this month she walked with the help of a walker out of the Des Moines hospital that treated her.

Gorden's struggle to move has been longer and more grueling. Since her June 2012 crash, when her pickup truck tumbled down a hill when Gorden swerved to miss a deer, she has sought treatment at two top-notch, out-of-state hospitals.

Gorden spent the past two summers in a Denver suburb that hosts one of the country's preeminent spinal injury recovery hospitals. This summer she took part in a cutting-edge program that is designed to teach her legs to walk despite the weakened connection between them and her brain.

In September, Gorden walked in her sister's wedding - in which she was the maid of honor - with the help of her brother and the best man.



7) St. Anthony Clinic

St. Anthony Regional Hospital opened in June a $2.3 million renovated-and-expanded clinic, brimming with patient comforts, efficiencies and state-of-the-art medical technology.

"This was an opportunity for us to gain efficiencies in how we provide medical care on our campus," said Ed Smith, president and CEO of St. Anthony.

The St. Anthony Clinic developed in space once occupied by the McFarland Clinic, now located on South Grant Road.

Smith said the design of the 15,000-square-foot St. Anthony Clinic is aimed squarely at improving the patient experience. The St. Anthony Clinic combines specialists in family medicine, internal medicine, OB/GYN and pediatrics in one setting.

St. Anthony officials say the combined specialties will better serve people in the greater Carroll area with comprehensive services right on the St. Anthony campus.



8) Carroll school projects

Construction on a 10,000-foot expansion to Carroll Middle School is currently underway in the district.

The addition, expected to be completed by the start of the 2014-15 school year, will host the district's fifth-grade students.

The move will ease overcrowding issues at Fairview Elementary. The start of the district's pre-kindergarten program brought an additional 150 students into the school. The ensuing lack of space forced educators to convert the commons area into cubicles and guidance counselors to work out of closets. When the addition is completed, the fifth-grade students will move from Adams Elementary to the middle school, allowing the third-grade students to move out of the Fairview building and into the Adams building.

The middle school addition and a renovation to the building's entrance will cost about $1.3 million. The district bonded a total of $7 million against future state sales tax revenues for a series of project that also include a new softball stadium, a new wrestling and storage area at the high school, an updated high school entrance and a renovated cafeteria at Fairview. A parking lot expansion at Fairview was also completed earlier this year.



9) Syngenta news

Syngenta, a Switzerland-based international agribusiness Goliath, announced in March it would be closing its Coon Rapids seed corn production and supply facility effective today, a move expected to cost 31 people their jobs in Coon Rapids.

The news hit Coon Rapids hard.

But earlier this month, Syngenta announced that Hartung Brothers, Inc. (HBI) has agreed to acquire the Syngenta Coon Rapids seed production-and-supply facility.

HBI is a family-owned and -operated agribusiness and produces seed corn for Syngenta on a contract basis.

HBI has indicated its intent to operate the facility for the benefit of its customers. Syngenta and HBI have a long-standing working relationship in the seed business, and this acquisition provides benefits to the seed industry as a whole, Syngenta said in a news release

"We see this as a positive outcome, as HBI intends to operate this facility as a seed production plant," said Clayton Osburn, head of Corn Production Operations for Syngenta in North America. "This means that Coon Rapids will preserve an important, longtime business. The production facility team there has performed at a high level with valuable knowledge, skills and experience."



10) In Memoriam

In 2013 the Carroll area lost three consequential leaders.

Father James McCormick, the former pastor at Holy Spirit Parish who shepherded the Bishop Greteman Center project to completion, recruited African and Indian sisters to Carroll and led a number of community initiatives, died April 5 at age 76.

James B. Wilson, publisher of The Carroll Daily Times Herald for the past 36 years and a prominent western Iowa economic development advocate involved in a half-century sweep of projects and initiatives in Carroll County, died June 3 at age 69.

Lynn J. Brinker, a Mount Carmel-area native and the former chief executive of American Home Shield who moved a call center from California to Carroll in the 1980s, died Jan. 23 in Santa Rosa, Calif. Brinker was 81.



Honorable mentions



Jefferson casino

In August, Greene County voters passed a gaming referendum with 75 percent "yes" votes - the highest margin of victory for a casino-introduction referendum in the history of Iowa. Votes to renew licenses for longtime casinos around Iowa have been higher.

The Iowa Racing & Gaming commission will set a Jefferson site visit and public hearing before the state panel's final vote, which is expected in the spring.

The planned $40 million Wild Rose casino in Jefferson is expected to employ between 250 and 275 people.

A 70-room companion hotel is being developed by Wisconsin-based Cobblestone Inn & Suites. The 20,000-square-foot casino is expected to have 500 slot machines and 14 table games.

Greene County development officials are actively marketing property for related development south of the casino.



Templeton Rye hits 1 million

Gov. Terry Branstad had about as much fun as possible with Templeton Rye on a Wednesday morning in December - without actually drinking The Good Stuff.

The governor carefully placed labeling on Templeton Rye Spirits' 1-millionth bottle, guided by the practiced hand of company veteran Gin Knobbe during a mid-morning ceremony in southern Carroll County.

Branstad beamed as he assisted company co-founders Scott Bush and Keith Kerkhoff seal the box for shipping Bottle No. 1 million to the state's liquor warehouse in Ankeny for general distribution into the Iowa market.



CarrollFest

The Carroll Area Connect Young Professionals in August spearheaded a major day-long celebration in Graham Park.

CarrollFest brought together a number of smaller independent events under one umbrella, taking advantage of economies of scale and allowing the efforts of different groups - such as the United Way and Graham to Graham and Kids Health and Safety Fair - to feed off each other in activities centered on Graham Park.

With the success of the event, organizers are planning for 2014.



Water shortage

Carroll Mayor Adam Schweers in April signed an emergency water proclamation aimed at preventing shortages in the summer.

The most significant requirement in the restriction regime is a move to alternate-day residential irrigation and home car washing.

The scorching summer forced most residents to abandon irrigation strategies, sparing the city tougher choices on water-use policy.

The Public Works Department is continuing to work on an expansion of Carroll's well field to boost the water supply. A five-year capital-improvement plan ranks the project as a priority.



Manning's downtown revitalization

Main Street Manning and the City of Manning obtained a $500,000 federal community development block grant for a downtown revitalization project in which at least 15 businesses will see their facades renovated to original historical significance.



Willey religious retreat

Sister Marie Hesed says it was fitting that the August groundbreaking for Domus Trinitatis Sanctum of Spirituality, a religious retreat center northwest of Willey, was taking place at its future entrance.

To the delight and cheers of a couple of hundred people in attendance, Sister Hesed and four fellow members of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity donned hard hats and enthusiastically turned the first shovels of dirt for Domus Trinitatis, which will be developed on 31 acres on the east side of Noble Avenue, about 1/4 mile north of 250th Street.

Domus Trinitatis found a home when in March 2012, Leon and Donna Kennebeck donated the 31 acres in the rolling hills about two miles northwest of Willey to Sister Hesed and the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.

Domus Trinitatis will be a place where priests and nuns, as well as the general public can renew their faith. The retreat will be open to all those from Jewish and Christian faiths.