16 for ’16 – the top Monticello news stories of the year

Kim Brooks
Express Editor

F&M Bank robbed, suspect remains in custody

     Two days after the armed robbery at F&M Bank in downtown Monticello, suspect Brandon Brown was arrested. The robbery took place on July 29 at approximately 11 a.m. Brown was arrested at his residence at 123 N. Sycamore St. at 3:12 a.m. on July 31.

     He was later charged with 1st degree robbery and armed robbery, both felonies.

     In comments from Monticello Police Chief Britt Smith, Brown was wearing black skull mask and black clothing. He was carrying a pistol and demanded cash from the teller. No injuries were reported. Tips from local citizens helped lead to his arrest.

     Over $4,000 was found following Brown’s arrest. Marked bills were recovered at an auto repair shop in Marion, where Brown apparently took his vehicle for service.

     Brown was taken into custody in the county jail, with an initial cash bond set at $50,000. It was later increased to $100,000.

     In District Court, Brown pleaded not guilty to all charges. He was moved to federal court in Cedar Rapids in mid-October. He continued to plead not guilty. In late November, Brown changed his plea to guilty on the charge of Bank Robbery, Assault with a Deadly Weapon.

     His decision to plead guilty is the result of a plea agreement. The details of the agreement were not disclosed.

     Brown remains in federal custody, awaiting sentencing.

     (Aug. 3 through Nov. 30, 2016)



Boulders Inn & Suites opens in Monticello

     In May, Boulders Inn & Suites opened in Monticello for guests.

     The new hotel is located adjacent to Kirkwood’s Jones Regional Education Center.

     The two-floor hotel has 32 rooms; four of those are suites, including one with a hot tub. There are standard rooms, each with two queen-sized beds; rooms with a single king-sized bed; and handicapped-accessible rooms on the main floor.

     The room rates include free Wi-Fi, a microwave, refrigerator, and Keurig coffeemakers. Hot breakfast is available in the lobby every morning.

     (May 18, 2016)



Downtown pocket park is complete

     The downtown pocket park in Monticello held a block party on Aug. 17 to commemorate the completion of the joint project between the chamber and city.

     The park is a unique feature to a town like Monticello. This was the result of empty space left vacant after a downtown fire on Nov. 28, 2012. The pocket park encompasses roughly 3,200 square feet.

     The park features include free Wi-Fi, a variety of seating options, a water foundation, lighting at night, plantings and flowers, an art wall honoring the major project donors, a brick wall for continuing donations, and a small shelter.

     Those who had a hand in the project include: Doug Herman, Erin Cox, Josh Iben, Katie Farrowe, Mike Bowman, Sandy Moats, Barbara Hoffman, Mary Phelan and Leslie Althoff.

     (Aug. 24, 2016)



U of Colorado engineers study Ely’s Stone Bridge

     Engineers and students from the University of Colorado were in Monticello in September to study and analyze Ely’s Stone Bridge.

     The bridge, which was built by local residents in 1893, has been in disrepair. The engineers were on hand to survey the bridge, and collect data to put together a formal proposal to the county as to what could be done to save Stone Bridge.

     The team from Colorado also met with the Jones County Board of Supervisors, the Preservation Commission, county officials, the Iowa DOT, DNR, state historic preservation, and those interested in saving the historic bridge.

     Their time and effort put toward the bridge was done free of cost to the county.

     (Sept. 14, 2016)



County hears support for saving Stone Bridge

     During the county supervisors’ five-year road construction hearing, with County Engineer Derek Snead and Assistant Engineer Todd Postel, many citizens voiced their fears regarding the future of Ely’s Stone Bridge.

     The proposed program, from Fiscal Years 2018-22, does not include repairs to the historical bridge outside of Monticello. Those present, roughly 50 or more who packed the courtroom, wanted to see something done to the bridge.

     Snead said over the course of the last 10 or more years, Secondary Roads has performed several maintenance and repair projects to Stone Bridge.

     While the individual supervisors did not rule out a future project, they informed the public that no decisions would be made until the county received their report from the University of Colorado, expected in late-December/early-January.

     (Dec. 7 and Dec. 21, 2016)



Animal shelter opens in Monticello

     After 10 years of dreaming, planning and raising money, the Animal Welfare Foundation opened a shelter for dogs and cats in Monticello.

     The 2,175 square-foot facility sits on about 9 acres of land along Business Highway 151 north of town. The total project costs were around $525,000.

     Helping to run the shelter, as director, is Tracy McCarty. She’s been an AWF volunteer for seven years.

     The new shelter offers two cat adoption rooms and a room where the dogs are housed in separate kennels. They can hold approximately 10-13 dogs at a time and up to 15 cats.

     Other features include a lobby area, a meet-and-greet room, an isolation room for animals awaiting a visit from the local veterinarians, storage, and laundry facilities. There is also a large fenced-in area surrounding the shelter where the dogs can run outside and play.

     (Oct. 19, 2016)



Anderson steps down as superintendent

     After nine years as superintendent of Monticello schools, Chris Anderson announced he was stepping down in June when his contract expires. He started in 2007.

     Anderson said he felt it was the right time, and was looking for other challenges and professional opportunities within education.

     Several programs, some state mandated, came into play during Anderson’s time in Monticello: the Transition School, PBIS, MTSS, and the Backpack Program. The district also heavily revamped the ELL (English Language Learners) program.

     “So despite the economics of the state, we’ve been able to move forward,” Anderson said at the time.

     Anderson also praised the Monticello community for being so welcoming and friendly to his family.

     (Jan. 13, 2016)



Jones Co. voters take part in Iowa Caucuses

     Voters in Jones County took part in their respective caucuses on Feb. 1. Iowa is the first state in the nation to hold its caucus events as the country moves forward in voting in a new president.

     At the Democrat site, precincts were instructed to divide based on preference group/candidate. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders gained supporters; Martin O’Malley did not. Attendees also spoke on behalf of their respected candidates. In the end, Jones County voters favored Sanders over Clinton, which flipped in the statewide vote.

     At the Republican site, individuals present were able to stand and speak on behalf of their candidate of choice. Those present were divided by precinct, and then ballots were cast for one of the many Republicans running for president. In Jones County and statewide, Ted Cruz took the top spot, followed by Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson.

     (Feb. 3, 2016)



Jaeger hired as new Monticello superintendent

     Just over two months after the Monticello schools’ superintendent stated his plans to leave, the school board announced the hiring of Brian Jaeger.

     Jaeger and his family will move to Monticello from Arizona. Jaeger is originally from Dubuque. He lived in Monticello in the 1990s while teaching in Olin and Oxford Junction.

     His three children will be attending school in Monticello.

     (March 30, 2016)



Smiths become part of Jellystone Park

     Walnut Acres Campground in Monticello became a franchise member of the nationally recognized Jellystone Park.

     Owners Chip and Kim Smith said they are the only campground in the State of Iowa to be associated with the franchise.

     Being a part of Jellystone means frequent visits from Yogi and Cindy Bear. Aside from the events and attractions already offered at Walnut Acres, they will be adding more staff to handle increased reservations and visits, theme weekends, shuffleboard courts, game show nights, and a giant jumping pillow.

     The campground installed a heated outdoor pool a few years ago. The pond is popular for fishing and boating, as is the adjacent Maquoketa River.

     Monticello Jellystone Park opened in April for its 10th season.

     (April 6, 2016)



JRMC opens new addition

     In May, UnityPoint Health-Jones Regional Medical Center unveiled its new 20,000 square feet expansion and renovation project, attached to the current hospital.

     The new addition housed the specialty clinic, and later urgent care.

     Groundbreaking for the addition took place in September 2014, five years after the new JRMC opened its doors.

     JRMC CEO Eric Briesemeister said to the crowd during the ribbon-cutting ceremony, “It was never a question of whether we had the help, people just asked, ‘How can I make this happen?’”

      JRMC is not only one of the 40 fastest growing hospitals in the country, but it also made the list of the 100 top hospitals in the United States in 2016.

     (May 11, 2016)



Renaissance Center, library celebrate 10 years

     Monticello’s Mary Lovell LeVan Renaissance Center and Ross & Elizabeth Baty Public Library celebrated 10 years in the community.

     Members of the community, city officials (past and present), and library staff and board members (past and present) were at the June celebration. John Baty, the son of Ross and Elizabeth Baty even attended to show his support.

     The community came together over a decade ago, knowing there was a need for a larger library, as well as a home for veterans to meet, and a technology-savvy council hall.

     The groundbreaking took place on May 7, 2005. On June 10, 2006, after years of planning, fundraising, writing grants, securing donations, and construction, the facility opened its doors.

     The total project cost was $2.9 million. The Renaissance Center encompasses 16,000 square feet.

     (June 8, 2016)



Moore, Langdon crowned fair royalty

     Cassidy Moore of Lisbon was crowned 2016 Great Jones County fair Queen during the Five Best Days of Summer. Ailee Langdon of Anamosa was crowned Fair Princess.

     There were seven finalists competing for the honor this year. Rebecca Ahrendsen of Clarence was named Miss Congeniality.

     This was Moore’s second time running for the title. Her family has been involved in 4-H and FFA, showing at the GJCF, for over 50 years.

     Langdon competed for the first time in the queen pageant this year. Her mother, Tris, was a former GJCF Dairy Princess.

     (July 27, 2016)



Armed robbery takes place near CSB

     An armed robbery occurred outside of Citizens State Bank, just three days following the robbery at F&M Bank.

     On Aug. 1, at 9:30 p.m., police responded to the night deposit outside of CSB after it was reported that two female employees from Fareway were attempting to deposit money. A male subject approached the women on foot, with a handgun, and ordered them to give up the moneybag. The suspect fled on foot with an undisclosed amount of money.

     Neither Fareway employee was injured.

     No further details about the robbery have since been offered.

     (Aug. 10, 2016)



Gas leak leads to evacuations

     As construction crews were working on the South Street project, a gas main was hit near S. Main Street. Businesses and residents were evacuated for roughly 10 hours, and traffic was diverted away from the area. Roughly 25 businesses and residents were affected.

     Damage was reported around 10 a.m. on Sept. 15. By 7 p.m., the Monticello Police Department lifted the evacuation order. No injuries or further damage was reported.

     (Sept. 21, 2016)



Republicans pull ahead on Election Day

     Voter turnout in Jones County set a record with 10,223 voters, 74.6 percent. Over 1.5 million Iowans also headed to the polls on Election Day, Nov. 8.

     Iowa and the country came away from the election with a Republican stronghold. Donald Trump was elected president, beating Hillary Clinton.

     Jones County voted in a new supervisor, Lloyd Eaken.

     Rep. Lee Hein won his race. Jones County resident and former county supervisor Andy McKean will also head to Des Moines in January to serve in the House. Sen. Dan Zumbach also won his seat.

     Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Rod Blum won their respective races as well.

     (Nov. 16, 2016)


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