Monday, March 30, 2009

Funds sought for Willoway

Sutherland's dream is coming true.

Albeit, one step at a time.

After Cornerstone Senior Communities of Remsen, a nonprofit corporation that owns and operates residential and health-care facilities for seniors, finalized its purchase of the Willoway Complex in November of 2008, the board of directors began considering plans to improve and expand services in the building that will benefit the entire Sutherland area.

Although Cornerstone still is seeking funding to remodel the second floor of the Willoway Complex into more apartments, the fitness center currently situated on the second floor will need to be moved. So, the community is remaining one step ahead by making sure the second floor is clear before funding comes in.

The fitness center is not moving too far, though.

It soon will make its home on the lower level of the complex, where Wurth Chiropractic once held its offices.

Securing funds
Just as Cornerstone needs to secure funding for the remodel of the second floor of the Willoway Complex, the same needed to be done for the transfer and addition of new equipment for the fitness center. So, Cornerstone applied for and received a Revolving Loan Fund equipment loan through the O'Brien County Economic Development Corporation.

Through the years, the RLF loans, which are designed for new businesses or existing businesses in the county wishing to expand, have been funded by a $50,000-a-year contribution by the O'Brien County Board of Supervisors.

"Typically, the original loan requests were for $10,000-$15,000, but it's gotten to a point where they are larger now, around $100,000," said Kiana Johnson, director of the O'Brien County Economic Development Corporation. "What we'll do, is finance one-third of the total project cost, not to exceed $100,000."

The RLF fund was exhausted in 2005 and the OCEDC no longer had money to loan out to businesses, so the corporation applied for a $500,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and was awarded the funds in 2006.

"This loan with Cornerstone exhausts the remaining $500,000 we had to lend out, so in the meantime, the original RLF fund the board of supervisors have funded yearly has now revolved back into an excess of $200,000, which sounds like quite a bit of money, but when you look at $200,000, that's only two businesses that we can help at the moment," Johnson said. "Every community in O'Brien County has benefited from those RLF funds except for Calumet, as we have not had a business from Calumet apply."

For the community of Sutherland alone, the OCEDC has assisted with four new business startups: JTV Manufacturing Inc., Bogenrief Studios, Hale's Guitars and 2 Brothers Mechanical.

"This program has been very successful," said Mark Cody, Cornerstone board chairman and Sutherland Economic Development director. "It's helped out a lot. Even the money the county supervisors began with has all been lent out, and now is being returned back in."

And, with the current national economic crisis, Johnson has been working to stress the importance of the RLF program to the board of supervisors.

"I know every department has looked at budget cuts, and we really don't want to cut capital investments, especially in a time when the economy is bad," she said. "The return on our dollar has been a great impact for the county as a whole, ad we really appreciate that the supervisors have funded that and continue funding that because it is really important."

Getting ready
In preparation of its April opening, Willoway Complex manager Jim Streufert has been revamping the new lower level location, which is situated next to the indoor swimming pool.

Five New Live Fitness cardiovascular machines and six street machines will grace the new fitness center.

"The only things from the original fitness center that are going to come down here are the dumb bells and bar bells," Cody said.

Baum Harmon Mercy Hospital is helping Streufert set up the fitness center, so the machines are each situated properly, said Cody.

"We haven't quite decided what we're doing with the old equipment upstairs," Cody said. "Some of it could possibly be for sale, because mainly just the free weights are coming downstairs."

The rubber floor from the current fitness center also will make the trek downstairs, Streufert said.

The facility is slated to open during the first part of April if the new equipment arrives at the complex.

"I think it's feasible if the equipment comes timely," Streufert said. "If we don't open during the first part of April, we'll be open by the middle for sure."

This article appeared in the March 28, 2009 edition of The South O'Brien Sun.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Getting a taste of PCP

PRIMGHAR—Roger Brikert does it all.

Acting, directing, set building — you name it, he does it.

The 59-year-old rural mail carrier and rural Primghar farmer has been actively involved with Primghar Community Playhouse for the last 12 years, although he first became involved with the community theatre in 1988.

"I took a few years off in there and then got back in it," he said.

Brinkert got his first taste of PCP, which is closing in on its 30th anniversary, working back stage during "Something's Afoot," a murder mystery musical that spoofs detective stories, particularly the works of Agatha Christie.

While not front and center on stage, Brinkert's role was a little less nonchalant, but noticeable nonetheless.

"I worked for fun back stage," he said.

And, when the special effect puffs of smoke went off before each victim was killed off, Brinkert had the pleasure of hiding below the stage and throwing darts at one lone unsuspecting pawn.

He was hooked.

Since then, Brinkert still has continued to do his fair share of work behind the scenes, but he also has taken up acting and made his directing debut in PCP's 2003 rendition of "Murder on the Rerun," a murder mystery written by Fred Carmichael.

Although he got his start back stage, and has constructed the sets for each of PCP's productions over the last eight years, Brinkert's favorite aspect of the theatre is being in front of the spotlights.

"You feel important on stage," he said. "You get to be somebody else."

Brinkert, donning a tweed hat and a smoking pipe, will take on the role of Peter Flimsey, a pseudonym for the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, in PCP's latest production, "The Butler Did It," which will be presented April 24-26.

Of course, Brinkert has spent an added two to three hours each week assisting with the set building, in addition to the three, three-hour nights each week for rehearsal, but he thinks the extra effort is worth it for those audience members who choose to see the production in its dinner theatre format or by way of matinee.

Brian Kleve of Sanborn is portraying Father White as well as directing the play, which follows a well-known society hostess as she throws a murder mystery night at her isolated and fogbound estate, called Ravenswood Manor, located on Turkey Island, off the coast of San Francisco.

Brinkert was not smitten by the play at first, but writer Tim Kelly delivered and ended up winning him over.

"The more we rehearsed, I came to realize that it is hilarious," he said.

But those in attendance will have to pay close attention as Brinkert said the production is fast-paced.

The relatively small cast of 10 has been rehearsing since early January, but Brinkert said the production could not go on without the assistance of the backstage crew.

"A lot of times, people don't even know they're back there," he said.

Brinkert said not many backstage helpers were needed this time as "The Butler Did It" is not a grand production and does not require added special effects. But those who are helping deserve just as grandiose an applause as the actors.

"Four to five people will start doing our makeup a week before the production, and that takes about an hour each night," Brinkert said. "And the board has been busy taking care of all the publicity, the dinner and setting up tables. People just don't think about that aspect, but the production couldn't go on without them."

This article appeared in the March 28, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

All-state selection: Icing on her career

HULL—Ask Abby Bierly what her favorite flavor of frosting is.

Chances are, she won't reply with a typical "chocolate" or "vanilla" answer.

Rather, the 18-year-old senior at Boyden-Hull High School in Hull prefers frosting of the speech variety.

And, Bierly recently received the frosting of choice she has been working so hard to achieve on top of her already distinguished cake.

Bierly first earned all-state distinction her freshman year. Although she did not earn the highest speech honor her sophomore year, Bierly was back performing at the all-sate festival her junior year and will cap off her high school speech career with one more all-state performance.

"Me getting to go to all-state for the third year, which happens to be my senior year, is kind of like the icing on the cake for me," Bierly said.

Even though she has been selected three times, Bierly knows receiving the honor of performing at the 2009 Iowa High School Speech Association All-State Individual Events Speech Festival is no easy task.

Bierly chose the piece she would be acting in January, but she had known long before this year that she wanted to do an interpretation of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper."

"When I went to all-state my freshman year, I saw someone perform it," she said. "She performed it in a different interpretation than what I do. I mean, I still like it. She was brilliant, but I thought it could be interpreted a whole new way."

The story follows a woman from her point of view, as she descends into madness after being locked in a room covered with yellow wallpaper.

"It's kind of implied that she's already insane, it just manifests itself, and she begins seeing someone in the wallpaper," Bierly said. "By the end of the piece, she ends up becoming the woman she's afraid of in the wallpaper."

Rather than taking the previous interpretation Bierly saw, which focused on the woman being oppressed by her husband, she made her own.

"In mine, she's going insane, and her poor husband had to lock her inside that room," Bierly said.

With the piece originally being 6,000 words, Bierly and her father, the Rev. Steve Bierly, the pastor at American Reformed Church in Hull and speech coach at Boyden-Hull High School, faced a challenging task in cutting the piece down to eight minutes — the maximum time a lotted for acting performances.

They succeeded though, and Bierly began rehearsing her piece in January.

After two to three 30-minute practices at school each week and countless hours of perfecting her piece at home, Bierly first impressed her judge at the district competition on Feb. 28 in Sheldon. After advancing to the state competition on March 14 in Fort Dodge, Bierly impressed a panel of judges so much that they consequently named her to the list of all-state performers.

While Bierly will undoubtedly be nervous before performing her selection at all-state on Monday, she has a special routine in mind to calm her down beforehand.

"I'll go over my piece over and over again and just get into character," she said. "If something is bothering me, I will think how my character would react to that. This year, I stood facing the wall and went over the piece and tried to envision the room where the woman was kept."

Bierly's routine did not come without practice, though.

"It took me a long time to figure out how not to be nervous. My mom is a singer/songwriter and my dad is an actor, so they got my brother and me up on stage, being comfortable with that," she said.  "I think it's just taking a deep breath, getting in the zone of it, blocking everyone else out and just thinking about the piece."

Bierly has plenty more years to perfect her routine.

After graduating from Boyden-Hull this spring, she plans to go to Northwestern College in Orange City, where she will major in theatre and minor in Spanish, before hopefully embarking on an acting career.

This article appeared in the March 28, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

Johannsen must give up badge

SUTHERLAND—David Andrew Johannsen, the former Sutherland police chief accused of stealing hogs on six occasions over a two-year period, avoided jail time but will have to pay more than $6,300 in fines and restitution as well as surrender his certification as a law enforcement officer.

Johannsen, 45, was sentenced Monday morning in O'Brien County District Court in Primghar.

He had been arrested on July 27, 2008, on charges of second-degree theft, conspiracy and third-degree theft. The second-degree theft and conspiracy charges are both felonies.

In a written arraignment on Oct. 3, Johannsen pleaded not guilty to all three charges. After a November continuation, he was supposed to stand trial for the crimes on Feb. 3.

However, Johannsen gave a written guilty plea to the O'Brien County Attorney's Office on Dec. 29 for one count of third-degree theft as a plea bargain.

On Monday, District Judge Patrick Carr ordered Johannsen to pay $5,215.55 in restitution to Liberty Products Inc. of Paullina for the hogs stolen from the business. Johannsen also was ordered to pay a $625 fine, $325 in surcharges and $135 in court costs.

If the restitution and fees are paid by March 1, 2010, a 60-day jail sentence will be waived.

As part of the sentencing, Johannsen also is required to surrender his certification as a peace officer in the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy within 30 days.

The charge of conspiracy was dismissed, as was a charge of third-degree theft filed against Johannsen for allegedly defrauding Northwest Rural Electric Cooperative in Orange City $311.84 for an 85-gallon water heater in August 2007.

Johannsen's appeal bond is fixed at $2,000.

O'Brien County attorney Bruce Green was satisfied with Johannsen's sentencing.

"Our primary objective from a law enforcement standpoint was to make sure he wasn't going to be able to serve as a peace officer in the state of Iowa," Green said.

The Sutherland City Council had accepted a letter of resignation as police chief from Johannsen at its March 2 meeting.

Prior to his resignation as Sutherland police chief, Johannsen had been on unpaid leave of absence since being arrested following a 2007 investigation of stolen hogs and other property by the O'Brien County Sheriff's Department.

According to the charges, Johannsen and two co-workers at Liberty Products used a Liberty Products trailer and Johannsen's pickup to transport a total of 33 hogs to Lynch Livestock in Primghar on six different occasions from July 4, 2004, through July 20, 2006.

Lynch Livestock wrote Johannsen six checks totaling $7,015.55 for the hogs. The money then was cashed by Johannsen and split among the three.

After Johannsen's arrest and subsequent unpaid leave of absence from the Sutherland police force, Nick Mazurek has served as the lone police officer in the city. A former Marcus police officer has been covering two eight-hour shifts each week and a Cherokee County reserve has provided some law enforcement on occasion.

Sutherland officials have looked into the possibility of sharing a part-time police officer with Paullina, but as the city is in need of another full-time officer, the Sutherland City Council decided the community could not afford to have two full-time officers plus a part-time officer.

At the March 2 meeting, the council members decided to seek another full-time officer in earnest and has advertised for the position. The application deadline was Friday, March 27, and city officials hope to have the position filled soon.

The city is looking for an officer who is Iowa Law Enforcement Academy certified but would hire someone who would be willing to get certified within the first year.

This article appeared in the March 28, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.


For those of you who do not know me, my name is Lindsay Hoeppner. I am currently a staff writer for Iowa Information Publications, a Sheldon, Iowa based publishing house that produces The N'West Iowa REVIEW, The Sheldon Mail-Sun, DISCOVER! Magazine and Okoboji Magazine. I am also the managing editor of Iowa Information's latest publication, The South O'Brien Sun, a newspaper that covers Sutherland and the surrounding area. 

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