By DUANE NOLLEN
The Oskaloosa Herald
Test scores, a new fire station and mental health services were the topics of the first Eggs & Issues legislative forum of 2014 held Saturday morning.
The first Eggs & Issues of the year delved into city, county and education topics. Oskaloosa Mayor Dave Krutzfeldt, County Supervisor Chairman Mike Vander Molen and Oskaloosa Superintendent Russ Reiter were on hand to field questions from the audience.
Education was the first topic of the day.
Reiter fielded a question about test scores and why Iowa ranks the way it does against other states.
Reiter said there is not one specific reason for test scores. States have their own specific measures of academic progress and assessments do change, he said.
Reiter said “funding” is an issue for test scores.
“Iowa is a little behind the times” compared to other states, he said.
As an example, Massachusetts, which is No. 1 in test scores, made a concerted effort to fund education over many years, Reiter said.
“We're about 15 years behind other states,” Reiter said.
Iowa had been No. 1 for so many years that the state got complacent. The test scores for fourth-, eighth- and 11th-graders are stable, he said.
“They're basically flat,” Reiter said.
Later in the meeting, Reiter said he would like to see consistency in funding from the state in regards to allowable growth. State financial aid is based on student enrollment, and Reiter is pleased that there are 35 more students enrolled in Oskaloosa schools.
Krutzfeldt spoke about the new fire station.
The fire station project is estimated to be roughly $3 million; its genesis is the result of the recent demolition of the Water Department building, which housed a lot of Fire Department equipment.
The project will need a vote of the people, likely sometime in the next three to four months, Krutzfeldt said.
There were a couple of sites for consideration for the new fire station — adjoining City Hall downtown or an off-site location.
City Council member Tom Walling said the off-site location was too costly, but he was not willing to give up on an off-site location.
“I'd still like to look at an off-site location,” he said. “We need a good, functional fire station, not the Taj Mahal.”
Krutzfeldt said the proposed off-site location would cost $1 million more than the one downtown. The mayor also said an all-steel structure would last for 50 years, but the one proposed for adjoining City Hall would last for 100 years.
Krutzfeldt said that in his personal opinion, the downtown location makes the most sense in the long term.
Vander Molen fielded a question about mental health services being shared between Mahaska and Marion counties.
Originally, Mahaska and Marion counties were to form a mental health region with Jasper and Poweshiek counties. However, Poweshiek and Jasper decided to join another region. Vander Molen said having a two-county region gives “more flexibility” for services.
There would be equal footing between the counties on the mental health regional board and services could be better tailored for clients, he said.
The next Eggs & Issues will be held on Jan. 25 and will deal with state legislative matters.
Herald Editor Duane Nollen can be reached by email at email@example.com