The Hot Beat


The second-day story, with your help. Call Gazette reporter Adam Belz at (319) 398-8273 or e-mail him:

Paraplegic accused in domestic is breaking the jail’s bank

Correction: This blog post was badly incorrect until 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, when I changed it.

Kruse’s insurance company covered his medical expenses during his time at University Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, not county taxpayers.

Also, the cost of Kruse’s care provided at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Oakdale is about $900 a day, compared to about $3,000 a day at University Hospitals.

A month after he crashed his car in a high-speed police chase and was paralyzed from the waist down, Shawn Kruse is costing Linn County taxpayers more than $900 per day.

The 32-year-old from Cedar Rapids is accused of hitting his wife with an unknown weapon and using a crowbar and a hack saw to intimidate her before he fled from police May 31. In the ensuing chase, which reached speeds of 110 mph, Kruse’s vehicle hit a guardrail on Highway 30, went airborne and rolled into the ditch.

Kruse was later charged with first-degree kidnapping and going armed with intent for the domestic incident. He also was badly injured, taken to University Hospitals in Iowa City, and lost the use of his legs.

When he was released from the hospital Friday, he was taken to the Iowa Medical and Classification Center, a prison with medical facilities in Oakdale, just north of Iowa City.

“We are not able to give him the 24-hour care he requires,” Sheriff Brian Gardner said, who oversees the Linn County Jail. “We actually worked out a deal with Oakdale. We’re paying them a large sum of money to handle his medical care.”

What President Barack Obama calls one of the most important challenges of our time, how to pay for health care, extends even to people behind bars, and Kruze’s case provides an extreme example.

“Most health insurance companies have a clause written into their policies that says if you are incarcerated, we cancel your coverage,” said Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner.

County taxpayers pay for medical care for inmates. The Sheriff’s Office budgeted $247,000 this year to pay for doctor visits and medication.

The bill for Kruse was over $3,000 per day when he was in the hospital, Gardner said, because of the many, expensive medications he requires. His insurance company covered those costs until he was taken to Oakdale, where the same treatments cost about $900 per day.

“This is definitely going to impact our budget,” Gardner said.


Filed under: Public Safety, , , , , , ,

Escape from Comp Board Island

The job is thankless, unpaid, and requires members to subject themselves to a brutal political firestorm each year. The real news may be that anyone wants to do it.

Two members of the Linn County Compensation Board, which decides how much elected Linn County officials are paid, are giving up their posts. They are Mary Quass, a business owner who lives in Mount Vernon, and Allen Merta, vice president for economic development at Priority One.

The two — both of them were appointed by the supervisors — have asked not to be reappointed to the board, Brent Oleson said at Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. Their terms ended June 30.

Don Gray, the mayor of Central City who Oleson defeated in the District 4 supervisor race, has agreed to fill one of the empty spots, Oleson said. Amy Reasoner’s name came up as a possibility for the other opening.

Merta was chairman of the board. He and Quass both voted in February to freeze supervisor pay at $87,622, and both voted in 2008 to raise supervisor pay by 6 percent, a move that set off a controversy over supervisor pay that lasted more than a year.

At this year’s meeting, Quass attempted to strike a compromise between the Larry Wear/Dave O’Brien position (major pay cut) and the Ray Stefani/Phil Klinger position (no pay cut). Quass moved to cut supervisor salaries by 10 percent, to roughly $79,000 per year. That motion failed 4-2. Quass and Cedar Rapids attorney Steve Jackson Sr., who was appointed by County Attorney Harold Denton, were the only ones in favor. Quass eventually voted for the pay freeze.

The other two Comp Board members whose terms are up are Klinger, a treasurer appointment, and Wear, an auditor appointment. Klinger will be reappointed. Miller doesn’t know yet if Wear wants to stay on board.

Filed under: County Government, , , , , , , , ,

Flood insurance to cost a bundle for courthouse, jail

Flood insurance premiums for seven county buildings that were flooded — and yes, FEMA requires flood insurance for those if it’s goin to shell out millions of dollars to repair them — will be about $630,000 per year, Linn County Risk Manager Steve Estenson said this morning.

That’s more than 1 percent of the county’s annual general fund budget.

“Our two highest costs are of course the jail and courthouse,” Supervisor Lu Barron said of the two buildings on May’s Island, both of which sustained significant flood damage.

The premiums for federal flood insurance will be $50,000 per year, but the county has to insure its buildings for another $30 million in damage, and the premiums for that insurance are $580,000 per year, Estenson said.

Millheiser Smith, the company that came up with the quotes for the county, had to piece together that $30 million in coverage using six different insurers.

“They had challenges in finding insurance companies that would provide this,” Estenson said.

Estenson said there’s hope the county may not have to buy so much insurance, if the state insurance commissioner allows the county a waiver. Rick Smith gets a little deeper into this on his blog.

As it stands now, insurance has to be in place when the county reoccupies the flood-damaged part of a building.

Filed under: County Government, , , , ,

Outdoor burners controversy getting hotter

The Linn County Board of Health will discuss outdoor wood-fired boilers on Thursday. The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. at Linn County Public Health, 501 13th St. NW. The agenda predicts they’ll get to the boilers by about 6:15 p.m.

Public Health wants to ban all but EPA-certified wood-fired boilers in the rural parts of the county. The Board of Supervisors makes the final decision. It’ll likely come before them in April.

The supervisors have been hearing from people who own the units, and people who hate the units, a lot lately.

The Central City Council has been looking at an ordinance that would completely ban the outdoor wood burners in city limits. They last discussed it March 11, and decided they’d grandfather in existing units, but didn’t finalize an ordinance.

“At this point, we may just wait and see what the county does,” said LaNeil McFadden, the city clerk.

Steve Dummermuth, of rural Linn County, said in an e-mail:

Recently I was informed that I would no longer be able to burn leaves because I live within a mile of the City boundary. The reason had to do with people’s respiratory and heart problems. I still feel that I was poorly represented – I didn’t know anything about it until the card showed up in the mail. Now it seems that Linn County Public Health is going on steroids. Who is this board anyway? There’s no kind way to say it, but frankly I am tired of protecting the weak and the sick to the point where it significantly hinders the majority. I’m sure the next step will be the banning of all farming. Think of the particulates stirred up when tractors hit the fields.

Filed under: County Government, , ,

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