The Ottumwa Courier

Southeast Iowa

March 21, 2013

Locals meet with legislators about transportation

DES MOINES — A group of Oskaloosa community and business leaders traveled to the state capitol Wednesday to meet with lawmakers and talk about the community and transportation issues.

The Mahaska Community Development Group held its Legislative Day Wednesday and brought a total of 67 people to the capitol. Besides the MCDG delegation, there were 24 members of the Mahaska Leadership Institute and 10 members of the Oskaloosa High School String Ensemble.

The delegation met with state lawmakers in the morning and hosted a lunch for legislators.

“Its an opportunity to talk to the full assembly about both our community and transportation projects,” said Beth Danowsky of the MCDG.

The group emphasized the need and importance of Highway 63 improvements and the importance of businesses along the highway corridor to the state economy, Danowsky said.

“Transportation is the lifeline of our community,” delegation member Mark De Jong said.

De Jong also said the delegation wanted to tell lawmakers that “Oskaloosa is open for business.”

“We have a lot of positives in our community,” he added.

The delegates want to attract new businesses to the area and local leaders emphasize the quality of life the community offers, De Jong said.

Transportation improvements are a way to “open the doors for more people to come,” he added.

Improvements to Highway 63 would positively impact companies such as John Deere in Ottumwa as well as major companies in the Oskaloosa-Pella area, De Jong said.

Mahaska County Supervisor Mike Vander Molen was part of the delegation. Vander Molen said he would talk about transportation and county issues with lawmakers such as state Rep. Guy Vander Linden and state Sen. Ken Rozenboom. Vander Molen said he saw former state Sen. Tom Rielly in the capitol Wednesday. Gov. Terry Branstad has nominated Rielly to serve on the state Transportation Commission.

“He’ll be an asset,” Vander Molen said of Rielly.

Wednesday’s trip to the capitol was a first for members of the Mahaska Leadership Institute, Leadership Institute Project Coordinator Dianne Burns said.

Local businesses and school send people who would benefit from the business and leadership training the institute offers, Burns said. The latest institute session began in September 2012 and will end in April. Wednesday, institute members would meet with Vander Linden and various lobbyists at the capitol, Burns said.

The members of the Oskaloosa High School String Ensemble performed during the opening ceremonies of both the Iowa House and Senate. They also performed during the luncheon.

“We’ve performed up here two years ago,” Conductor Bruce McLellan said. “This is the first time to play in the House and Senate chambers.”

The ensemble performed “America the Beautiful” for both legislative chambers. During the luncheon, the group performed everything from Mozart to Coldplay, McLellan said.

“It’s huge to us,” McLellan said of performing at the capitol. “It’s a lifetime memory for the kids.”

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