[ {"id":"4d281cb0-075a-5ac8-a32a-31e5090ce0ef","type":"article","starttime":"1490464800","starttime_iso8601":"2017-03-25T13:00:00-05:00","lastupdated":"1490781937","sections":[{"barb-ickes":"news/local/barb-ickes"}],"application":"editorial","title":"The Big Story: The hidden underbelly of the I-74 bridge","url":"http://qctimes.com/news/local/barb-ickes/article_4d281cb0-075a-5ac8-a32a-31e5090ce0ef.html","permalink":"http://qctimes.com/news/local/barb-ickes/the-big-story-the-hidden-underbelly-of-the-i-/article_4d281cb0-075a-5ac8-a32a-31e5090ce0ef.html","canonical":"http://qctimes.com/news/local/barb-ickes/the-big-story-the-hidden-underbelly-of-the-i-/article_4d281cb0-075a-5ac8-a32a-31e5090ce0ef.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":32,"link":2,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":3},"prologue":"The first time I saw it, I was in a friend's boat, passing under the Interstate 74 bridge. Leaning my head back against the boat seat, I took a long look up at the underbelly of the bridge. That's when I saw the windows. I wondered about them for a long time, figuring the windows must have something to do with the toll-taking operation that once occupied the center of the I-74. So I poked around, finding lots of pictures of the old toll booths but finding little about what appeared to be offices underneath them.","supportsComments":false,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["clyde tobey","iowa department of transportation","dan bailey","mississippi river","john schultz","bridge inspector","bridge worker","bettendorf","iowa","ben petty","dick bane","ruby meyer","jimmy hoffa","quad-city times","davenport","interstate 74","i-74 bridge","bridge","building industry","highway","booth","toll","plaza"],"internalKeywords":["#free"],"customProperties":{},"presentation":"","images":[{"id":"b90ee72a-4214-59d0-b8aa-fedd56febaf1","description":"Ben Petty, a senior equipment operator with the Iowa DOT, stands at the base of the steps leading from the former toll plaza on the Interstate 74 bridge to offices that were built below it. 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It is locked at all times and protected by security cameras.","byline":"John Schultz, QUAD-CITY TIMES","hireswidth":1728,"hiresheight":1198,"hiresurl":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/d/16/d161f4a9-0cdd-524b-a916-482e9d464393/58d45c1c145f3.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1728","height":"1198","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/d/16/d161f4a9-0cdd-524b-a916-482e9d464393/58d45c1c1378b.image.jpg?resize=1728%2C1198"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"69","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/d/16/d161f4a9-0cdd-524b-a916-482e9d464393/58d45c1c1378b.image.jpg?resize=100%2C69"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"208","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/d/16/d161f4a9-0cdd-524b-a916-482e9d464393/58d45c1c1378b.image.jpg?resize=300%2C208"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"710","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/d/16/d161f4a9-0cdd-524b-a916-482e9d464393/58d45c1c1378b.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C710"}}},{"id":"cbd7bfb0-198b-5570-a5df-afd4c6a3e409","description":"The old toll takers' area is located under the I-74 bridge. 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The first time I saw it, I was in a friend's boat, passing under the Interstate 74 bridge.

Leaning my head back against the boat seat, I took a long look up at the underbelly of the bridge. That's when I saw the windows.

I wondered about them for a long time, figuring the windows must have something to do with the toll-taking operation that once occupied the center of the I-74. So I poked around, finding lots of pictures of the old toll booths but finding little about what appeared to be offices underneath them.

In late February, I hit pay dirt.

The yellowed news clip was in an envelope in the Quad-City Times' archives, marked, \"BRIDGES - INTERSTATE 74\" and \"early clips.\"

Sure enough, the story revealed that the offices were built into the piers that support the bridge deck and toll plaza. The old plaza today serves as a parking spot for bridge contractors, the Iowa Department of Transportation and motorists unfortunate enough to have car trouble while crossing.

Directly underneath the mid-span parking lot is a giant space that time forgot. We are talking \u2014 get this \u2014 2,800 square feet of offices, restrooms, mechanical storage, built-in safes, even showers.

You can guess what happened next: I set out to land myself and a photographer a tour of the bridge's underbelly.

The office tour

The former toll plaza in the middle of the I-74 bridge is not a safe place for most of us.

Although the speed limit on the bridge is 50 mph, many motorists regard it as more recommendation than rule. Plus, there are no turn lanes into the old plaza, and vehicles in either direction have very little warning when someone attempts to merge in or out.

When IDOT highway maintenance supervisor Clyde Tobey agreed to guide me and a photographer inside the old toll offices, he did so in the safest way possible.

Tobey drove the lead truck\u00a0\u2014 a light bar flashing on top, and we followed in photographer John Schultz's pickup. Behind us was a large orange DOT truck \u2014 the kind used for plowing snow. Behind that was another large, orange DOT vehicle with a lighted, flashing arrow mounted on back.

All four vehicles drove from downtown Bettendorf, up I-74 to the Kimberly Road exit. We got off the interstate, then back on, using the distance from the bridge to create a neat, safe row of vehicles, heading back to it.

My first surprise came as we turned onto the plaza. It easily could hold a dozen vehicles.

I'd been paying extra-close attention to the plaza as I crossed the bridge for the month prior to our tour, but it's impossible to accurately gauge its size while driving past. More obvious is the little building on the plaza, which resembles a bus stop. The DOT guys unlocked its only door, revealing a normal-looking stairway that, despite our elevation above the Mississippi River, gave me no pause.

When we hit the last step, it was like we had climbed onto a helicopter and found the space of a cargo ship inside.

Back in time

Two things struck me immediately: It was much warmer than I had expected, given the outdoor temperature lingered at freezing. And the traffic noise above us was so muted, it had no effect on our conversations.

The concrete walls are several feet thick, and windows are everywhere.

The Iowa-bound span of I-74 was built first, opening as a local tollway in 1935. The second span, on the downstream side, was dedicated in 1960. Ten years after the second span was added, the tolls had paid off the construction debt for the twin spans, and the toll booths were cleared away. The remaining plaza and downstairs offices are the only things connecting the twins.

The two offices are nearly identical and are joined by a hallway with windows on either side.

As you've probably already guessed, the main attraction was just beyond those once-mysterious windows. Sixty feet above the river, the lateral dam looks like the bony spine of an enormous alligator. I spun on my heel from window to window, room to room \u2014 like a kid deciding which birthday gift to open first.

Tobey and senior equipment operator Ben Petty patiently followed, at the ready with answers to the questions that flowed like the current beneath us.

\"We've never opened that vault,\" Petty said, seeing my eyes fall on a large, rusted door. \"We've talked a lot about it. We can only assume it's empty.\"

Petty said he has followed in the footsteps of Dan Bailey, an IDOT bridge inspector who retired in 2015. During his 35 years as an inspector, Bailey walked every inch of both spans. Besides inspecting it, he took care of it \u2014 from painting piers and oiling joints to shoveling by hand the sand/salt mix that collected against the bridge curbs in the winter.

\"I tried so many angles to get that thing opened up,\" Bailey said of the walk-in vault that once held the toll-takers' deposits. \"I even went to a locksmith for advice.

\"I always said that might be where Jimmy Hoffa ended up.\"

When he noted the ceiling beam in one office extended into the vault, he even tried to make the argument the vault should be opened, so he could inspect that beam. It didn't work.

It likely will be up to the demolition company that is hired to demolish the bridge in a few years to decide what to do with the vault. (Stand by.)

The offices are mostly barren now, except for a single desk, a pile of retired bridge cables and some steel plates. The plaster that framed one large set of windows got wet and began to crumble, so it was taken down, making one office look like it's under construction. It's not, of course.

\"This was actually a very nice place to work, especially when you didn't have 70,000 vehicles a day passing overhead,\" Tobey said. \"You'd have a great view of the eagles in winter.\"

I could almost picture it \u2014 the toll takers coming down after their shift and checking in with the security guard, whose table sat at the entrance to the upstream office. The guard no doubt placed the cash in one of the three wall safes, where it waited to be recounted and placed in the vault.

\"The toll superintendent, Dick Bane, and his secretary, Ruby Meyer, faced west in the larger office,\" Petty said, recounting more of the details he had uncovered in his bridge research.

I pictured Ruby making the coffee and Mr. Bane hanging his hat on a coat rack near his desk. In a black-and-white photo I found in our archives from the 1960 opening of the second span, only one of the 58 people I counted was not wearing a hat. The toll-takers wore them, too; as part of their police-like uniforms.

There were 12 toll-takers, all men, according to a story from the 1960s. It appears from the pipes running up to the ceiling from the office boiler room that the toll booths also were heated. Just below the booths, the offices offered three bathrooms, including one with four stalls and two showers. In the day, there also were tables for lunch breaks and lockers for the men's things, Tobey said.

By November 1971, all signs of the toll booths and related operation were gone. The original set of stairs was sealed shut, and one was left open \u2014 for the maintenance people to come and go.

In the years after the closure, a developer made a pitch to the two Departments of Transportation for a restaurant idea, Bailey said. The company wanted to build a restaurant in the plaza, which would have been accessible only by boat. They wanted to add a transient boat dock to a pier below and an elevator to the plaza, bypassing the bridge altogether.

They must not have known about the offices.

'Scared to death of water'

Bailey was only 19 when he went to work in highway maintenance for IDOT in 1980. Two years later, he was spending most of his time crawling all over the I-74 bridge.

Ever wonder about those plastic owls that are lashed to the bridge towers?

\"I got those at K&K (Hardware),\" the now-57-year-old Davenport man said. \"They were designed so the head would sort of bobble in the wind. But it gets very windy up there, and I was afraid the head would blow off and land on the roadway.\"

So, he bought some fishing line and secured the head to the body. It worked, sort of. While one owl is still doing its job, running off starlings and other bothersome birds, one of the owls vanished.

The decoys did not deter some species, including eagles and hawks. In Bailey's photo album of the bridge are several close-up shots of a red-tailed hawk and its baby in a nest on one of the piers. Asked how he got the shot, Bailey said he became accustomed to working on the bridge while holding on with one hand.

\"I carried most of my tools in a five-gallon bucket,\" he said. \"For a long time, we weren't tied off to anything. If I thought I needed to take a look at something, I'd just shimmy up a vertical beam.

\"They gave us a belt and lanyard, but the lanyard only opened a quarter inch, and there's not much on that bridge that's small enough to tie that onto. My hands at one time were pretty strong.

\"I was there all that time, and no one asked if I could swim. I can't. I'm scared to death of water.\"

Scared or not, Bailey and other local inspectors would jump from one pier to another, rather than going all the way down to the river and climbing each one separately. Eventually, they put down a couple of boards and tied off a cable, so they could hold onto something. But they were busted by a consulting inspector who reported the unapproved walkway.

\"They put it in their report, and we had a catwalk a year later,\" Bailey said.

Inside the old toll offices, we encountered a couple of holes in the floor that looked like uncovered manholes. Inside, steel ladders delivered bridge maintenance workers to two important places below.

Down the ladders 50 feet are two large concrete spaces called \"anchorages.\" The collection of thick cables that support the bridge are drawn tightly into that room and anchored there. In one of the rooms, a well for water for the boiler, among other things, goes another 27 feet under the river.

Bailey showed pictures of the structures, which have rounded archways that reveal the thickness of the concrete. Inside one anchorage, Bailey left his mark.

Using a paint marker, he wrote his name, along with his title and years of service. His name joined a few others, including a bridge worker who autographed a wall in 1935.

Back up in the toll offices, Tobey and Petty pointed out some of the bridge lighting outside the windows. And Petty told how the maintenance crew frequently had to climb onto the outer edges of the bridge to replace light bulbs for the channel lights.

\"Since we went to LED, we haven't been out there,\" Petty said.

As we looked out the windows toward Davenport, Tobey pointed out something we hadn't noticed: Small holes in several glass panels.

\"Those are bullet holes,\" he said. \"They weren't there a month ago.\"

I wondered who would do such a thing and considered the bullets, aimed higher, could have hit passing vehicles. Bailey had said something similarly disturbing: \"It wasn't unusual for us to be walking the superstructure and have people in cars yelling as they passed, trying to scare us into falling.\"

He also recalled climbing to the very top of the bridge towers to replace bulbs in the lights that were mounted to warn approaching airplanes.

\"When the flight patterns changed, we were told to remove the airplane lights,\" he said. \"After that, it seemed like we had planes coming closer than before.\"

His 35-year career on the I-74 bridge is behind him, but Bailey said he thinks the bridge could continue to function for many more years, if properly maintained. But, as Petty pointed out, \"the old girl\" soon will be history, and it's probably time. It never was built for so many vehicles, has no pedestrian access and, most importantly, has been deemed unsafe.

For the man who spent his career making sure the bridge was safe, the span took him from sensory overload to total comfort.

\"The second or third time I was walking the cables to the top, there was a lot of big debris coming down the river from a flood,\" he said. \"At the same time, there were boats moving upriver, and there were cars and trucks passing on the bridge.

\"I had to close my eyes and get my bearings. Later, I didn't even hold onto the cables as I went up.

\"I guess I had pretty good balance after a while. In the day, all you really had was balance.\"

Although he didn't spend much time inside the old toll offices, Bailey always admired them.

\"I always thought that would be a pretty cool place to work,\" he said. \"What a place to spend your days.\"

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A Davenport man was arrested Thursday after police say he assaulted a man, who suffered permanent brain injuries, outside of a Davenport bar in early March.

Anthony Jordan Keckler, 21, was booked into the Scott County Jail at 9:24 a.m. on a single charge of willful injury causing serious injury, a Class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

He waived his right to a preliminary hearing and filed a written plea of not guilty to the charge, according to court records.

Keckler was released from the jail after posting $10,000 through a bail bond company. An arraignment is scheduled for April 20.

According to an arrest affidavit filed by Davenport police:

Around 1 a.m. March 5, officers responded to Rookies Sports Bar, 3818 N. Brady St., for a disturbance and found an unconscious 28-year-old man lying in the parking lot.

Police learned there had been a fight involving many people. During the fight, the man was hit by Keckler in the face with a closed fist, rendering the man unconscious and causing him to fall to the ground.

Keckler then turned his attention to another person, whom he hit in the face with a closed fist. He then returned to the first man, stood over him and punched him at least one time in the face as his head was on the pavement. At least one witness said Keckler kicked the man in the head at least one time.

The man was taken to a local hospital for severe injuries, which included a nasal fracture, a large cranial fracture to the rear of the skull, frontal contusions, severe edema to the frontal temporal area of the brain and a hematoma to the right side of the brain. The man sustained permanent damage to his brain and was placed into an induced coma for more than a week, according to the affidavit.

An arrest warrant was issued Monday for Keckler, according to court records.

Police arrested a second man, Bradley W. Carter, 32, in connection with the fight and charged him with disorderly conduct, a simple misdemeanor. According to an arrest affidavit, Carter urinated on a vehicle in the parking lot of the bar and, when the owner noticed, a verbal argument took place.

Carter then tried to hit another person with his fist but missed and fell to the ground, according to the affidavit.

This set into motion a \u201clarger physical disturbance involving several people,\u201d according to the affidavit.

"}, {"id":"09990493-7ff7-5100-88d2-53125d93a49d","type":"article","starttime":"1490307300","starttime_iso8601":"2017-03-23T17:15:00-05:00","lastupdated":"1490403365","sections":[{"barb-ickes":"news/local/barb-ickes"}],"application":"editorial","title":"Ickes: Parents outraged at handling of Rock Island school assaults","url":"http://qctimes.com/news/local/barb-ickes/article_09990493-7ff7-5100-88d2-53125d93a49d.html","permalink":"http://qctimes.com/news/local/barb-ickes/ickes-parents-outraged-at-handling-of-rock-island-school-assaults/article_09990493-7ff7-5100-88d2-53125d93a49d.html","canonical":"http://qctimes.com/news/local/barb-ickes/ickes-parents-outraged-at-handling-of-rock-island-school-assaults/article_09990493-7ff7-5100-88d2-53125d93a49d.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"prologue":"We don't know why, how or to what extent school officials may have \"dropped the ball,\" because they aren't publicly acknowledging the existence of a ball. Parents of two Washington Junior High School seventh graders are furious. They say both 12-year-olds were assaulted at the Rock Island school\u00a0\u2014 one of them sexually\u00a0\u2014 by the same 13-year-old classmate. The attacks were bad enough, they said, but the missteps by the Washington principal, dean and a Rock Island police detective added insult to injury.","supportsComments":false,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["washington middle school","rock island police","kristin allen","rock island-milan school district","jason foy","holly sparkman","quad-city times","assault","crime","police","criminal law","school","attack","detective","rock island"],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":"","images":[{"id":"b0999944-f123-598a-a264-706ae574ddf4","description":"Washington Junior High School at 3300 18th Ave., Rock Island","byline":"Kevin E. Schmidt, QUAD-CITY TIMES","hireswidth":2000,"hiresheight":1036,"hiresurl":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/b/09/b0999944-f123-598a-a264-706ae574ddf4/58d447f9baa70.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"2000","height":"1036","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/b/09/b0999944-f123-598a-a264-706ae574ddf4/58d447f9b962b.image.jpg?resize=2000%2C1036"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"52","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/b/09/b0999944-f123-598a-a264-706ae574ddf4/58d447f9b962b.image.jpg?resize=100%2C52"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"155","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/b/09/b0999944-f123-598a-a264-706ae574ddf4/58d447f9b962b.image.jpg?resize=300%2C155"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"530","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/b/09/b0999944-f123-598a-a264-706ae574ddf4/58d447f9b962b.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C530"}}}],"revision":9,"commentID":"09990493-7ff7-5100-88d2-53125d93a49d","body":"

We don't know why, how or to what extent school officials may have \"dropped the ball,\" because they aren't publicly acknowledging the existence of a ball.

Parents of two Washington Junior High School seventh graders are furious. They say both 12-year-olds were assaulted at the Rock Island school\u00a0\u2014 one of them sexually\u00a0\u2014 by the same 13-year-old classmate. The attacks were bad enough, they said, but the missteps by the Washington principal, dean and a Rock Island police detective added insult to injury.

In keeping with the Quad-City Times' policy that minor victims of assault are not identified, we also are keeping private the names of their parents.

Parents and a grandparent of one of the girls supplied a timeline of events, beginning the morning of Feb. 9, a Thursday.

One of the girls was in class around 11 a.m. when a boy tried to trip her. He then punched her in the chest so hard that blood vessels were broken and her chest showed swelling five hours later, her mom said. The girl was knocked to the floor, and she was assisted to the nurse's office.

The dean and liaison officer were notified, and the girl later was sent back to class.

At the end of the school day, the girl's mother was notified. She said she was assured the officer would file a police report on Monday and the boy was suspended the next day, Friday.

When the next day came and the boy was still at school, the victim called her mom, wanting to go home. School officials told the girl's mother they left a voicemail with the boy's parents, telling them he was suspended, but they evidently didn't get the message, the girl's mom said.

The following Tuesday, Feb. 14, the same boy was in class with the second 12-year-old. She told her parents the boy crawled under a table and repeatedly grabbed her in the crotch. She tried to kick him away. He grabbed her legs and continued groping her, ultimately getting up and grabbing her breasts.

The next day at lunch, the girl went to Principal Kristin Allen and told her what happened, family members said.

Several hours later, during her last class of the day, the girl again was assaulted by the same boy. This time, he repeatedly snapped her in the face with his gym shirt. When she cried out in pain, because she was hit in the eye, he made fun of her. The teacher evidently saw nothing.

The next day, Thursday, Feb. 16, the girl texted her mother to say she didn't want to go to her 8th-period class, because the boy was there. Her parents dropped what they were doing and headed for the school. A full day had passed since their daughter told the principal she had been sexually assaulted, and her parents had not been notified. They learned of it through a text message from their daughter.

The next morning, Principal Allen called the second girl's mom to say the boy had been expelled, according to the parents.

Meanwhile, the first victim's mother was looking for that police report she was promised. But nothing had been filed. So, she filed her own, and a detective was sent to her house.

By now, trust had become an issue. The girl's mother said she recorded the conversation with the detective and was particularly troubled by one thing he said: \"This is the kind of screwy stuff boys do when they like girls. Right?

\"So I want to make sure that's not the case here.\"

The remark still bothers the girl's mom. Having seen the pictures of her daughter's bruises, it should have been clear what occurred was not \"screwy stuff.\" The girl was punched so hard in the chest, it knocked her to the ground.

Besides, \"Why would you set up a girl to think a boy beating on you means he likes you?\" the mom asked.

In an email to Rock Island's deputy police chief, Jason Foy, I asked about the detective's visit.

Me: \"A 13-year-old boy was accused of punching a 12-year-old girl in the chest so hard, the blow left bruising and broken blood vessels. In a recording of an interview with Det. (Sean) Roman, the detective remarks to the minor victim, 'This is what boys do when they like girls.' Is this an appropriate response/stance for an investigating police officer to make to a minor victim of assault?\"

Foy: \"Our expectations are that our employees act with professionalism, however, not knowing the full context of this conversation, I am unable to comment.\"

When the girl's mother supplied me with her audio recording, I forwarded it to Foy.

He replied, \"... after reviewing the audio recording that the QC Times provided, it is our position that the detective\u2019s interview was not inappropriate or unprofessional.\"

Foy also offered up a reminder that \"... the Juvenile Court Act limits our ability to comment fully on this matter.\"

He also said it never was up to anyone at the school, including the liaison officer, to file a report.

\"Parents have to file a report with the police if they want to press charges against another student,\" he said in an email. \"If there is an extreme emergency or violent situation where there is cause for arrest, then the building will ultimately call 911.\"

Somewhere, communication broke down.

I also reached out to Rock Island-Milan School District spokesperson Holly Sparkman, who supplied an immediate response. She said she would seek out the proper people, but she also issued a warning that every journalist already knows: \"We can't discuss specific outcomes or details of incidents but can hopefully offer some information or clarity about how the district handles very sensitive situations.\"

She then said no one from the school would be giving any interviews.

I replied that I understood and appreciated the privacy issues surrounding minors, but I would like to ask some questions involving school policy and whether policies were followed. For instance: When a student has been the victim of a physical and/or sexual attack, what is the district's policy on notifying parents?

\"... if a student has been a victim of an attack/assault at school and the staff are aware of it immediately, parents are promptly notified,\" Sparkman replied. \"Our staff address it immediately. ... both sets of parents are notified (victim and offender).\"

Me: \"A follow-up question: What is the district's definition of 'promptly notified?' When a student has been sexually assaulted and notifies the principal, at what point would the district expect parents to be notified? Immediately? An hour later? A half day? The next day? Two days later?

Sparkman: \"Yes, immediately.\"

So, according to the parents, at least one school policy was violated.

The parents in these cases said they were told police could not pursue action against the boy involved, because his parents moved him to a school in Chicago after he was expelled. However, the deputy chief categorized the case to me as \"an active juvenile investigation.\"

The mother of the second girl summarized the situation this way: \"The most shocking thing to us is our daughter went to the principal, and she was told, 'I'll take care of it.' But nothing happened. She was in class with the boy who sexually assaulted her that very afternoon.

\"They also told the other girl's family that it would be 'taken care of,' but the boy was in school the next day, and he was there to assault our daughter the next week. Then, they would have let that go, too, if we hadn't pushed it. Were they waiting until the kid raped a girl?

\"Would they notify the parents then?\"

Added the second girl's dad, \"They kept saying, 'We dropped the ball. We're sorry. We screwed up.' But they haven't said how they plan to fix their policy. What they really need to do is just follow the policies they already have.\"

I pressed the district spokeswoman on the matter, specifically pointing out that both girls' parents say officials repeatedly apologized for \"dropping the ball.\"

\"I think there are a few key things you need to know before you write this story, and I just need to find a way to make that clear without violating any privacy,\" Sparkman wrote.

I looked forward to the clarification. Instead, this came: \"The only thing we can say is that the account of events you gave me ... is inconsistent with anything that occurred at Washington. And that is what I have been told.\"

And Sparkman sent another statement Thursday: \"Ultimately, we want you to know that we took these incidents very seriously and held many conversations/meetings with students and their families, and worked on support steps with all students involved.\"

That's a lot of action to be taking over something that didn't occur.

"}, {"id":"aa0c01e2-7535-11e6-a1bf-4ff7e661113f","type":"article","starttime":"1473278400","starttime_iso8601":"2016-09-07T15:00:00-05:00","lastupdated":"1474482892","sections":[{"crime-and-courts":"news/local/crime-and-courts"}],"application":"editorial","title":"Mugshot and Incident Report","url":"http://qctimes.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/article_aa0c01e2-7535-11e6-a1bf-4ff7e661113f.html","permalink":"http://qctimes.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/mugshot-and-incident-report/article_aa0c01e2-7535-11e6-a1bf-4ff7e661113f.html","canonical":"http://qctimes.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/mugshot-and-incident-report/article_aa0c01e2-7535-11e6-a1bf-4ff7e661113f.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":0,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"Michael Liendo","prologue":"The Davenport Incident Map and the Scott County Inmate listings are now in one convenient location. The Incident Map represents all of the incidents in Davenport that officers filed yesterday. More information on the map can be found on its standalone page. \n\niframe {\nborder:none;\n}","supportsComments":false,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["map","incident","davenport","information","mugshot","scott county","report"],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":"long_form","revision":11,"commentID":"aa0c01e2-7535-11e6-a1bf-4ff7e661113f","body":"

The Davenport Incident Map and the Scott County Inmate listings are now in one convenient location. The Incident Map represents all of the incidents in Davenport that officers filed yesterday. More information on the map can be found on its standalone page.

\n\n\n\n\n"}, {"id":"9d8a120b-3353-50c5-8550-6dfac5f4824a","type":"article","starttime":"1490592600","starttime_iso8601":"2017-03-27T00:30:00-05:00","lastupdated":"1490611814","sections":[{"barb-ickes":"news/local/barb-ickes"}],"application":"editorial","title":"Ickes: Rescue dog attacks toddler's face","url":"http://qctimes.com/news/local/barb-ickes/article_9d8a120b-3353-50c5-8550-6dfac5f4824a.html","permalink":"http://qctimes.com/news/local/barb-ickes/ickes-rescue-dog-attacks-toddler-s-face/article_9d8a120b-3353-50c5-8550-6dfac5f4824a.html","canonical":"http://qctimes.com/news/local/barb-ickes/ickes-rescue-dog-attacks-toddler-s-face/article_9d8a120b-3353-50c5-8550-6dfac5f4824a.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"prologue":"The pictures of the little boy are jolting. Lucas Harrison, a beautiful 15-month-old from Clinton, has sustained devastating facial injuries. On March 15, the boy was attacked by a dog that had been adopted just hours earlier from the Clinton County Humane Society, according to the gofundme page set up by family and friends (gofundme.com/lucas-harrison-picu-recovery).","supportsComments":false,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["rescue","toddler","lucas harrison","transportation people","louisiana","davenport","university of iowa childrens' hospital","kevin gyrion","clinton county humane society","clinton police","chief","clinton humane society","the university of iowa","ruff life dog rescue","missouri","clinton county","clinton","diane guy viaene","dog","zoology","medicine","holly","rescuer","facebook"],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":"","images":[{"id":"f92a360f-9ac9-50ba-b6e3-068c3faafee3","description":"Barb Ickes, Quad-City Times","byline":"","hireswidth":2000,"hiresheight":1529,"hiresurl":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/f/92/f92a360f-9ac9-50ba-b6e3-068c3faafee3/52d7281304f1a.hires.jpg","presentation":"mugshot","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"620","height":"473","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/f/92/f92a360f-9ac9-50ba-b6e3-068c3faafee3/52d7281306ce8.image.jpg?resize=620%2C473"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"76","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/f/92/f92a360f-9ac9-50ba-b6e3-068c3faafee3/52d7281358628.preview-100.jpg"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"229","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/f/92/f92a360f-9ac9-50ba-b6e3-068c3faafee3/52d7281358ff3.preview-300.jpg"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"781","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/f/92/f92a360f-9ac9-50ba-b6e3-068c3faafee3/52d7281333b32.preview-1024.jpg"}}}],"revision":8,"commentID":"9d8a120b-3353-50c5-8550-6dfac5f4824a","body":"

The pictures of the little boy are jolting.

Lucas Harrison, a beautiful 15-month-old from Clinton, has sustained devastating facial injuries.

On March 15, the boy was attacked by a dog that had been adopted just hours earlier from the Clinton County Humane Society, according to the gofundme page set up by family and friends (gofundme.com/lucas-harrison-picu-recovery).

As of Sunday night, more than $169,000 had been raised, and the goal was $100,000. Between the heartbreaking photos and the following description, it's easy to see why so many people want to help:

\"While playing with a friend's newly adopted dog, 15 month old Lucas was suddenly attacked, with the dog biting off a large portion of Lucas' face. He was airlifted to the University of Iowa Childrens' Hospital where he had a 6 hour surgery involving at least 3 surgeons. A large part of his gum/bone including permanent teeth were ripped out, most of his nose cartilage was destroyed, and he will have lifelong damage. He will not have any upper front teeth, will need dental reconstruction to hopefully support false teeth when he is an adult, and have more facial surgeries in the future.

\"Lucas will stay sedated for many days and remain in the hospital for weeks to come. Holly and Tyler (his parents) remain at his side while their other two boys stay with family. They are from Clinton, Iowa, and will need all the help they can get with paying for medical bills, transportation costs, food, and everything else that comes up in emergency situations like this one.

\"The extent of damage is beyond belief, and the pain associated with it all is unimaginable! Pray, pray, pray! He has a long road of recovery and many surgeries ahead.\"

Though the dog has been described by some as a boxer-Labrador mix, it appears in photos and has been described by activists as a pit bull mix.

In fact, members of the National Pit Bull Victim Awareness campaign emailed us at the Quad-City Times this past week, urging an investigation. The campaign's website indicates its mission is to bring \"awareness and attention to the injuries and deaths caused by pit bull-type dogs in the United States and Canada.\"

On Friday, Clinton Police Chief Kevin Gyrion confirmed an investigation has been completed, and the owners of the dog have been cited for having a dangerous dog. We can presume this will be challenged, given the Clinton Humane Society permitted the dog to be adopted. And this also is the source of considerable controversy.

The dog that attacked Lucas was a rescue dog. He came to Iowa from Louisiana in late February, according to reports, which is quite typical. Many Iowa dog rescuers travel to southern states to collect death-row dogs. In states like Missouri, spay and neuter habits are woefully lacking.

But, according to one rescuer, they have to be picky about what dogs they spare, because they have to find them homes.

Diane Guy Viaene is vice president of Davenport-based Ruff Life Dog Rescue. She said all dogs are temperament tested, but that's no guarantee aggressive behaviors won't arise.

\"I don't know what tests were done with this dog, but a thorough temperament test means exposing the dog to (human) males and females, dogs, cats and children,\" she said. \"These tests are an indicator, and that's about it.

\"They are a safeguard, but they are not 100 percent.\"

Ruff Life will not accept any dogs with a bite history, she said, acknowledging rescuers can't always be sure whether a dog has previously shown aggression.

\"In the case of owner surrenders, you're dealing with someone who left their dog at a shelter, so who knows?\" she said. \"Not wanting them euthanized, they're not always forthright.

\"The other alternative is strays, and you know nothing about them.\"

While Viaene wanted no part in blaming anyone for what happened to Lucas, she did say, \"We do try to remind people there's a transition period. Usually, our dogs are in foster care first, so we have a good idea of temperament.

\"You can't tell a dog's temperament in a shelter.\"

Little information has been made available, regarding the circumstances of the attack. Whatever happened, the result was devastating.

\"I'm sure those poor parents are wondering about all the what-ifs,\" Viaene said. \"It's every dog rescuer's worst nightmare.

\"I just feel so bad for them \u2014 from shelter workers to transportation people. I'm sure they're just beside themselves. And I'm sure everybody in the case thought they were doing the right thing.

\"I feel terrible for everybody involved. Those parents; I can't imagine.\"

A Facebook page devoted to Lucas's recovery had 8,100-plus followers on Sunday. When the administrator of the page posted that the boy had \"an unexpected setback,\" hundreds of people offered their prayers.

Chief Gyrion said the dog was in quarantine Friday at the Clinton Humane Society. Even so, according to the Facebook page, Lucas has been undergoing rabies shots.

While some will use the attack as more evidence that pit bull breeds are inherently dangerous, others will come to their defense. Some will blame the well-meaning rescuers, and some will point to the shelter as responsible. Some will even blame the parents.

Fortunately, it has become obvious that most people are thinking only of Lucas.

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Search and rescue crews spent most of the day Sunday on the Mississippi River after a driver on the Centennial Bridge reported seeing someone with a satchel or bag jump off the center span Saturday night.

Firefighters said the Big River Rescue and Recovery dive team searched from about 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., when the search was suspended indefinitely because of weather conditions and little available information.

Davenport police and firefighters were dispatched shortly before 6:30 p.m. Saturday to Davenport\u2019s Centennial Park after the jumper was reported.

On Saturday, firefighters recovered a bag, but it contained no identification.

Rescue boats from Davenport and Rock Island searched the river Saturday near the Centennial Bridge until the search was called off at 8:02 p.m. because of darkness.

\u2014\u00a0Times staff

"}, {"id":"28530558-5853-51f7-922e-6786e3433b1a","type":"article","starttime":"1490391000","starttime_iso8601":"2017-03-24T16:30:00-05:00","lastupdated":"1490403367","sections":[{"crime-and-courts":"news/local/crime-and-courts"}],"flags":{"featured":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"Davenport man pleads guilty in shooting case","url":"http://qctimes.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/article_28530558-5853-51f7-922e-6786e3433b1a.html","permalink":"http://qctimes.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/davenport-man-pleads-guilty-in-shooting-case/article_28530558-5853-51f7-922e-6786e3433b1a.html","canonical":"http://qctimes.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/davenport-man-pleads-guilty-in-shooting-case/article_28530558-5853-51f7-922e-6786e3433b1a.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"Tara Becker\ntbecker@qctimes.com","prologue":"A Davenport man faces up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty Friday to shooting a man who he said was breaking into his truck in November. Byron Jacob Blackwell, 26, pleaded guilty to willful injury causing serious injury, a Class C felony. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors will dismiss charges of attempted murder and going armed with intent when he is sentenced May 18.","supportsComments":false,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["davenport","iowa","byron jacob blackwell","dayvon freeman","scott county","shooting","burglary","robbery","jacob blackwell","criminal law","crime","law","round","armed robbery","plea","freeman","police","jail"],"internalKeywords":["#free"],"customProperties":{},"presentation":"","images":[{"id":"7959bb9c-1eb1-5f8e-80b0-f27c2e96eb74","description":"Byron Jacob Blackwell","byline":"","hireswidth":null,"hiresheight":null,"hiresurl":null,"presentation":"mugshot","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"198","height":"248","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/95/7959bb9c-1eb1-5f8e-80b0-f27c2e96eb74/58d593238e385.image.jpg?resize=198%2C248"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"64","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/95/7959bb9c-1eb1-5f8e-80b0-f27c2e96eb74/58d593238e385.image.jpg?crop=194%2C125%2C2%2C65&resize=100%2C64&order=crop%2Cresize"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"193","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/95/7959bb9c-1eb1-5f8e-80b0-f27c2e96eb74/58d593238e385.image.jpg?crop=194%2C125%2C2%2C65"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"660","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/95/7959bb9c-1eb1-5f8e-80b0-f27c2e96eb74/58d593238e385.image.jpg?crop=194%2C125%2C2%2C65"}}}],"revision":8,"commentID":"28530558-5853-51f7-922e-6786e3433b1a","body":"

A Davenport man faces up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty Friday to shooting a man who he said was breaking into his truck in November.

Byron Jacob Blackwell, 26, pleaded guilty to willful injury causing serious injury, a Class C felony. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors will dismiss charges of attempted murder and going armed with intent when he is sentenced May 18.

A prison sentence is mandatory, according to a plea agreement filed Friday.

Blackwell, who has been out of jail on bond, was taken into custody and booked into the Scott County Jail following Friday\u2019s plea hearing. He will remain there until he is sentenced.

The shooting happened about 3:32 a.m. Nov. 1 in the 1300 block of Division Street, according to police.

Police say Blackwell was inside his home when he was made aware of a person possibly breaking into his vehicle, which was parked in the alley. He armed himself with a shotgun and confronted the person, a man, inside his vehicle, according to police.

Blackwell pointed the gun at the man, who then ran from the vehicle. He fired one round at the man as he was running away and fired a round at an unknown vehicle leaving the area, according to police.

Police say the man, identified in court documents as Dayvon Freeman, was shot in the back and required emergency surgery but survived.

Freeman, 23, was charged with third-degree burglary, an aggravated misdemeanor.

According to an arrest affidavit filed Nov. 16, Freeman broke the passenger-side window to gain access into Blackwell's vehicle and tried to remove the in-dash stereo.

Freeman, who was free on bond in that case, was arrested last month after police say he committed three armed robberies, including the robbery of two people whom he forced at gunpoint to withdraw money from an ATM machine using one of the victim's bank card.

He remained in the jail Friday on a $452,000 cash-only bond.

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Two people were injured early Monday when a police squad car and another vehicle collided in Davenport.

The crash at Kimberly Road and Sturdevant Street occurred at 1:34 a.m.

The police officer and driver of the other vehicle suffered non-life threatening injuries, according to the Davenport Police Department.

As department protocol, the Iowa State Patrol is investigating the incident.

"}, {"id":"6f383c75-cb14-55b1-877f-1bc66d7c1478","type":"article","starttime":"1490716800","starttime_iso8601":"2017-03-28T11:00:00-05:00","lastupdated":"1490823650","sections":[{"dining":"entertainment/dining"},{"local":"news/local"}],"application":"editorial","title":"At GruBeez, a comfort food-filled menu that's always changing","url":"http://qctimes.com/entertainment/dining/article_6f383c75-cb14-55b1-877f-1bc66d7c1478.html","permalink":"http://qctimes.com/entertainment/dining/at-grubeez-a-comfort-food-filled-menu-that-s-always/article_6f383c75-cb14-55b1-877f-1bc66d7c1478.html","canonical":"http://qctimes.com/entertainment/dining/at-grubeez-a-comfort-food-filled-menu-that-s-always/article_6f383c75-cb14-55b1-877f-1bc66d7c1478.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":5,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"Amanda Hancock\nahancock@qctimes.com","prologue":"Count the following as specialties at GruBeez: Chicken and waffles, steak with shrimp, pizza, fried fish and burgers topped with macaroni and cheese or hash browns or sandwiched between two doughnuts. The list goes on. \u201cIt\u2019s comfort food \u2014\u00a0the only things that are missing is a TV and a couch,\u201d said Antonio Perkins, 47, who co-owns the small Davenport eatery with his wife, Nina. \u201cWhen you\u2019re messing with GruBeez, you don\u2019t want to be going back to work.\u201d","supportsComments":false,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["nina perkins","food","catering","grubeez","david vandecar","gastronomy","antonio perkins","special","chop","taco"],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":"","images":[{"id":"d240955b-1f4a-5978-a578-f4c542d096f3","description":"Antonio Perkins, who owns GruBeez with his wife, Nina, sprinkles house-made seasoning on a Philly cheese steak sandwich at his restaurant, 226 N. 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Count the following as specialties at GruBeez: Chicken and waffles, steak with shrimp, pizza, fried fish and burgers topped with macaroni and cheese or hash browns or sandwiched between two doughnuts.

The list goes on.

\u201cIt\u2019s comfort food \u2014\u00a0the only things that are missing is a TV and a couch,\u201d said Antonio Perkins, 47, who co-owns the small Davenport eatery with his wife, Nina. \u201cWhen you\u2019re messing with GruBeez, you don\u2019t want to be going back to work.\u201d

Along with a widespread menu, Perkins serves up daily off-the-menu specials, which are announced via Facebook posts accompanied\u00a0by mouth-watering photos. The restaurant\u2019s page is nearing 4,000 likes.

\u201cI have an idea in my head, but it could change by the time I wake up,\u201d he said. \u201cWe\u2019re always trying to do something we haven\u2019t done before or a twist on something we\u2019ve done before. It's always changing. We get calls all the time about something they saw on Facebook and we say, \u2018That was a one-time special from like a year ago.\u2019\u201d

Photos: 10 comfort foods at GruBeez

There\u2019s one element to the menu, however, that never changes: the price. No matter what, Perkins said every meal, often featuring giant portions, at GruBeez is priced under $10.

\u201cThe closest we get is $9.99,\u201d he said. \u201cI do it that way\u00a0because I can.\u201d

After talking with Perkins last week, there\u2019s\u00a0another reason \u2014\u00a0decades in the making \u2014\u00a0he and his wife do it that way.

A longtime dream

Since Perkins was 17, the Quad-City native has always had a job in the restaurant business. He worked in hotel kitchens and places such as Famous Dave\u2019s, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano, TGI Fridays and Olive Garden.

\u201cI always loved cooking; my mom raised me up that way,\u201d Perkins said, adding that his mother never used recipes and went by taste. \u201cWe would cook the simple things like pancakes and eggs and corn bread. It was trial and error.\u201d

Those times spent in the kitchen are bright spots in Perkins\u2019 somewhat rough childhood. When asked what it was like to grow up in a neighborhood near downtown Davenport, he answered this way: \u201cHorrible.\u201d

\u201cIt was the 1970s and it was slummy like most ghettos,\u201d he said. \u201cThankfully, it doesn\u2019t look like it did when I was a kid.\u201d

In his 20s, he started dreaming about owning his own restaurant not tied to the \u201ccorporate way.\u201d

\u201cI always thought about a place where a family could sit down and eat and not break the bank,\u201d he said. \u201cWe couldn\u2019t go out to eat as a family when I was growing up. The best we got was McDonald\u2019s and that was rare.\u201d

It took another two decades \u2014\u00a0and tying the knot\u00a0with a fellow food buff in 1998 \u2014\u00a0for Perkins to make it happen.

When he and his wife saw the \u201cFor Lease\u201d sign outside the property on the corner of Pine and West 3rd streets in Davenport, they went for it. They opened GruBeez, with the motto \u201cThe Buzz of the Town,\u201d in December 2014.

Perkins could finally serve whatever he wanted and cook the way his mother taught him. Plus, the couple committed to using the establishment \u201cto give back to people that don\u2019t have as much,\u201d Nina Perkins, who left her job as a manager at TGI Friday\u2019s in May, said.

\u201cWe were both raised poor, so we know what it\u2019s like,\u201d she said. \u201cWe want to be a place where you can eat as a family and it's affordable.\"\u00a0

Off-the-beaten path

Unless you frequent the West End of Davenport, GruBeez isn\u2019t a spot you\u2019d likely just pass by.

I first heard about it from David Vandecar, 30, of Davenport, who emailed me in December about GruBeez. It\u2019s less than a 10-minute drive from his office at Palmer College of Chiropractic, but Vandecar said the location is \u201ckind of out of the way.\u201d

\u201cIt is an off-the-beaten path location, but don't let the inconspicuous digs fool you,\u201d he told me. \u201cIt\u2019s not an area I go for anything else. It\u2019s worth going there as a destination.\u201d

Still, Vandecar, who like other customers I talked to, said he found out about GruBeez from friends and on Facebook, frequently makes the trip to pick up a meal.

GruBeez primarily does carry-out orders with customers either calling ahead or walking up to the window to order. The restaurant has some outdoor seating, but no seats inside. The\u00a0owners occasionally walk bags of food across the street to customers at Thirsty\u2019s on Third or other nearby bars.

\u201cIt's the variety ... You could go there almost every day and never have the same thing twice,\u201d Vandecar said. \u201cThe only reason I go on Facebook is to check their specials. It\u2019s hard not to go every day.\u201d

Hectic, but worth it

Perkins begins each day shopping for ingredients. He shoots to be at Hy-Vee or Sam\u2019s Club or Save-A-Lot by 7 a.m.

\u201cDuring that journey, you could come across a great deal and then your special changes,\u201d he said. \u201cI\u2019ve found a deal on lamb chops before \u2014\u00a0you can\u2019t find a lamb chop dinner anywhere else for $9.99.\u201d

He\u2019s then cooking until 10 or 11 p.m.

The owners don\u2019t have any employees. They rely on help from relatives to keep up with the fast pace of orders.

\u201cIt wears on you,\u201d Antonio Perkins said. \u201cYou just muddle through when it\u2019s busy and keep going. You try not to take any days off, because it\u2019s just you.\u201d

Two weeks ago, it was extra busy when the couple announced they\u2019d offer tacos for 65 cents each.\u00a0

\u201cIt\u2019s a special we have about three times a year,\u201d Perkins said. \"It's something to give back.\"\u00a0

Droves of customers showed up. Some ordered as many as 30 or 40 tacos at a time.

\u201cWe got blasted,\u201d Perkins said. \u201cThe line was so long and wrapped around the corner.\u201d

Those days are hectic, Nina Perkins said, but worth it.

\u201cIt\u2019s important to give back to the West End and everywhere,\u201d she said, adding that she and her husband gave away backpacks and school supplies around the start of the school year.\u00a0

They dream of opening multiple locations with indoor seating, hiring employees and being able to give back more.\u00a0

But for now, it\u2019s easy for her to say what's special about GruBeez.

\"It's about the people we see and their smiles,\" she said. \"And it's all ours.\"\u00a0

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The Iowa Finance Authority has given notice to United Neighbors that it will require repayment of $235,600 in grant funding immediately.

Associate General Counsel Joanna Wilson sent notice to United Neighbors Executive Director Evelyn Nelson on Wednesday, citing five violations within organization's HOME Program grant, which was used to fund its tenant-based rental assistance program.

The violations include two acts of noncompliance, misspending, failure to provide enforcement and failure to comply with laws.

\"Due to the above recipients acts of default, IFA hereby terminates the grant for cause and demands immediate repayment of $235,600, the full amount of HOME Funds disbursed to recipient, a remedy allowed under Section 11.2 of the grant,\" Wilson wrote.

Nelson issued a statement in response to the letter.

\"Although the issues contained in the letter are complex, we are confident that we have a comprehensive plan to address these issues,\" Nelson said. \"We must continue to look forward to the future that we are actively working to create through compliance, transparency and remaining true to our mission.\"

The latest development comes on the heels of the Finance Authority's March 6 decision to refuse to give any more funds to the nonprofit Davenport community agency from its 2015 grant award, which was for $502,560 over two years.

The amount demanded for repayment reflects the amount disbursed to date, and with the exception of a $41,573 payment in October 2016, all of the previous disbursements came under the watch of former Executive Director Ida Johnson.

In its decision, the Finance Authority cited a review of five tenant files that were recertified by United Neighbors for rental assistance but were found not to be in compliance with federal rules and regulations.

The grant repayment amount also is larger than originally estimated. In an email to Nelson in December, HOME Program analyst Rita Eble estimated that United Neighbors owed more than $175,000 in addition to the $4,395 to administer the grant.

\"The numbers included in the mail of December were just an estimate to convey the seriousness of the problem,\" Chief Programs Officer Carolann Jensen said. \"After further review, IFA determined that the mismanagement of funds was so extensive that a return of the entire grant amount was warranted.\"

The problems with United Neighbor's rental assistance program span a much longer period, however.

Eight days after Nelson took over leadership of the nonprofit from Johnson, she contacted the Finance Authority with questions and concerns about compliance after reviewing tenant files.

A monitoring visit by Eble on Oct. 21 triggered the Finance Authority's decision to suspend payments until tenants were certified and a forensic audit was completed.

Jensen said the Finance Authority also has informed its U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development representative, Shari Garner, as well as the HUD Office of Inspector General and the city of Davenport.

Jensen said the Finance Authority has no plans to review previous rental-assistance grant awards.

\"The 2013 grant was reviewed prior to closing the books on the project, and no deficiencies were found,\" Jensen said. \"Tenant lists of both projects were reviewed for duplication, and none were found.\"

It isn't the first time, however, that a government agency found management issues at United Neighbors.

In submitting its technical assistance report to HUD last year for its Housing Counseling grant, United Neighbors received a letter on May 23, 2016, from Phyllis Ford, director of the Division of Oversight & Accountability, containing a corrective action plan.

The corrective action plans included:

\u2022 Assist in developing accounting policies and procedures in compliance with the Omni Circular requirements for timekeeping, personal activity reporting and cost policies.

\u2022 Train and assist in developing reporting templates that encompass all the requirements specified in their HUD HC grant agreement.

Next steps

Although the Finance Authority's latest move is a major blow, it's one United Neighbors can recover from, agency officials say.

\"We do have insurance for mismanagement,\" Treasurer Frank Berka said. \"That, we assume, (will be covered) but will be fought out in court, I'm sure.\"

This isn't the first issue the organization has had to deal with in recent months. More than half the nonprofit's board departed after suspension of the rental assistance program.

Four former employees with links to the rental-assistance program, Patricia Williams, Tonya Williams, Theresa Fuller and Johnson, filed suit against United Neighbors and Nelson over wage claims and recovery of personal property.

Although insurance will not cover costs to fight the suits, Berka said those remaining at United Neighbors have committed to keeping the organization afloat.

\"Since day one, we never even thought about closing,\" Berka said. \"We focused on the brand and the youth. We cleaned house to show everyone we take the mission Ida started seriously. When things looked bad, some board members left, when in fact, that's when your board steps up and navigates to get to calm waters again.\"

Berka credited Nelson with building the organization back up, especially with the negative publicity surrounding the agency recently.

Nelson said that prior to the latest letter, she was in talks with grantors about keeping the rental assistance program running even if HOME grant dollars are gone.

Now, those talks will need to continue as a new revenue stream will be needed to provide assistance in the community.

\"We are meeting with other organizations to partner with so we can grow our mission,\" Berka said. \"Evelyn has created a new program that helps families become more stable other than helping with rent. Currently, (we're) looking for grantors who would join this new program as we plan to not deal or have any more business relationships with IFA (Iowa Finance Authority).\"

"} ]