MASON CITY | A Mason City man is accused of breaking into the Holcim Cement plant three times this week and stealing copper wiring.
Justin Laroy Dutcher, 40, was arrested by Mason City police about 4:30 a.m. Thursday morning as he was leaving the plant, 1840 N. Federal Ave.
“He had in his possession electrical wire and components that were identified as belonging to the business,” Mason City Police Lt. Rich Jensen said in a statement.
Police said in a news release Dutcher entered the property around 4 a.m. Thursday, where he is accused of cutting and removing copper electrical wiring, switches and bus panels.
He was found in possession of those materials, as well as pliers, screwdrivers, wire cutters and an inductive amplifier, which is used to detect voltage in wires, police said.
“The property was identified by Holcim employees and shoe prints in the snow matched that of the defendant,” court documents said.
Dutcher was initially charged with misdemeanor criminal trespassing and possession of burglary tools. Two additional charges of felony third-degree burglary were filed in connection with two other burglaries at Holcim Sunday and Monday.
According to court documents, Dutcher is accused of cutting and removing approximately $2,000 worth of copper wiring, electric panel bus bars and other electrical materials.
“Officers collected evidence at the scene identifying the defendant,” the criminal complaint said.
Dutcher is being held in the Cerro Gordo County Jail on a $12,000 bond. No court date has been set.
The Holcim plant stopped production in 2009. Company officials say it is not closed but remains "mothballed," leaving open the possibility that it might reopen in the future.
MASON CITY | For $2, the city will help you get where you need to go on weeknights.
That's the purpose of the "Midnight Special," an after-hours bus service which began three years ago and is used by an average of 350 passengers a month.
"We created it to help people, and it's working," said Dylan Schulte, the city's transit manager.
It provides rides from 6 p.m. to midnight with the goal of giving transportation to second and third-shift workers, students with night classes or other job training opportunities, people needing medical care or just wanting to go shopping.
"Our figures show that 85 percent of our passengers use the service for employment, 10 percent use it for medical needs and the remaining 5 percent for miscellaneous," said Schulte. "So it's doing what we hoped it would do."
It's also a boon to the local economy," said Chad Schreck, president of the North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corp.
"One of the significant barriers employers tell us they experience when hiring potential workers is transportation to and from work," said Schreck.
"It could be due to a lack of vehicle or driver's license or other factors. Bus service is essential in filling that need and we are really fortunate to add nighttime service as a direct response to that need.
"It's a great service because night shifts are always among the most difficult to fill," he said.
The cost is $2 per ride and is done by appointment.
When the program started, it operated on an 80/20 match with the state picking up the majority of the cost. Now the match is 50/50 and Schulte knows someday it will have to be self-sustaining.
"We have sources for the money to operate it. I really don't like to talk about that aspect of it. The important thing is that we're serving a need," he said.
The transit system is in the midst of many changes. Five new buses have been ordered to replace some of the older buses. Schulte expects delivery of all of them this year.
Also, the transit system has just started a GPS system in which riders can track the location of buses on the city's website, www.masoncity.net to see the exact location of the bus they are intending to take.
Schulte said this service will prevent people from having to stand outside for long periods of time waiting for their bus.
MASON CITY | The Mason City Council's goal-setting session Tuesday night was loaded with ideas but short on specific goals.
The session, led by Mark Jackson, city administrator in Story City, zeroed in on accomplishments in the past year and issues, concerns and opportunities for the next year.
One of the successes mentioned is the revitalization loan program in which businesses in the Federal Avenue corridor and in the downtown area can receive forgivable loans to fix up their properties.
Councilman Paul Adams cited the program as a success but said it should be expanded to include businesses beyond Federal Avenue and the downtown area.
Other successes mentioned include progress on bike/pedestrian trail projects, quiet zones and the River City Renaissance project.
Areas of concerns ranged from lack of development in the Southport area, lack of consistency in code enforcement, lack of affordable housing and the need for more skilled workers in the workforce.
Councilmen Josh Masson and Will Symonds both mentioned there is still a problem with the public trust in government.
Others said the voter approval of two public issues on the Nov. 7 ballot may have signaled a turn for the better regarding the trust issue.
Councilman John Lee said a housing gap exists for people who are not wealthy enough to afford upscale dwellings and who are not poor enough to live in government-assisted housing. "The gap between those two — that's what I mean by lack of affordable housing," he said.
Councilman John Jaszewski said government can't solve many of the problems but can be a partner working with other agencies to come up with solutions.
Jackson, who is also helping the city with its search for a city administrator, said the wide range of ideas expressed will be of interest to city administrator candidates.
"A new city administrator is going to ask, 'what do you want me to do'? I'm already getting that question," he said. "The ideas here tonight help answer that."