January started with the discussion of sandblasting and cleaning up the water tower in Kiwanis Park. I’m not sure about you, but I had forgotten how bad it looked!

I think we can say cleaning it up was worth the cost!

Riverside Park also saw an update to their playground equipment. After fundraising, planning and a community effort to build the playground, area children can now enjoy themselves on brand new equipment.

It’s always interesting to look back over the year to see what had happened. It’s easy to forget all of the challenges as well as the high points.

January started off with the Sheriff Fry Memorial being unveiled at the Benton County Courthouse. Fry was just about to face election for his second term in office in November of 1938 when he was killed in the line of duty. A Facebook page has been set up in his honor.

In January another accident involving Congolese immigrants happened on Highway 30. The stretch of interstate has taken the lives of at least 6 immigrants in the past several years. The accidents have been described as “epic” to those involved in the job of responding to the accidents. Through no fault of their own, many of the drivers have never had experience driving on interstates, or in inclement weather that Iowa provides.

One of the victims, a mother of 6 came to this country seeking a way to provide for her family at home.

Also in this month, was the unforgettable amount of animals that were seized from a Vinton home.

Many of the animals peeked out of cages or boxes as rescuers worked in Vinton.

At the initial count, there were 1,000 animals in the Vinton residence of the Galkowski family. Several hundred were moved to shelters in Independence and Cedar Rapids.

In a press release at the time, the police department reported, “The animals included rabbits, rats, mice, hedgehogs, chinchillas, turtles, fish, birds, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, and a ball python. A preliminary estimate suggests at least 500 and possibly up to 1000 animals present at the residence. Several dead animals were found scattered throughout the residence in various states of decomposition or stored in a freezer.”

The couple was later charged with child endangerment and animal neglect. Both Marshall and Barbara Galkowski pled guilty to three counts of child endangerment without injury, an aggravated misdemeanor, and four counts of animal neglect, a simple misdemeanor.

They were also fined $65 for each of the animal neglect charges and placed on two years of probation and fined a total of $625 each for the child endangerment charges.

As a condition of their deferred judgment, they must participate in parent-child and mental health evaluations and allow state child care workers or law officers in their home without notice to check for compliance, records show.

The court also set rules on what pets they could have: a dog, a fish, two cats and up to an additional six small animals in properly maintained cages inside the house. For pets outside, no limits were set, but animals must be kept in compliance with local and state codes.

On a happier note, Shellsburg Elementary raised a total of $2.128.55 in pennies for their Pennies for Patients project. The project started after students became aware of a fellow classmate had suffered with a Leukemia diagnosis.

Shaylinn Tucker was first diagnosed at the age of two, but continues to make sure she stays in remission! Best wishes to her!

An incident at the Kersten Christmas Light display, a vehicle damaged the fence surrounding the display which allowed the Kersten dog to leave the yard. A car then hit and killed the dog. Fortunately, the Christmas display was not damaged in the incident.


The first week of February did not start off well for many businesses in Vinton. As many of us can remember, four area businesses were damaged by fire.

Starting around 7:00 p.m. a fire began at the Michael & Dowd store, the cause was never determined.

The fire department quickly responded but by  9:00 p.m. it had spread to Clingman Pharmacy next

Fire destroyed three businesses but the signs over the doors of Michael & Dowd and the Fischer law office remained, although damaged and ice-covered, Friday morning.

door and then spread to the Fischer Law Firm before it could be stopped.

Michael and Dowd relocated temporarily downtown but also built on the site of the old building this year.

If we handed out awards for showing the most class this year, we would have to give it to LaGrange Pharmacy who opened their doors to Clingman Pharmacy. The two operated under one roof for several weeks. Clingman Pharmacy has now moved one and a half blocks west of their former location.

Fischer Law Firm was able to relocate and set up businesses again.

Benton County Title Company also sustained smoke and water damage, but have been able to remain in their building.

The town has a scar in the scenery, but because of the efforts of the community, businesses and the city, we’re just about back to “normal.”


K-9 handler SPO Ben Parmater and his K-9 Gino became the star this month.

The Vinton Police Department K-9 Unit was called out to track down a suspect who ran from a Benton County Deputy.

Gino was able to track and find the suspect half a mile away from the original location.

Gino is Vinton’s first K-9 Officer. A German Shepherd, Gino is trained in officer protection, suspect apprehension, and drug detection.

On the school front,  the Vinton-Shellsburg girls basketball team raised $2,300 during its pre-season Nets for Vets scrimmage game and presented the check to Benton County Veterans Affairs Director Toni Parizek, who was accompanied by several veterans.

The presentation represents a continued relationship between VSHS and local veterans, who frequently visit classrooms to share their experiences.

Speaking of Veterans…

Tilford Elementary class 1MV received a surprise when Colonel Darin Humiston (US Air Force) surprised his son Caleb and the rest of the classroom by coming to the classroom.

Caleb’s Dad has been in stationed in Afghanistan for the past eight months.

“We had seen him through Facetime and through photos/letters, but the kids were in “AWE” and surprised (to say the least) to see him in person,” says the teacher, Tina Martinez-Vasquez “It was quite a special moment for him to share with us.”

March also brought the first of the new license plates to Vinton. A Benton County resident ordered the personalized plate which might, or might not, be placed on a 1967 Olds 442.


April brought a change to the security at the Benton County Courthouse.

Closing all entrances except for the 1st Avenue door (west facing) the first phase of the new security plan began. A metal detection doorway, which is wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs, was installed. Later an x-ray machine for bags, purses, etc., was added to the entrance. The cost was covered in part from revenue collected from prisoners who are charged the cost of their incarceration.

On April 8th, Jake Wilson the young man from LaPorte City went missing.

Months of searching by several hundred volunteers were unsuccessful in finding him. After several months, Jake was found on August 17.

Hundreds attended the memorial service for Jake which was held in October at the Union High School gym. Area officers, students and the community were in attendance to show their support for the family.

Hidden Rocks.

You’ve seen them. Maybe you’ve collected them.

You may have even spent time painting them.

I have a feeling this will be one of those things that this generation will look back on and say, “Do you remember the hidden rocks around Vinton?”

Many contain encouraging phrases. Some just a picture.

But all, have now become a favorite past time to find.



Little Miss Squirt, Gia Birker, daughter of Jeff and Leah Birker, was crowned by the Benton County Dairy Producers.

In May we lost a couple of men from our community. 

One was a father of three who was lost in a house fire as he tried to rescue his family.  Chauncey Raue, along with his family, lived north of Vinton. Brittany and Chauncey’s son Isaac, suffered from 2nd and 3rd-degree burns in the fire. A Gofundme page was quickly set up to help the family to cover expenses from their loss as well as to help with miscellaneous expenses for the care of their son Isaac.

Lori Ferguson greets the Honor Guard after the conclusion of Mike’s funeral.

Michael G. Ferguson

We also lost a member of our police force when we lost Benton County Chief Deputy Officer Mike Ferguson.

Several hundred attended the service in his honor.

Mike began his career in law enforcement with the Central Iowa Special Police and later served as a reserve officer for Benton County from 1978 until 1979. He was hired as a full-time deputy by the Benton County Sheriff’s Office in 1980 and was promoted to the position of Chief Deputy and Jail Administrator in 2004, a position he held until his death.

The procession to the cemetery was filled with patrol cars from several area police departments.

VSCSD received their standardized test results and proceed to make the community proud of their achievement.

Statistically, schools can expect about 60 percent of students to be proficient. Performance scores across the entire district were impressive, but a few numbers stood out. In the 3rd grade, 100% of the students tested were proficient in science. In math, those students were 96% proficient, and 93% were proficient in reading.

The 9th-grade class, averaging 90% proficiency in reading, math, and science.

Way to go Vinton-Shellsburg!

Party in the Park, we can’t forget to include a few pictures from that event! John Watson was the Grand Marshall this year. As usual, the event was jam-packed full of fun for kids of all ages.

From eating contests to rides and games and entertainment. The event is probably the highlight of being a Vintonian.

Stay tuned for the remaining year in review!