Friday Morning Read: Tait Purk sentenced to 50 years, Iowa City-North Liberty passenger rail study continues, new apartments going up near Kirkwood

(JEFF REINITZ/ Courier Staff Writer)Tait Otis Purk listens to testimony in Tama County District Court during his retrial on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017.
(JEFF REINITZ/ Courier Staff Writer)Tait Otis Purk listens to testimony in Tama County District Court during his retrial on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017.

Tait Purk sentenced to 50 years in prison for killing fiancee in 2000 - The toddler left behind when Cora Okonski was murdered in 2000 still looks for her after all these years and can’t give up “what might have been,” his adoptive mother said Thursday during a sentencing hearing for convicted killer Tait Purk.

Deb Calvert, who adopted Austin in 2000 when he was 19 months old, said in her victim’s impact statement that she and her husband have tried to fill that void, but Austin — now 19 — continues to “mourn for a mother he barely knew.” She told the judge that Austin has profound mental health issues including “extreme” anxiety and low self-esteem, and the Tourette syndrome neurological disorder.

Every day of his life has been affected by his mother’s death, she said. Read more...


Iowa City-North Liberty passenger rail study chugs along - A study of the feasibility of adding passenger rail to the Corridor remains on track.

During a Metropolitan Planning Organization of Johnson County meeting this week in North Liberty, local elected officials agreed to proceed with the third phase of feasibility studies of a passenger rail service connecting Iowa City and North Liberty.

“We feel it’s an asset. We want to investigate it as much as possible,” Coralville City Council member Tom Gill said. “This is a key connection between Coralville and Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty. We’re right in the middle, we want to go ahead with it.” Read more...

New apartments going up near Kirkwood: Villas would have 142 studio units - A large new apartment complex could be erected just east of Kirkwood Community College, giving new options for students looking to live near campus.

The Villas at Kirkwood, 811 Kirkwood Parkway SW, would include 142 studio apartments split between two three-story buildings. The buildings would be north of 76th Avenue SW and just west of C Street SW.

“This is much needed student housing in this area,” said Joe Mailander, of Ament Design. “It is convenient to the C Street trail and some other amenities we hope spur additional development.” Read more...

Bill would curb Iowa regents construction options - A lawmaker who says he’s “on a war path” against public entities sidestepping typical competitive bidding rules is adding the Board of Regents to his list of targets, proposing to change the way Iowa’s public universities pursue large capital projects.

The bill — backed by Rep. Jake Highfill, R-Johnston, chairman of the House Local Government Committee — would change the regents’ process by expanding advertising requirements, requiring an engineer or architect to prepare plans and cost estimates, and “identify a specific reason” for rejecting bids if the board determines none are acceptable. Read more...

Iowa's Gary Barta on Fran McCaffery extension: 'In hindsight, I'd probably announce it now' - Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said Thursday he didn’t realize that not announcing basketball coach Fran McCaffery’s would raise an uproar.

The decision not to publicly announce the deal was Barta’s. He regrets it.

“Ideally, I would prefer to have those done before the year or after the season is over,” Barta said. “I made the decision not to announce it. I know that’s created concern. I do feel badly for that. My goal was to not announce it at that point, but do it after the season.” Read more...

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