Here are the Top 10 stories that made headlines in The Sheldon Mail-Sun in 2021:
1. Bank robbery
Six decades ago Sheldon was rocked to its core when Burnice Geiger embezzled more than $2 million from Sheldon National Bank.
While it was not to the same national scale as Geiger’s embezzlement, Sheldon found itself in the news again on June 3 due to a robbery at Iowa State Bank and the case remains unsolved.
At about noon that Thursday when a male suspect wearing a black mask, red glasses and white gloves and carrying a handgun entered Iowa State Bank. He robbed the bank at 627 Second Ave. and left on foot with two canvas bags. The Sheldon Police Department and other law enforcement agencies said he left the area shortly after.
The FBI took over the case later that day and is still in charge of the investigation. The FBI has been tight-lipped on if it has a lead on the bank robber and what the next steps are.
Sheldon Police Department chief Scott Burtch said no one was hurt during the incident and no shots were fired. The amount of money the suspect got away with also was not released.
It was the first bank robbery in Sheldon since one at First Federal Bank in 1989. First Federal Bank later became Iowa State Bank, which moved into its current site in 1998.
2. New businesses
Business seemed to be booming in Sheldon a year after the coronavirus pandemic caused local shops to have to make adjustments.
Most of the new businesses involved food, which was good for a community that saw its population grow by 324 people in the last decade.
The Italian Cowboy Cafe opened early in 2021 in the former Godfather’s Pizza building at 502 Third Ave. and Jimmy John’s started operations at the Crossroads Travel Plaza at the intersection of Highway 18 and Highway 60 in March.
Kwik Star announced in 2020 in was going to build a location at the former Shopko Hometown property at 1521 Park St. After demolishing the Shopko building this summer, Kwik Star quickly built its structure and opened on Nov. 4, giving Sheldon another convenience and gas station.
A new Mexican restaurant, La Pasada, also opened its doors at 101 W. Park St. this fall and Crossroads Nutrition, a healthy tea and shake shop, decided to take a chance on Sheldon this fall and is open at 913 Third Ave.
Sacred Grounds Inc., owned by Jay and Kim Van Dyken, announced a Scooter’s Coffee location would be built in Sheldon and it will open right before the start of 2022. Scooter’s Coffee will hold its first day Thursday at 2603 Park St. next to Fareway.
These new businesses started in Sheldon in 2021 as downtown continues to remain a vibrant part of the shopping community.
3. New fire truck
One large tree branch caused a good amount of trouble for the Sheldon Fire Co. and the city of Sheldon. The maple tree branch led to the Sheldon City Council’s approval of spending more than $1 million for a new Spartan aerial fire truck for the Sheldon Fire Co.
On March 18, the ladder on the former aerial truck hit a large branch of a maple tree, causing significant damage to the bucket. The aerial truck was deemed a total loss.
The Sheldon Fire Co. attempted to find a used to aerial truck to replace its damaged one but found the market scarce and it did not want to wait too long, citing the need to have an aerial truck for its department due to many tall buildings in Sheldon and the surrounding area.
So the Sheldon Fire Co. decided to look at getting a new aerial fire truck and received estimates from three companies.
The council had to first approve the purchase, though, and there was some question on whether it would. A special city council meeting was held during the summer with the Sheldon Fire Co. noting the need for an aerial truck and the city receiving info on if it could take on the debt.
While there was slight objection when the conversation started, the council unanimously approved the purchase of the new aerial truck for the Sheldon Fire Co.
The new Spartan aerial truck, which will be painted yellow to match the rest of the fleet, should arrive in June.
The coronavirus pandemic did not have the impact it did in 2020 when it upended everything but it still made its presence felt in 2021.
Vaccines to combat the virus came to Sheldon early in the year, first going to the elderly and then becoming available to various ages throughout the year.
The coronavirus has continued to evolve, though. The Delta variant was a more contagious strain and Omicron is the latest COVID-19 strain causing worry.
While the pandemic is not over, businesses have adjusted. Many businesses in Sheldon survived and events were able to be held again.
Celebration Days returned and Fieldcrest Senior Living Community was able to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The event was notable because nursing homes and assisted-living communities were sheltered from the public in 2020.
The Sheldon School District ditched its mask mandate in the spring and high school sporting events saw crowds return to full capacity along with normal schedules.
The coronavirus pandemic is not over, though. There are some people still wearing masks in Sheldon and others have contracted the virus.
Vaccine booster shots are available and it has yet to be seen how long the pandemic will last yet.
5. Ward 2 election
In March, Ward 2 representative Shawn Broesder stepped down to deal with a legal issue, which has since been resolved.
Broesder was in the seat because he won a write-in campaign in 2017 with six votes.
His term was up for election in November so the Sheldon City Council was faced with the tough task of appointing someone to the Ward 2 spot or holding a special election.
That opened up an old wound as councilman Wayne Barahona brought up the old debate on whether Sheldon should eliminate the ward system. The debate did not gain much traction and the council decided to appoint someone to the open Ward 2 spot.
But Madeline Kopel got enough signatures to bring forth a special election for the seat. The race saw Kopel, Ken Snyder and Sandra Johnson run for the open seat and the election was held in June.
Snyder, a retired pastor, easily won the election with 84 of the 113 votes. The 113 votes were far more than previous election.
Snyder ran for the Ward 2 seat again in November and he was uncontested, so he will have four more years in the Ward 2 council seat.
6. Sheldon Crossroads Court
Severe weather brought high winds through Sheldon on Sept. 17 and Sheldon Crossroads Court suffered most of the damage.
The high winds ripped most of the tin roof off the strip mall at 101 N. Runger Ave., causing water damage to all but one of the seven businesses located in the structure in the northwest corner of the Highway 60 expressway and Highway 18 interchange.
Sheldon Crossroads Court houses Chinese Chef, Sheldon Nail & Spa, North Star Community Credit Union, Edward Jones — Dan Drescher’s office, Professional Ag, Impressions Salon and Los Tulipanes.
Impressions Salon was able to continue operations, but Chinese Chef, Sheldon Nail & Spa, North Star Community Credit Union and Los Tulipanes were not able to continue operations at that time. Dan Drescher moved his office to Sheila Peelen’s Edward Jones office at 115 N. Fifth Ave. and North Star moved into the Fusion Workplace at 916 Third Ave. temporarily.
More rain a few days later caused the ceiling at Los Tulipanes, a Mexican restaurant, to cave in and a water pipe broke, flooding Impressions Salon and forcing it to close along with the rest of the businesses.
A new roof was put on Sheldon Crossroads Court and most of the businesses have returned. Chinese Chef was the first one followed by Sheldon Nails & Spa.
Los Tulipanes is the only business unable to resume operations. The Mexican restaurant suffered the most damage, but manager Fernando Lujano wants to reopen. It is not known when the always busy Mexican restaurant will reopen.
Sheldon’s chicken saga began in 2020 and continued in 2021. But the Sheldon City Council did its best to make sure the city’s poultry predicament does not take roost further.
A few requests to keep chickens and other fowl in residential areas forced the council’s hand in 2020 as it looked into a chicken ordinance in the city limits.
The council could not decide which route to go, so it passed it to the Sheldon Planning and Zoning Commission, which took the debate into 2021.
During a meeting in March, the planning and zoning commission voted to allow Sheldon city manager Sam Kooiker to draw up an amendment to allow hens and other small livestock such as rabbits, ferrets and ducks within residential zoning. It would cost $125 to apply for a special exception and there would be a public hearing with the board of adjustment along with notifications to the property owners.
The amendment went to the city council during its meeting on July 7. It did not last long.
Between passing it on to the commission in 2020 and the amendment coming to the council again in July, some city councilmen had made up their mind on chickens in Sheldon.
It was a foul issue to them and they were ready to chop the head off the ordinance.
Ordinance B, as it was known, was voted down 3-1, ending the ability to own chickens or other small livestock in the city limits.
A couple of Sheldon residents have been outspoken about the ruling, noting bigger cities like Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Cedar Falls all allow chickens.
But the councilmen saw an issue that could fester in Sheldon and the chicken saga is currently dead.
8. Sheldon school flooding
The Sheldon High School was flooded not once but twice in July. The first time during a downpour on Saturday, July 10, and the second time a few days later.
Each flooding issue was caused by the same problem — a backed-up storm drain that caused a cap to burst. The drain runs through the school and the water came up in the commons area.
The first flooding affected the high school auditorium and the band and choir rooms. Some high school students were getting ready for a summer play and jumped into action when the flooding started.
The second flooding crept to the high school gym and the weight room, causing some panic since the water got under the gym floor. Athletes who were in the weight room helped clean up the mess a second time.
Servpro, a water cleanup company from Spencer, set up humidifiers to help dry out the areas that had been waterlogged. The gym floor appears to have avoided any serious damage.
Since the issue, Sheldon School District superintendent Cory Myer has looked into the problem.
The simplest solution would be to replace the water drain lid on the roof with a different one that would restrict the amount of water that would flow down the pipe.
The school district has had a few other memorable moments.
Work continues on the former Fantasia building to transform it into a preschool. The initial date of the project completion was set for December, but it has since been pushed back to February for the Little Orabs Preschool.
Myer also has spent the last few months teaming up with Northwest Iowa Community College to try and transform the football field. The plan is to replace the natural grass with artificial turf. NCC also would start men’s and women’s soccer program if that happens.
The turf project, which also includes a new scoreboard, is less than $100,000 from reaching its goal.
9. Stubbe retires
On May 1, 2011, Alethea Stubbe took over as Northwest Iowa Community College’s president.
A decade later, the rural George native retired as president after seeing significant changes to the Sheldon campus.
Stubbe saw the expansion of online courses as well as advanced manufacturing and mechanical techniques.
On-campus housing expanded under her watch and expansion of Building H was approved as well. The Northwest Iowa Lifelong Learning and Recreation Center was built and building updates were made to a few of the mechanical areas on campus.
John Hartog, a longtime NCC administrator, took over for Stubbe so he will oversee the rest of the construction on Building H, which will house the health and science programs.
10. Sheldon Police Department
Sheldon Police Department chief Scott Burtch was hired in 2020 and he continued to help the unit evolve in 2021.
The first order of business was raising $40,000 to start a K-9 unit for the department. The Sheldon City Council approved adding the K-9 unit and after 14 weeks of training, Sheldon Police Department officer Eric Meinecke returned with Balin, a German shepherd.
David Dykstra and Todd Wood were promoted to sergeants in 2021 and the city council approved the hiring of an eighth police officer this year. Zane Roberts officially signed the offer letter to become the eighth officer in the final week of December.
The council also approved the Sheldon Police Department to purchase two new vehicles — a Ford pickup truck for the two sergeants and a Ford Explorer. Both are painted white, a change from the common dark blue Ford Explorers seen around Sheldon. The two new vehicles gives the department five rides for eight officers.