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      Historic constitution displayed in Wapello County Courthouse

      A historic memento is now displayed in the Wapello County Courthouse.

      The courthouse is one of many in Iowa to become the home of a 1934 lithograph copy of the United States Constitution. Hundreds of prints of the lithograph were discovered in a warehouse in Chicago in 1987.

      Now, Gary Stephenson of Ft. Dodge, Iowa is traveling throughout the state, with a mission of getting a constitution in every county courthouse in the state of Iowa. At each place, a group of donors come together to purchase the item. In Wapello County, the lithograph was purchased by the Wapello County Democrats.

      Stephenson's late father began the project in 1990 and continued until his death in 2008. Now, with Stephenson's and his father's work collectively, about 3/4ths, or 80 counties, in Iowa have a copy of the constitution displayed. Much of the time, when Stephenson drops the document off at each county, a group of veterans gather to participate in a small ceremony.

      "I have two purposes [for] the prints, I try to honor veterans for their service and I also try to remind citizens of what this constitution means and stands for," Stephenson said. "The freedoms you have as an American, and how lucky you are to be an American, have those freedoms that these veterans fought and died for."

      Once every county in Iowa has a constitution, Stephenson said he's looking at expanding into other states, starting with those bordering Iowa.

      "May as well try for a constitution in every state - may as well think big!" he said.

      The ceremony welcoming the U.S. Constitution to the Wapello County Courthouse was not the only item on the agenda for the Wapello County Supervisors Monday morning, however. They also heard a proposal from David Barajas, Executive Director of the Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation, for a county contribution to the city's fiber optics project.

      This project is one that has been done in Fairfield and Oskaloosa, with an ultimate goal of providing fast internet and improved communication to businesses and residences in Ottumwa.

      Barajas said there are pockets of fiber optics around the city, but a needs analysis is necessary to determine where those pockets are and where the gaps are. That way, the OEDC can move forward with developing a plan to put the project in place.

      In addition, the needs analysis shows companies and other cities that Ottumwa is dedicated to the project and dedicated to bringing the best communication to their residents and business owners.

      "In today's world, just like in the past when the railways and the interstate highway systems were very important for development, fiber - strong fiber - strong technology base, that foundation is going to be important as we're moving forward trying to help companies here expand and also try to attract new companies into the area," Barajas said.

      The needs analysis is a $42,000 project that will begin this fall and last for a few months. The overall project of mapping fiber and putting that technology into place will happen over the next several years.

      The Board of Supervisors approved the $5,000 contribution, which will be added to a contribution by the City of Ottumwa and the Legacy Foundation.