For the second year in a row, Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rice has hit the road to keep a 2010 campaign promise in which he pledged to reach out to residents in all parts of Nodaway County in order to answer questions and address concerns about the local criminal justice system.
Between Wednesday and this afternoon, when the three-day tour wraps up in Skidmore, Rice was to visit a dozen Nodaway communities during a series of "listening posts," at which citizens were invited to ask the prosecutor about virtually anything they had on their minds.
"It's going great," Rice said Thursday morning during a sidewalks stop in Ravenwood, where he chatted with residents while standing beside an SUV that displayed a poster-sized version of his county business card.
"I've seen groups of at least five to seven people at every stop," Rice said, "and I think they've been very appreciative about the chance to come and ask questions. Frankly, I've been happily surprised (at the response)."
And if the number of questions is larger than Rice expected, so is the variety of issues raised.
One of the main reasons Rice began the listening post program last year was to get the word out to businesspeople about his signature program — a streamlined method for prosecuting bad-check cases.
As it turns out, however, bad-check offenses are down somewhat in Nodaway County, and the people the prosecutor has been talking to have been asking about a number of other issues, several of which are unrelated to criminal activity and law enforcement.
"I'm getting questions about state law and state agency regulations," Rice said.
"People have been wanting to know about everything from roads to taxes, not just criminal justice."
Those aren't necessarily Rice's areas of expertise, but he said he is working with County Clerk Beth Walker and other officials so that he can get back to citizens with the proper response.
Other questions Rice has fielded this week have had to do with nuisances and imponderables, like stray dogs and scarcely used alleyways that may still be — or not be — owned by the tiny communities that created them.
In Elmo, he said, people seeking to renew an expired local property tax levy wanted to know whether or not the measure had to be put to a vote.
As for merchant complaints about bad checks, it may be that streamlined paperwork and the elimination of a business-paid notification fee is working.
Revenues from bad check conviction fines are down in 2012, said Rice, who added that he planned to report on the issue to the County Commission during this morning's quarterly office-holder meeting at the County Administration Center.