The chase continues for federal dollars from the U.S. Department of Commerce that the Cedar Rapids community never really knew much about until it started trying to recover from last June’s flood.
A line of local projects is lined up for a shot at this pot of federal funds, and each of the project sponsors has come to City Hall asking the City Council to provide the required council endorsement of their projects.
A few weeks ago, the council decided to prioritize the requests so the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration might use that information to help it make a decision on what to spend money on in Cedar Rapids.
And a few weeks ago, the council put the concept of some kind of new downtown steam plant at the top of its list.
But that was then. Last week, the council pulled the plug on any plans to rebuild Alliant Energy’s flood-damaged Sixth Street Generating Station using public dollars because the plan called for the plant to burn coal. The council can make such a decision because federal funds have to come through the city. They can’t come to privately owned Alliant.
The council is now ready to pass a new resolution with new priorities for how it would like to see Commerce Department funds spent in the city.
There no longer is any mention of a community steam plant.
At the top of the new list is a plan to upgrade the city’s U.S. Cellular Center and add a new convention center to it. Next in line, is a plan to build a new community center/recreation center to replace the flood-damaged Witwer Senior Center and Time Check Recreation Center and the aged Ambroz Recreation Center and outdated Bender indoor pool.
Both projects are among the fifteen projects in the Fifteen in 5 community planning initiative, which was conceived in 2005.
Below the U.S. Cellular Center and community center/rec center on the priority list: a new Economic Commerce Center; steam systems for Coe College and the two hospitals; planning to remedy freight train traffic in the downtown; and funding for a joint communications network now being built to connect city, county and school facilities.