Ron Corbett reports he is getting closer to a mayoral run, and on Thursday afternoon, he was at the ready with an opinion about the City Council’s interest in building a Community Services Center that would essentially be a new city hall.
“The city doesn’t need to use taxpayer money to build a Taj Mahal,” says Corbett, a vice president of trucking firm CRST Inc.
Corbett points to the digital age and the era of the Web and the Internet and he says more and more people are paying bills and conducting business without a need to go to a public building.
“Twenty, 30, 40 years from now, taxpayers aren’t ones who are going to get in their cars and drive down to City Hall,” Corbett says.
He also says he doesn’t like the idea of taking a parcel of land off the tax rolls for a new public building.
Instead, he wants to see what kind of life is still left in the city’s historic, flood-damaged Veterans Memorial Building, which has housed City Hall on May’s Island for more than 80 years.
“I’m a fan of sitting down with the Veterans Commission and working with them on the best use of that facility,” Corbett says.
He notes, too, that the city will be taking possession of the existing federal courthouse, down the street from the Veterans Memorial Building/City Hall, in 2012 when the new courthouse opens. That should present some different options for some departments in city government, he says.
Corbett is past Speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives and he served as president of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce from 1999 to mid-2005. He resigned to join CRST Inc.
Corbett backers are thought to have conducted a recent phone survey to see whom voters might back for mayor.
The choices in the survey were Corbett; council member and attorney Brian Fagan; Gary Hinzman, executive director of the Sixth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services and former police chief; Scott Olson, a commercial Realtor who lost a close race for mayor in 2005; and Monica Vernon, a business owner and council member.
Fagan and Vernon this week both expressed strong backing for a public participation process that will take the next six to nine months to look at building a Community Services Center.
The city also is interested in seeing if the county or school district wants to consider “co-locating” services in the center.
In addition, the city is interested in building a Community Safety Training Center for police and firefighters, which also could include a new dispatch center. The city and county have long avoided joining forces in such a center, but this could be an opportunity to rethink that.
The city also is talking about reconfiguring its Public Works Facility into a Community Operations Center.