The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

The Flood of 2008: District 1 council member Kris Gulick offers these thoughts and updates

In City Hall, Floods, Kris Gulick on June 16, 2008 at 1:32 am

Kris Gulick’s remarks on Saturday, June 14, at the daily update on the June 2008 Flood and its aftermath.

I can’t come up with any words that describe what has happened to our community.  My heart goes out to those who have been displaced by this disaster.  I represent district 1 but I also represent the entire city as a councilmember; all citizens in our community have been and are being affected by this event whether that is physically or emotionally. 

Thanks to the thousands of volunteers who have helped.  Our work unfortunately is just beginning.  The city has been in a constant crisis management mode for the past several days.  That will continue to extend into the future.

Over the past few days the council has dealt with crisis management and now we are focusing on what I call the recovery, rebuild and recast. 

First Recovery:

We are taking actions to assure the delivery of our most critical services.  Police, Fire, Water, Water Pollution Control, Solid Waste, Public Works and Communications.  It is imperative that these basic services continue to be delivered at the highest level possible. 

Plans are being made to have the police department relocated by Monday to: 4200 C Street SW former MCI building.    They have been sharing 911 communications with the Marion Police Department and will continue to do so until the city’s system is back in operations.  Police should be able to get back into their facility within a few weeks and the Cedar Rapids 911 system should be up soon.    

Fire equipment has been relocated around the community at other stations.  Fire personnel from the central stations will be relocating to Westdale Mall who is donating space.  Others locating at Westdale are the assessor’s office and code enforcement, housing, parking and transit, and library staff.

Water treatment is being assessed hourly with plans to get access to additional wells as soon as the water recedes.  Water department remain in their current location.   

Water Pollution Control is focusing on preventing backups in residences and will be working to get completely back on line once water levels drop. 

Solid Waste is continuing to deliver services in all areas that are accessible.  They will be of critical importance as we remove the volume of debris that will exist once the water recedes.  They are also located at Westdale Mall. 

Public works intends to relocate back into their existing facility as soon as possible and continue their important work.  They are being temporarily located at Jefferson High School along with Fleet services. 

A remote location for general city operations including information technology and phone systems needed to keep citizens informed is being located at River Ridge Rd a property owned by Aegon.  This location will also serve as city hall operations including city manager, community development, city clerk, city attorney, finance, human resources and safety, treasurer and library administration. 

These plans for ongoing service were developed while at the same time managing the crisis situation and providing our best available levels of service. 

The bottom line is, critical city operations have continued to operate and plans are in place to bolster those services.  Without these plans in place service levels would suffer and gaps in service could occur.  We are committed to these critical services.  We have authorized staff to utilize whatever resources are necessary to maintain these basic services.  This is about the here and now and city staff are executing on these tactics today.

The state and federal government have already reached out.  You will hear more about the federal effort from an official from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Their contact number is 800-621-3362

Landlords of Linn County and other sponsors have established a web site that provides information about rental units immediately available in the area.  The web site is iowaflood08.com.  In addition to learning about available rental units, landlords are also urged to list their open units for rent on the site. 

The recover effort will be lengthy and we will need everyone’s patience and we will need to work together.  At times seeing these images, it can be overwhelming.  It might seem at times it will be impossible to ever rebuild Cedar Rapids, but it is not impossible. 

Two other stages of the recovery stage include working with FEMA and gaining their immediate assistance.  Secondly assisting with the coordination of human services to citizens. 

Next is to Rebuild:

The city council will be meeting with staff after this conference to discuss short term strategies.  This includes working with FEMA and the coordination of human services as mentioned before.  We will also be discussing development of plans to provide housing and the plans for temporary relocation of businesses.  The rebuild stage will no doubt be fluid as we need to take care of people and businesses as expeditiously as possible and at this point we don’t have a complete understanding of the actual damages and what can be saved and what cannot. 

The last phase is Recast.  I mean by this recasting the vision for the community.  This is and always has been a responsibility of the city council as elected leaders for the community.  We will not need to recast the vision itself but need to change our mind set.  Our priorities themselves have not changed however the magnitude of those priorities has indeed changed.  We now look at the downtown in a different light as well as the river and I mean the river well up stream and downstream.  Our infrastructure priority has expanded far beyond streets.  Neighborhoods bring on a new meaning with changes in housing in our core neighborhoods.  Energy as a policy discussion will fit directly into redevelopment and rebuilding parts of the city.  And lastly, communications.  Communications to citizens and participation from citizens will need to be a part of every step we take.  We can end up with a much stronger community because of this tragedy however we will need everyone to do their part and join together for without citizens’ support we will surely fail.  Dramatic events bring families closer together and I expect this will be the same of our citizens.  We will no doubt make mistakes along the way but I can assure you that the nine people representing this community have every intention of making this community a great one. 

Summarizing:  Recovery – Tactical steps to keep the city operational and providing assistance to those directly affected.  Rebuild – Development of plans for housing and relocation of businesses.  Recast – Recast the vision for our community.  The complexion of our city will likely be forever changed.

      

 

     

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