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

CCLOG: Play by Play at City Council meeting/August 13

In Brian Fagan, CCLOG, City Hall, Justin Shields, Kris Gulick, Mayor Kay Halloran, Monica Vernon, Tom Podzimek on August 13, 2008 at 11:12 pm

Public comment starts.

A Cedar Boat Club rep wants the city to provide access to the Cedar River so that the club can hold an event later this month.

Second up: A city harbor advocate is arguing that the city needs to continue to support the existing boat harbor. Nobody, this advocate says, has given the city reason why the boat houses — many heavily damaged or swept away in the June flood — shouldn’t be kept in the boat harbor.

He wants the city to issue a proclamation in support of the boat harbor.

The city has turned to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in recent weeks to help figure out the harbor issues. The DNR has determined that boat houses are not legal, though the DNR and the boat house owners are in discussions.

The city has made note that it faces $2 million in repairs in the harbor over 10 years to keep it the way it has been. The city and its consultants are exploring a variety of options for the entire river corridor through the city, and it’s unclear where the boat houses might fit into that.

Carol Martin, veteran council critic, has just been applauded. She protested the council vote last week to pay salaried employees for extra hours worked during the flood, a decision that will cost the city an estimated $400,000.

Martin also wondered why the city hadn’t cleaned up the flood-damaged Time Check Recreation Area even as it has pushed for residents of the neighborhood to do the same with their houses.

Martin received some applause from the 25 citizens in the audience here at the AEGON USA auditorium in NE Cedar Rapids.

Charlotte Martin is next at the mike: “I’m no relation” to Carol, she said, to a good chuckle.

She says the patient needs triage; the city has immediate needs. She adds, the extra pay for the hard work of the city employees is fine.

IT’S HARD TO KEEP UP. YOUR ONLY GOING TO GET PART OF THIS, AT BEST.

Bart Woods, a local contractor and member of the Cedar Valley Bible Church on Cottage Grove Avenue SE is asking the council permission to set aside a requirement to build a sidewalk along Cottage Grove Avenue as part of the church’s expansion project for its school. The project was a controversial vote for the council because the church sits along the flash flood-prone Indian Creek.

Jim Ernst, president/CEO of Four Oaks and the still-new Affordable Housing Network, has alerted the council that the city’s recovery coordination team, of which he is a part, will be asking the council in a week or two to help identify $50 million to get a significant amount of affordable housing started here before the snow flies.

Tax credits and federal funds will help pay much of the bills in the end, Ernst suggested, but it takes time to get that money in place. The thought seems to be that the city figure out a way to front money, which later can be recouped.

Bernard Clayton, a sometime visitor to council meetings, argues that the Civil Rights Commission erred in its recent firing of its director, Kenneth White. Clayton said the director was fired because of an audit of landlords that found that some landlords treated minorities differently when they sought to rent apartments.

Clayton compared the mistreatment of the fired commission director to what he said has been the poor treatment of Mayor Kay Halloran by some who he said have criticized her for dozing off at a meeting. Clayton said it has been a trying time for the city and its leaders, and a good time for someone to doze at a night council meeting.

Last week’s meeting — not an exceptional one — was a four-hour one.

Linda P. — didn’t catch her last night — agrees with Clayton and wonders, too, if it was related to the landlord audit and to the director’s African-American race.

Rick R. calls on the city to help residents in the flood area to clean and rebuild, even if only a few homes in blocks remain. It will be cheaper to restore those homes than tear them down and build new.

He left the impression that some blocks the will be protected by a new, better levee, will still much demolition. The thought seemed to be save even a few homes around which new homes can be built. I THINK.

Council member Justin Shields moves to open all boat ramps on the river. Council member Jerry McGrane seconds.

Council member Kris Gulick says it’s a staff decision, not a council policy decision. Council member Tom Podzimek agrees with Gulick.

City staff, for now, has wanted to check the debris content and the bacterial content of the river. Podzimek noted last week that the state has kept the river open, and that people are using it by putting their boats in the river outside the city limits.

City Attorney Jim Flitz says the council shouldn’t vote because the matter isn’t on the agenda. The state’s open meetings law requires matters be placed on the agenda 24 hours before a meeting.

Shields also wants a staff member to work with the City Council, and to have council vote on it next week.

Shields also wants to vote next week on the creation of the Economic Planning and Redevelopment Corp., a private-sector initiative that some on the council has been chilly towards. The non-profit corporation’s advocates say the city needs to have more than the city manager charged with the city’s flood recovery.

Council member Monica Vernon wants the council to commit to the number of new housing starts it can expect by the start of winter.

PUBLIC COMMENT ENDS.

Public Works Director Dave Elgin says bids will be open on Thursday for a $2 million sewer project in the Ellis Boulevard area. This is a project prior to the June flood.

Now the council will need to decide if it wants to reconstruct Ellis Boulevard as is once the sewer pipe is buried under the street. The street has now fallen into disrepair since the flood.

The council is readying to vote to approve the major preliminary plat for a new Walgreen’s store next to the Road Ranger convenience store on C Avenue NE at Blairs Ferry Road NE. It was a unanimous vote for approval. Some nearby neighbors had questioned the project in earlier votes. But no objectors were here tonight.

Council now is talking to its consultants of flood control. LOOK FOR A STORY IN TOMORROW’S GAZETTE.

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