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

Council members weren’t kidding about killing a downtown coal plant; they now put their support for federal bucks behind a better U.S. Cellular Center and a new community/rec facility

In City Hall, Floods on May 13, 2009 at 2:39 pm

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the flood-damaged Witwer Senior Center and Time Check Recreation Center and the aged Ambroz Recreation Center and outdated Bender indoor pool.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.

  1. Tell me how such an important issue as helping some of Cedar Rapids major businesses stay in place for the long term suddenly just gets dropped!!! It was #1 priority for months, but suddenly we have council members switching political parties and it’s off the table?! WAKE UP!! Cedar Rapids HAS a convention center on the other side of town that is rarely used! People need jobs! That steam from Alliant’s Sixth Street Generating System can provide EXACTLY what Cedar Rapids needs. Not another useless, unused building with nobody to come to it because they are UNEMPLOYED! The coal worked for nearly 100 years. It could work for many, many more. Just get behind this project and help fund the needed emission controls to ensure it’s longevity.

    Again, tell me how such an important issue can suddenly just get dropped!!!!

  2. “Again, tell me how such an important issue can suddenly just get dropped”
    This is how:

    May 7, 2009
    “At the same time, the council last night decided it will use $16 million, which the Rebuild Iowa Office has set aside to help the city solve the steam issue, to assist large and small users of the steam system to retrofit equipment as each leaves the steam network and goes on its own”
    It appears that 130 of the 200 smaller users have already left the steam system, so that would leave the Big 8 users and 70 smaller users still on the steam network.
    There really didn’t appear to be any way to rebuild the plant without the users paying higher rates to offset the cost, using $16 million taxpayer dollars to help for profit businesses retrofit their systems seemed to be a slam dunk for the Council.

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