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

Council rejects push for special new committee in fight for $118.5-million in I-JOBS money; it says established flood-recovery committee is already there to help

In City Hall, Floods on May 21, 2009 at 8:10 am

The business community apparently continues to want to create new entities to try to help the City Council.

This time, City Council member Justin Shields told his council colleagues Wednesday evening that a noontime meeting Wednesday of some local business and other leaders led to the suggestion of a special new committee to help the city decide which projects it should get behind in the competition for $118.5 million in state I-JOBS stimulus funds.

Backers of several local projects are interested in a piece of the $118.5 million in state-distributed funds, including, no doubt, those eager for a new community center/recreation center and also those who want to upgrade the U.S. Cellular Center and add a convention center to it.

At the suggestion of new help, the council, though, decided it didn’t need to create something new to decide how best to compete for the state I-JOBS money.

The council will use the City Hall-based Recovery and Reinvestment Coordinating Team, which has been in place and providing advice to the council since the early days of flood recovery.

Shields and council member Chuck Wieneke both noted that the RRCT has representation from a wide sector of community interests, including the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown District as well as leaders in housing, arts and culture, non-profit agencies, neighborhoods and government.

Council member Monica Vernon and Shields said it was important that the council pick a couple of quality projects and get them submitted to the state I-JOBS competition quickly.

Forget the “wish lists,” Shields said.

As for getting pushed by outside forces, the council currently is in the process of hiring a flood recovery manager, the majority of whose salary will be paid for by the private sector. This was a private-sector idea pushed by Rockwell Collins.

The council also is contributing some money to a private-sector creation, the Economic Planning and Redevelopment Corp., which came to be, to a degree, from some private-sector frustration with City Hall over the pace of flood recovery.

Shields last night said there is a sense in the community that Cedar Rapids never fares very well in competitions for money that the state hands out. So, he said, it was important to make a good case.

At the same time, the state already has earmarked other I-JOBS money to Cedar Rapids and Linn County in the tune of $45.5 million. Proposals to secure these funds must be submitted by Sept. 1.

Of that money, $5 million goes to each of three flood-damaged city buildings, the library, Public Works Building and Paramount Theatre, with another $5 million to provide steam replacement assistance for those who have been on the flood-wrecked downtown steam system. The National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library is receiving $10 million as are backers of a new human services building. Options of Linn County is getting $5 million the city of Palo’s fire station, $500,000.

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