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

Coe, St. Luke’s first victors in local scrap to land U.S. Commerce Department diaster-related funds

In Floods on June 2, 2009 at 10:44 am

Coe College and St. Luke’s Hospital are the first victors in the local competition to secure disaster-related funds from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA).

Iowa’s senators, Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley, have announced that the college and hospital will use a $4.65 million EDA grant to build a steam heating plant that the two local institutions will share.

This week’s announcement was little surprise.

Coe College and St. Luke’s Hospital were two of eight large users of cheap steam produced by Alliant Energy’s Sixth Street Generating Plant, which was destroyed in last June’s flood.

Last week, the City Council discussed how it would dispense $21 million in federal and state funds to help about 200 steam users covert (or help pay those who already have converted) from the Alliant system to their own steam systems. The council left out Coe College and St. Luke’s in their calculations on the expectation that EDA money was coming for them.

Harkin and Grassley this week confirmed that it is.

The council also left out another of the Sixth Street plant’s eight large steam users, Mercy Medical Center, and for the same reason that it left out Coe and St. Luke’s. Mercy, too, has applied for EDA money, and that now is apparently the next anticipated announcement from EDA.

Several other local projects are competing for the funds. The City Council has said it most would like the EDA to support a proposal to upgrade the U.S. Cellular Center and to add a convention center to it. The city’s Facilities Commission is seeking a $39-million EDA grant to help finance the $52-million project.

Patrick DePalma, chairman of the Facilities Commission, said he and other community representatives met recently with representatives of the EDA, and he said he came away optimistic that EDA is interested in the project.

On its priority list for EDA funding, the City Council placed a proposed recreation center/community center second behind the U.S. Cellular Center proposal.

The Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce also is seeking an EDA grant for a new Regional Commerce Center and the community also is seeking money for downtown rail study as a prelude to redirecting freight train switching maneuvers from the downtown.

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