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Vernon vents; dresses down City Manager Prosser for not getting police substation in storefront at 1501 First Ave. SE open quickly

In Greg Graham, Jim Prosser, Monica Vernon, Neighborhoods on June 18, 2009 at 9:10 am

Council member Monica Vernon, fresh off her decision on Tuesday not to try a run for mayor, took time at Wednesday evening’s council meeting to tear into City Manager Jim Prosser.

Vernon, who for many months has made it clear she thinks the current City Council has acceded too much power to Prosser, was angry that the Police Department had not yet gotten the city’s first police substation open in a vacant storefront at 1501 First Ave. SE.

Police Chief Greg Graham initially had said he wanted to be in the building in June in the wake of an attack on police officer Tim Davis just two blocks away.

It’s not worked out that way, and Vernon isn’t happy about it.

Wednesday evening, looking straight at Prosser, Vernon declared that the city has a crime problem, that crime is at its worst in the summer, and it was important to have gotten the substation open.

She called the matter “a can-do moment” and said Prosser has not had a “can-do attitude” about getting the project done.

Vernon then lit into City Attorney Jim Flitz, suggesting that he worries too much about preventing problems rather than solving them.

“I’m really disgusted about this,” Vernon said.

Council member Tom Podzimek calmly weighed in and suggested that the council take what steps it can to speed matters along. Then Podzimek defended Flitz: “I do think our attorney’s job is to keep us out of jail.”

Flitz said he didn’t have anything to do with the procedural steps required by state law to take bids on a renovation project.

The building needs about $50,000 in renovation work before it can be occupied. Last week, Chief Graham said it would likely be fall before the building is ready.

Prosser explained that he had taken a risk by proposing that the building’s owner do the renovations rather than the city so the job would not require public bidding and could be done faster. The cost of that was too great and couldn’t be done, he explained.

By looking at that approach, though, the project got delayed a bit, he said.

“We tried something and it didn’t work,” he said.

Even so, Prosser assured the council that the Police Department has taken additional steps to beef up their presence in the area even if the substation, which he called “symbolically” important and a good practical asset, is not yet in place.

Council member Jerry McGrane said neighborhood leaders are disappointed that the substation isn’t open yet. He called it “very unsettling.” He suggested Prosser talk to the neighborhoods.

  1. This whole City Council,along with the City Manager,is a farce.
    Monica didn’t speak up until a citizen brought the matter up.Chief
    Graham has some good ideas,but none of them are going to get done with the council dragging their feet.Also,it’s time we got a new City Attorney.Crime,in Cedar Rapids,is going to continue to get out of hand until the Council starts backing the Chief and his department.It’s time to clean house at City Hall.

  2. Oh sweet irony! Monica Vernon campaigned hard against Sarah Henderson claiming she needed to find a way to work with Jim Prosser and that she would never stand alone against the city manager or the rest of the council. Priceless! What is next from Ms. Vernon?

  3. Jim — Please check your facts. I have addressed this issue at council meetings at least two other times since March.

  4. I agree with Jim.It’s time for a major overhaul of City Hall. Time to put people in there who CARE about Cedar Rapids not their own agenda.Public input needs to stop since they are just wasting peoples time they already have the plans on the table and they will have their way. $400,000 for consultants who are not going to hold public meetings but want suggestions put into a box and they will “review” them. Get rid of the whole bunch including the consultants. The CULTURE OF DELAY has gone on long enough.

  5. Keep going Monica. Now is the time to ask why a City staffed with at least four attorneys doesn’t understand Iowa Code regarding when bids are necessary for a public improvement project. The next question is why the finance director indicates “public improvement project” on the council’s consent agenda for almost every item including operating expenses.

  6. Anyone else notice Monica didnt respond to my comments? Apparently she does not question those facts.

    Furthermore, lets not forget how she chastised Sarah Henderson for “not having the time to serve because she had a job outside of city council.” Now it seems Ms. Vernon has laid off all of her employees and her “small business” is out of work due in large part to her city council obligations/mayoral aspirations. Is there an end to all of the things Vernon has been wrong about?

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