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

Archive for June 25th, 2009|Daily archive page

Burglars hit mayoral candidate Ron Corbett’s home; calls it unnerving; campaign secrets still safe, he says

In Ron Corbett on June 25, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Burglars busted into mayoral candidate Ron Corbett’s home during the daytime Wednesday, ransacked the place and made off with jewelry, money, a computer, electronics, a couple bottles of wine and a bottle of champagne.

Corbett, who was in Pennsylvania at the time with four of his five children visiting his 90-year-old grandmother, was still trying Thursday to determine with his wife, Benedicte, all that was stolen.

The 48-year-old former state lawmaker said he didn’t know if the burglary was an isolated incident or if it’s a part of an uptick in crime that’s confronting the city. He said he will ask Police Chief Greg Graham about that.

Never a burglary victim before, Corbett noted that Cedar Rapids historically has been a safe, family-friendly community with a good education system and work ethic.

“That’s really been the bedrock of our community,” he said.

It appears, he said, the burglars spent some time inside his house at 321 30th St. SE because they opened every closet and drawer. He said the burglars used his children’s backpacks to carry stolen items from the house. One backpack, partially filled, was left behind, an indication that the burglars got scared away, he said.

The burglars also threw a stack of some 50 red-colored and blue-colored “Ron Corbett for Mayor” T-shirts around one room, so they know now that they burglarized the home of a possible future mayor. Corbett said the T-shirts are intended for campaign backers to wear in Saturday’s Freedom Festival parade.

“They didn’t take any campaign secrets,” said Corbett in a stab of comic relief regarding what he said was an event that had shaken up his wife and made him and his children uneasy.

“My wife comes home and the house is all torn apart. Certainly a part of her feels violated, coming into your home, seeing things in a shambles. It really is kind of unnerving,” he said.

Corbett said he supports Police Chief Graham’s call for opening a police substation on the city’s east side and Corbett said he likes the idea of opening one on the city’s west side, too.

“Whatever we can do to get police in the neighborhoods will help,” he said.

At the same time, Corbett said he has not liked the delay in getting the proposed police substation open at 1501 First Ave. SE. He noted that the city is now hurrying to open a temporary spot in a commercial building a block away after council member Monica Vernon complained about the delay.

“You squawk a little and the city can make some things move,” he said

For now, Corbett said he needs to take care of family matters.

“I’m a victim like anybody else,” he said. “It doesn’t make me a special victim just because I’m running for office.”

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Flood victims in newly purchased homes may not lose their down-payment assistance after all; city looks at using local-option sales tax revenue to help

In City Hall, Jim Prosser on June 25, 2009 at 1:53 pm

City Hall is investigating the possibility of providing targeted help to flood victims who received state Jumpstart down-payment assistance on a new home and now have learned that the amount of assistance will be subtracted from any buyout payment on their old home.

The local Jumpstart office two weeks ago said 383 homeowners had received Jumpstart down-payment help to date at a cost of $8.8 million or about $23,000 per home.

Initially, it was unclear if that money would be considered a “duplication of benefits” subject to deduction from a homeowner’s buyout settlement. However, the down-payment assistance is now considered a duplication of benefits.

City Manager Jim Prosser brought up the issue at Wednesday evening’s council meeting as he and the City Council talked about how much money the city will need to buy out some 1,300 flood-damaged homes and other properties.

There seems a growing likelihood that the city will have enough money to do the job.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay to buy out a first group of about 170 flood-damaged properties that sit in a proposed greenway area along the river.

Additionally, the state of Iowa has proposed setting aside $245 million of a latest round of $517 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funds for buyouts statewide. And the city has made a request for $175 million of that amount to pay help for buyouts of another 1,150 or so homes and other properties.

The city also is now collecting a 1-percent local-option sales tax, which could raise $80 million or more over five years for use in buyouts and other housing issues related to flood recovery.

It is from this last batch of money, the local-option sales tax revenue, that Prosser said the city is looking to draw to provide some relief to those who stand to essentially lose their Jumpstart down-payment assistance on a newly purchased home once the city buys out flood-damaged homes.

Prosser said such a use of sales-tax revenue was needed for those who bought a home not unlike the one they lost in the flood only to find that they do not have sufficient income to support mortgage payments on the newly purchased home.

The city has expected FEMA and CDBG money to carry much of the load on buyouts, but Prosser said the city always knew there would be funding “gaps” for which local-option sales tax revenue could be used.

Those who stand to lose their down-payment assistance may be one of those gaps, he said.

On Thursday, Prosser said his staff is still looking into how many properties might be involved and how much the city might be able to steer to help those who had gotten down-payment assistance.

Design work begins on new dog park next to Gardner Golf Course at highways 100 and 13

In City Hall on June 25, 2009 at 10:50 am

Julie Sina, the city’s parks and recreation director, reported this week that design work is beginning on the city’s new dog park that is coming to 11 city-owned acres near the Gardner Golf Course at Highway 100 and Highway 13.

Sina said the proposed cost of the new dog park is $125,000, an amount which the City Council included in its budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The city’s existing dog park, in Cheyenne Park out Old River Road SW on the far edge of the city, was damaged as was the city’s nearby animal shelter in the June 2008 flood. Sina said the city has decided not to return a permanent dog park to the site. The city isn’t returning to the animal shelter either.

The proposal for the new dog park did bring an objection from council member Tom Podzimek back in January. Podzimek said the Gardner Golf Course area was too far removed from most of Cedar Rapids. He said it seemed Cedar Rapids taxpayers were creating a dog park that would be more convenient for residents of Marion and Linn County.

Sina this week said Cedar Rapids dog lovers like the new site, and she said dog owners don’t mind driving a little to get to a dog park. Dog owners pay to use the park, she noted.

The plan now is to have the park open by Spring 2010.