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

City Council moves 2 ways on downtown energy; it readies to hand out money to convert from downtown steam system as it spends half-a-millon on new downtown energy study

In City Hall on July 1, 2009 at 2:49 pm

City Hall seems to be moving in two directions at the same time on downtown energy.

On the one hand, city officials are helping oversee a program to help businesses convert from the downtown steam system. And on the other hand, the City Council has agreed to spend $487,113 to conduct a study called the “Downtown District Energy Feasibility Study.”

At its meeting Wednesday evening, the City Council is expected to hire Transitions Made Better Inc. of Cedar Rapids to administer the city’s financial-assistance program for those who had used the downtown steam system. The system had depended on Alliant Energy’s Sixth Street Generating Station, which was damaged by the June 2008 flood and won’t be rebuilt.

The city program will divvy up $21 million, $16 million from the Iowa Department of Economic Development and $5 million from the state’s I-JOBS economic stimulus program.

In late May, the City Council voted to use $8 million to help five large users of the steam system – including the Quaker Co. and Cargill plants near downtown – convert to another system; $8 million for a group of some 200 smaller users to help them convert; and $5 million to help offset higher steam costs for all the users.

Two other of the system’s large users, Coe College and St. Luke’s Hospital, have obtained a $6.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to help them convert to their own steam system, and another large user, Mercy Medical Center, also has applied for such a grant.

Transitions Made Better Inc. has told the city it will begin to process steam claims on Thursday if the firm wins the city contract on Wednesday evening.

According to a City Hall memo to the City Council, Transitions Made Better Inc. was the only firm to bid on the city’s contract to administer the steam claims. Transitions Made Better Inc. also is administering a city contract to dispense state funds for flooded landlords.

A week ago, the council awarded a contract to Sebesta Blomberg & Associates Inc., Roseville, Minn., for a downtown energy feasibility study.

The study will look at creating a “new downtown district energy system” that may use renewable fuels or fossil fuels.

The council has talked about the prospects of burning sewage sludge and municipal garbage to produce energy.

Funding for the study is coming from the state of Iowa, according to city documents.

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  1. Wow. Another $500,000 to fund a study being done by an out-of-state consultant. Color me shocked.

    At $1,200 a month for benefits, that same $500,000 could fund 5 full-time employees at an $85,000 salary for a full year, or two employees for 2 1/2 years.

    But, hey, why give jobs with benefits to people who live in and around Cedar Rapids, when you can hire the work out to a company who doesn’t even pay taxes to the state of Iowa?

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