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In City Hall on August 11, 2009 at 4:14 pm

Thanks. The Gazette has decided to handle its blogs differently. Let’s see how it works. Again, thanks.

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City announces fifth annual bow hunt of deer

In City Hall on July 20, 2009 at 11:22 am

The city will permit a fifth consecutive bow hunt of deer this fall and early winter.

The bow hunt season inside the city limits will run from Sept. 12 through Jan. 31.

To participate, hunters must complete an annual proficiency test and attend a class on the hunt’s rules and regulations. Hunters also must receive permission from private property owners to hunt of their property.

Proponents of the Cedar Rapids bow hunt – several Iowa cities including Coralville and Marion permit bow hunting of deer inside the city limits — say the hunt has reduced deer-vehicle crashes inside the city since its inception four years ago. That’s not to say vocal opponents of the hunt aren’t still out there.

At the conclusion of each of the previous four bow hunts, Fire Chief Steve Havlik, who oversees the bow hunt in Cedar Rapids, has reported that complaints about the hunt have been few and that there have been no injuries to people related to the shooting of arrows.

Bow hunters have killed 298, 333, 349 and, most recently, 314 deer in the four previous annual hunts.

In 2004, figures compiled by the city, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Iowa Department of Transportation put the number of deer-vehicle collisions inside Cedar Rapids at 453. In 2008, the number was 250, the DNR reported.

For information on this year’s hunt, go to http://www.cedar-rapids.org/fire/urbandeerhunt.asp

City paints bike lanes on a stretch of Boyson Road NE to give the idea a try in city’s quest for bicycle-friendly status

In City Hall on July 16, 2009 at 6:04 pm

City Hall is still working to try to win bicycle-friendly status for the city.

It will apply to the League of American Bicyclists on July 31 and will submit a second part of the application Aug. 7 if the League gives the go-ahead.

Ron Griffith, a city traffic engineer who is leading the City Hall bicycle effort, showed the City Council a photo of freshly painted white bicycle lanes on a two-lane section of Boyson Road. The lines create a 6-foot-wide bike lane on both edges of the road while reducing the width of the lanes for motor vehicles to 12 feet.

As an aside, council member Chuck Wieneke wondered if city crews ought to get back out to Boyson and paint the yellow center line down the road. He could barely see it in the photo, he said.

Griffith also reported that 85 percent of the city’s buses now have bike racks on them; that the city is developing a comprehensive master trails plan; and the Mayor’s Bike Ride is slated for Sept. 7.

Only Cedar Falls among Iowa cities now holds the certification from the League of American Bicyclists as a bicycle-friendly community. It obtained the status this spring.

Another idea for affordable housing near Ellis Park isn’t going to work; city bought the land with state REAP grant to prevent it from being developed

In City Hall on July 16, 2009 at 5:30 pm

Another proposal — this one made public just a month ago — to build affordable housing in and around Ellis Park is apparently going to bite the dust quickly.

Johnny Brown of J Brown Development Group of Cedar Rapids had pitched an idea to build two buildings with 30 affordable apartments each on a 6-acre, tree-filled city site between Ellis Lane and the Ellis Park.

Brown was calling his idea Ellis Preserve. Bart Woods, president of Primus Construction, was working with him on some of the planning.

However, Julie Sina, the city’s parks and recreation director, reports that the city purchased the land in question with a state REAP — Resource Enhancement and Protection — grant to prevent to it from being developed.

Sina says the city would need to talk to state officials to see if it is possible and what the ramifications would be if the city now decided to sell the land purchased with REAP dollars.

“The city of Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation Department has a good relationship with REAP and has received funding over many years for the preservation of land,” Sina says. “… The Parks and Recreation Department does not support the sale of this piece of property.”

Brown says the status of the city property isn’t lessening his concern for people who he says remain displaced by last year’s flood and still need affordable housing.

“There are a lot of families who are suffering,” Brown says. “And we’ve got to do something to help our fellow citizens. That’s who I am.

“We’ve got people who are hurting, and it doesn’t seem to register on anybody’s radar screen. But it’s going to stay on mine.”

An earlier plan by another developer to put affordable housing nearby on the former 6-acre practice chipping area next to Ellis Golf Course fell apart in the face of neighbor opposition.

Round 2 of demos start next week: 58 on the list with paperwork still out on another 12; 70 structures came down in a first round

In City Hall on July 15, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Next week, the city of Cedar Rapids will begin demolishing 58 more structures damaged in the flood of June 2008.

These are structures, most of which are homes, that the city has concluded pose a public-safety danger and need to come down. The city will seek reimbursement for the costs from the Federal Emergency Managment Agency because of the public-safety risk.

Another 12 properties may be added to the 58 in what is a second round of demolitions.

The city already has taken down 70 structures that were the worst of the worst damaged.

In total, the city plans to buy out some 1,300 properties, and the majority of those are expected to be demolished. Those demolished to date and those in this new round of demolitions are among those 1,300 or so properties.

The city has contracted with DW Zinser Co. of Walford, Iowa, to take care of the new round of demolitions. Work will start at 7 a.m. Tuesday with the structure at 1211 6th St. NW.

Others on the new list:

1312 4TH ST NW
1427 4TH ST NW
1657 8TH ST NW
1817 ELLIS BLVD NW
1832 ELLIS BLVD NW
305 G AVE NW
327 G AVE NW
402 I AVE NW
1206 3RD ST NW
1602 4TH ST NW
1664 1ST ST NW
306 N AVE NW
1007 3RD ST SW
1034 8TH ST NW
1106 2ND ST SE
1108 6TH ST NW
1122 I AVE NW
1217 4TH ST SE
1223 9TH ST NW
1233 10TH ST NW
1234 N ST SW
1306 9TH ST NW
1320 Ellis Blvd NW
1323 K ST SW
1428 2ND ST SW
1450 2ND ST SE
1501 J ST SW
1645 9TH ST NW
1702 2ND ST SW
1712 HAMILTON ST SW
2120 C ST SW
1906 C ST SW
217 7TH AVE SW
2333 ROMPOT ST SE
316 6TH ST SW
321 G AVE NW
411 6TH ST SW
427 G AVE NW
435 G AVE NW
622 5TH AVE SW
717 O AVE NW
72 18TH AVE SW
77 22ND AVE SW
81 18TH AVE SW
81 22ND AVE SW
816 8TH ST NW
825 SHAVER RD NE
826 6TH ST SE
1009 10TH ST NW
52 19TH AVE SW
821 4TH ST NW
814 L ST SW
1332 9th St NW
1211 6th St NW
1227 5th St SE
2207 D St SW
807 5th Ave SW
415 7th Ave SW

City Hall has firmed up what it expects to seek for some 1,300 flood-disaster buyouts: $148 million in CDBG funds to go with an expected $27 million in FEMA money

In City Hall, Floods on July 15, 2009 at 2:50 pm

The Iowa Department of Economic Development is finalizing plans for what it intends to do with the state’s latest disaster-related infusion — $517 million — of federal Community Development Block Grant funds.

In its initial draft, the state agency proposed using $245 million of the CDBG pot to buy out flood-damaged properties in the state.

For now, the $245-million figure is a good working one for the city of Cedar Rapids, which has firmed up what part of the pot it intends to request to help the city buy out about 1,150 flood-damaged properties, reports Jennifer Pratt, the city’s development coordinator.

Pratt says the city will seek a total of $148 million in CDBG for buyouts. Of that total, $66 million will be used to purchase 554 flood-damaged properties in what is expected to be the construction zone needed to build the city’s proposed new flood-protection system. Another $82 million will buy out an estimated 600 additional properties that are defined as “beyond reasonable repair.”

Most of a group of another 192 properties, which are heavily damaged and closest to the Cedar River, will be purchased using $27 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to make way for a “greenway” along the river between the water and a new levee.

The city also is seeking funds from other parts of the $517-million CDBG pot, which will be designated for business recovery, infrastructure repair and housing rehabilitation.

Flood-damaged Grant Wood window at the Veterans Memorial Building is coming out for repairs; entrusted to a Davenport firm owned by a disabled Vietnam War vet

In City Hall, Veterans Memorial Commission on July 15, 2009 at 10:12 am

The flood-damaged, Grant Wood-designed window is coming out of the Veterans Memorial Building this week, each of its 58 stained-glass panels to be crated and driven to a studio in Davenport for repair.

The restoration work on the window, put in place in 1929, will take up to 34 weeks to complete at a cost of $147,000.

There may be additional costs to repair or replace the window’s wooden frame and to replace safety glass protecting both sides of the historic window, reports Mike Jager, the city’s veterans memorial director.

Glass Heritage LLC of Davenport bested four other design firms — including ones in Philadephia, Chicago and Kansas City — to win the job of fixing Grant Wood’s window.

John Watts, one of three founding owners of Glass Heritage, is a Vietnam War veteran who in his day has wrestled with the war effects of Agent Orange exposure and post traumatic stress disorder, he reports.

Because he is a veteran, Watts says the Veterans Memorial Building’s window — which features a huge image of a rising angel of peace “welcoming all veterans home” and also depicts soldiers from the nation’s six major wars through World War I — has special meaning to him.

“We are acutely aware that this is a one-of-a-kind piece,” says Watts. “Are we nervous about it? We’re nervous about every piece of glass we touch. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be good.”

Watts says Grant Wood’s devotion to the land is reflected in the texture of the paint on the stained-glass window.

He says, too, that there is no question that the June 2008 flood damaged the window, causing bowing and some cracking in some of the 1,000 or more pieces of stained glass in the window.

Nonetheless, he says the window overall is in “decent shape” for its 80-year age.

“We’re just going to take it and give it a new life,” Watts says.

In the restoration, the cost of which a city insurance policy will cover, the city’s Jager says there is some thought be given to leaving damage in place in one small section of the window as a reminder of the flood.

Watts, 60, says he is originally from New York City. His life eventually took him to the Quad Cities, where he spent some years as director of operations at The Mark of the Quad Cities. Ten years ago, he decided to spend all his time working on stained glass, and he left The Mark to open his own business and store in Davenport with two other partners. He’s been working in stained glass for 28 years, he says.

Watts calls the work on fixing the Grant Wood window “meticulous.” He calls the window “amazing.”

Chuck Swore launches pioneering move: Can a former incumbent reclaim a seat on the city’s still-new, part-time council?

In Chuck Swore, City Hall on July 14, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Chuck Swore wants to return to the City Council.

Swore on Tuesday said he will run for one of the two at-large council seats on the ballot in November, and he said he is running to return a “can-do attitude” to City Hall.

Swore was elected to the west-side District 2 seat on the council in 2005 in the first election for what that year was the city’s new, nine-member, part-time City Council.

Three of the nine seats — the District 2 and District 4 seats and one at-large seat — began with two-year terms so that not all nine seats would change in the same election cycle. And in 2007, Swore lost his council seat to challenger Chuck Wieneke.

This November, six of the nine council seats will be up for grabs — mayor, two at-large seats and the seats in council districts 1, 3 and 5.

Brian Fagan and Pat Shey are the incumbents now in the two at-large seats, and Fagan is expected to run for mayor and Shey to seek reelection to an at-large seat.

On Tuesday, Swore said most on the council back in 2005 came in with a commitment to get things done.

“That attitude kind of went away,” he said.

Swore said he is not opposed to talking about a vision for the city, but he said he wants the City Council to establish a set of time goals to make sure the city is accomplishing and not just planning.

“The City Council wants to take its time. I’d like to have some deadlines,” Swore said.

He said an approach of “ready, fire, aim” sometimes is needed to get things done.

Swore said, too, that the city of Cedar Rapids needs to get back to promoting economic development so it builds its tax base for the future.

“If you look at successful cities, they are developing,” he said.

Too often, Swore said, Cedar Rapids’ city government impedes development and the growth of business with what he said is a “mindset” that prefers to impose and enforce regulations rather than finding ways to facilitate development.

Swore, 66, retired from Acme Electric where he had been vice president and general manager, has spent the 19 months since he left the City Council involved in several endeavors related to small business.

Prior to the June 2008 flood, he ran his own, one-man consulting business, CRS Small Business Services, and he became the spokesman for the Cedar Rapids Developers’ Council.

Since the flood, he also has worked as a flood-recovery case manager on contract representing both small businesses and landlords.

“It’s been a very satisfying position because I’m actually able to help folks,” Swore said of his flood-recovery work.

He also is the representative of small business on City Hall’s Recovery and Reinvestment Coordinating Team, a key source of flood-recovery advice for the City Council.

It is his flood-recovery roles where he said he has seen ways in which city government can improve how it works with businesses and people. If returned to the City Council, he said he will push to have the city review existing ordinances related to development to see which ordinances can be refined.

“Let’s see if some need updated so they are not effectively hurting our community in encouraging business to come to town,” Swore said. “Let’s at least dust them off and see if there’s a better way of doing it.”

Swore has long years of service in Cedar Rapids city government.

He served as chairman of the city’s Five Seasons Facilities Commission for 23 years, a period during which the city built its downtown arena, now called the U.S. Cellular Center. He then spent five years on the City Planning Commission before his successful run for City Council in 2005.

Swore said he does have some experience with the council and city government that he thinks can help now.

“I’ve just watched Cedar Rapids over the past several years lose its standing,” Swore said. “I care very deeply about Cedar Rapids, and I want to offer as much as I can.”

He said the City Council should be a place to discuss and act on ideas, ideas that the city staff is then directed to implement.

“I don’t see it working that way now,” he said.

Swore said he has respect for City Manager Jim Prosser, but he said he wishes that the council back in 2006 — when Prosser became the city’s first city manager — had told him to leave his speed dial back in Illinois where he had come from.

It’s Swore’s way of saying that the city has used too many out-of-state consultants and too few local experts.

Swore is a former union electrician who, at age 29, became the business manager for his local union, IBEW Local 405. Eventually, he jumped to management at Acme Electric.

Swore and wife Carol have four adult children and 16 grandchildren.

He is undergoing surgery for prostate cancer in August, but doesn’t anticipate he will miss a beat.

“I look at challenges as opportunities,” Swore said. “We always ought to be trying to help in the best way we can through our own abilities.”

Rest easy Council Street NE homeowners; Jim Sattler has given up idea for a manufactured-home park; he’s got new plans, though

In City Hall on July 9, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Owners of newer, nicer homes along Council Street NE just south of Robins and north of the proposed Tower Terrace Road extension can breathe a little easier.

Jim Sattler, president of Jim Sattler Inc. Custom Homes, has given up his plan to build a manufactured home park in the neighborhood.

It is a plan neighbors had been fighting for at least three years and against which last September they had amassed more than 800 signatures on petitions in opposition.

Those signatures in that month helped prompt the City Planning Commission to reject Sattler’s latest version of a manufactured home park.

“I think you just get to a point where – we’re on our sixth year (of planning for the site) – you just say, ‘Let’s use the land for something. Let’s move ahead,’” Sattler explained on Thursday about his plans to give up on manufactured homes at the Council Street NE site.

Sattler now expects to appear in front of the City Planning Commission anew in August to seek a change in zone on 60-plus acres of land east along Council Street NE and north of the proposed Tower Terrace Road extension. He will seek an R-3 single-family home designation for much of the site where he would like to build 157 single-family homes. On the southern part of the site, he plans 35 to 45 condominium units.

Sattler said the lots for the single-family homes will be from 60 to 80 feet wide, with larger lots and more expensive homes next to existing homes. The larger-lot homeS might be in the $180,000 to $250,000 price range, while others elsewhere in the development will range from $130,000 to $160,000 or $180,000 on homes with garages.

Sattler said he was aware of the Iowa Department of Economic Development’s recent program to provide down payment assistance for 177 new residences in Cedar Rapids with prices at $180,000 or lower. All of that money has been spoken for, but Sattler said he hopes the state might provide a second round of such funding for some who might purchase a residence in his new development.

Some of those affected by the June 2008 flood likely will buy a home there, he said.

If his latest plans make it thorough the City Hall approval process, Sattler said he expects to start building homes in the spring, and he said it could take two to five years to build the project to completion depending on demand.

“Fortunately, I think Cedar Rapids is in a reasonably good position,” he said. “But I wouldn’t want to be overconfident.”

Sattler said he and property owner Ed Horn control about 130 acres, which is split by Council Street NE.

Development of the western part of the property will await planning for the Tower Terrace Road extension, though Sattler said he envisioned a mixed-use development there along what will be a major thoroughfare.

He called this spot “one of the last open spaces” left to build on in the Rockwell Collins area.