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Archive for the ‘Veterans Memorial Commission’ Category

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.”

Davenport firm slated to fix Veterans Memorial Building’s flood-damaged Grant Wood stained-glass window

In City Hall, Veterans Memorial Commission on June 22, 2009 at 4:22 pm

A Davenport firm has been selected from among five bidders to repair the flood-damaged, Grant Wood stained-glass window at the Veterans Memorial Building on May’s Island.

Winning bidder Glass Heritage LLC of Davenport has told the city that the firm will take between 12 and 15 days to remove the window’s 58 glass panels once they begin in July.

The firm will transport the panels to its studio, and it has told the city it will complete the repairs within 34 weeks.

The City Council is slated to approve a contract with the Glass Heritage LLC on Wednesday evening. The contract will pay the Davenport firm up to $147,000 for the work.

The city had private insurance in place on the window that will cover the repair costs, city officials have said.

The other four firms competing for the work came from Fairfax, Iowa, Evanston, Ill., Philadelphia and Raytown, Mo.

Vets Commission asks: Why is Linn County back in the May’s Island courthouse and jail while the Veterans Memorial Building/City Hall sits empty?

In City Hall, FEMA, Veterans Memorial Commission on May 12, 2009 at 9:24 am

Three government buildings damaged in last June’s flood sit on May’s Island in the middle of the Cedar River.
Why is it that the Linn County Courthouse and the Linn County Jail are now back in business, while the Veterans Memorial Building that houses City Hall remains empty with no plans for now to reoccupy it?

That is the question that Pat Reinert, a member of the city’s Veterans Memorial Commission and an assistant federal prosecutor in Cedar Rapids, wanted City Manager Jim Prosser to answer at the commission’s meeting Monday evening.

The answer provided by Prosser was this:

The city isn’t Linn County. The city has more than 10 times as much flood damage to its public buildings and facilities than the county. More damage means longer, more complicated negotiations with the Federal Emergency Management Agency over the amount of damages that FEMA will pay to fix the building.

To this, commission member Gary Grant stressed to Prosser that the commission does not care if city government intends to return to the building.

“We think the building has great potential even if the City Council doesn’t come back,” Grant told Prosser.

All the commission wants is to be included in the planning for the building’s future, Grant and Reinert said.

This is one of the central rubs about the Veterans Memorial Building/City Hall that only has become exacerbated as the months have passed.

The City Council has never expressed any enthusiasm for returning to the building.

Prosser on Monday evening reminded the commission members that the City Council is embarking on a several-month public participation process to determine the futures of several of the city’s flood-damaged public buildings. Much of the talk over many months now has been about “co-locating” city, county and school functions in the same buildings. The county, which seemingly had the most potential synergies with the city, dropped out of the process a few months ago, and the City Council has used the word co-locate less if at all recently.

Prosser emphasized last night that he and the City Council go into the public participation process without any idea if city government will return to the Veterans Memorial Building/City Hall or not.

But as he and several council members repeatedly mention, one important factor will be the life-cycle costs of buildings. This often has seemed a euphemism in favor of building a new, “greener,” more efficient building than the existing City Hall.

Last week, though, council member Tom Podzimek said no one was going into the decision-making over buildings with any preconceived notions. At the same time, council member Kris Gulick said he wanted to make sure that the cost to retrofit existing buildings was factored into any analysis.

Monday evening’s commission meeting was eye-opening because it showed just how great a gulf exists between the city’s Veterans Memorial Commission of volunteer appointees and the paid machinery of city government.

Prosser, Casey Drew, the city’s finance director, and John Levy, a city consultant who is helping direct the city’s plans for its flood-damaged buildings, came armed with much information that, surprisingly, eleven months after the flood, was news to the commission. It was as if the Veterans Memorial Building/City Hall, the management of which the commission is responsible for, was a great mystery and Prosser, Drew and Levy were sharing some of the secrets.

Commission members were a bit testy and eager to let Prosser know that it was time to get moving on repairing the building.

In fact, on its own, the commission has been trying to hustle around to establish temporary electrical service to the building just so government –even if FEMA was paying the bill — could stop paying huge bills to run generators.

The city can’t just do nothing and let the building continue to “degrade,” Reinert said at one point.

“Quite frankly, it’s driving me insane,” he said.

The exercise in establishing temporary electrical service at a cost of about $9,000 has proven a bit of a comedy: Prosser and Drew said written bids weren’t used, and Drew explained that two commission-employed maintenance workers had their city-issued purchase cards revoked because they attempted to pay for services before they were provided against city policy. All of this is getting cleaned up.

Commission chairman Pete Welch listed on the commission agenda all the special state grants that the city secured for other local buildings: $5 million for the library; $10 million for a new human services building; $10 million for the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library; $5 million for Options of Linn County; $5 million for the Paramount Theatre; $5 million for the Public Works Building; $16 million for the downtown steam issue. And zero for the Veterans Memorial Building/City Hall.

Commission member Gary Craig acknowledged that he had seen a city list that had sought $5 million for City Hall, but somewhere along the line that amount failed to make the final list.

Reinert said the building might get more backing if it is called its real name, the Veterans Memorial Building.

The commission noted that $118 million in state IJOBs funds are available for other public projects on a competitive basis. Prosser said the city intended to present plenty of proposals to try to win some of the money.

This is “a really critical city facility,” the city manager said of the Veterans Memorial Building.

Former vets director Gary Craig will ‘vigorously fight’ public misconduct charge; his attorney says Craig is ‘shocked;’ calls charge a ‘personal vendetta’

In City Hall, Veterans Memorial Commission on March 26, 2009 at 9:28 am

Gary Craig, the city of Cedar Rapids’ former veterans memorial director, was arrested Wednesday afternoon and taken to jail on a charge of felonious misconduct in office. If convicted, the 54-year-old could face up to five years in prison and a $7,500 fine. He quickly posted a $5,000 bond and was released.

Craig is accused of providing the city’s Veterans Memorial Commission with false payroll records, spreadsheets and claim forms during a time when the commission raised questions about his job performance, according to the criminal complaint filed against him.

His attorney, Michael Lahammer of Cedar Rapids, said Thursday afternoon that Craig is innocent.

Lahammer said he and Craig will “vigorously fight’ the charge.

“We think it’s a personal vendetta by some people, and it’s certainly not based on any facts as we understand them to be,” Lahammer said. “Gary’s given a lot of public service to the city and county, he’s a veteran, and he’s pretty shocked at the charge.”

Craig’s initial court appearance is slated for April 3 in Linn County District Court. The Iowa Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the case.

Also on Thursday, Pete Welch, chairman of the city’s Veterans Memorial Commission, renewed his disappointment with Craig, the former commission’s paid city employee.

Craig resigned from his city post on March 1, 2008, citing job stress, after being paid for 20 weeks while on city paid administrative and medical leave. He joined the city payroll in August 1998.

He was placed on leave by the Veterans Memorial Commission when the commission asked the state auditor to investigate Craig’s handling of money.

The auditor’s report, released in January 2009, found fault with Craig, fault which was apparently the basis for his arrest on Wednesday.

“It is disappointing that when you put a person in a position of public trust that they don’t handle themselves in an absolutely trustworthy manner,” Welch said Thursday.

The auditor’s report in January accused Craig of spending improperly and being paid improperly while a city employee.

Specifically, the state report tied Craig to $10,178 in improper spending and the report said he received $5,021 in city income and payroll taxes while working on veterans projects unrelated to city employment.

The report noted, too, that Craig repaid $6,800 of the $10,178 in questioned spending.

Craig has been driving truck over the road since his departure from the city.

Back in January, Craig said he left city employment and took to driving a truck to relieve stress.

“My doctor felt it would be good for me,” he said. As for the state audit, “I don’t know anything about it. I have done nothing wrong,” he said.

Craig’s attorney in January, Robert Wilson of Cedar Rapids, also said Craig did nothing wrong.

Accusations against him, Wilson said, were a result of Craig’s wearing a couple hats at once. He was both the city’s veterans director and treasurer of Valor Inc., a non-profit organization serving veterans.

“He was all by himself trying to keep track of everything,” Wilson said in January.

Craig was earning $62,067 a year when he left city employment.