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

Posts Tagged ‘The Cedar Rapids Flood’

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.”

Day 1 for Eyerly as flood-recovery director; he’s looking ahead, not back; setting goals; wants to work himself out of a job in a year or two

In Floods, Greg Eyerly on July 13, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Greg Eyerly never seemed to fuss too much with the suit and tie the last 16 or so months when he was working on the front lines as the city’s utilities operations manager with an office at the Water Pollution Control facility.

Monday, his first full day as the city’s new flood-recovery director, had him dressed every bit the part of executive. His shirt couldn’t have been whiter, his tie nicer, the shine on the shoes shinier.

Eyerly is operating out of what had been a mini-conference room at the temporary City Hall in northeast Cedar Rapids. And right next door is the office of City Manager Jim Prosser, to whom Eyerly reports.

“I have a great working relationship with Jim Prosser,” he said. “I may disagree with him on some things, and I feel comfortable expressing that. I work for the community.”

First thing Monday, Eyerly said he sat down with Prosser and spelled out for him what he had scheduled for the first couple weeks of his new assignment.

Eyerly said he is headed to Des Moines on Tuesday to talk about flood recovery with officials of the Rebuild Iowa Office, the Iowa Department of Economic Development and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Iowa office.

He will talk to the City Council on Wednesday evening about the city’s major flood-damaged buildings and about his goal to bring negotiations with the Federal Emergency Management Agency over the scope of the buildings’ damages to a successful conclusion by Oct. 31.

He said the city also is readying to unveil an addition to its Web page, which will allow people to see, step by step, how work on specific flood-related projects is progressing.

Yet this week, too, Eyerly said he hopes to get out into Cedar Rapids’ flood-damaged neighborhoods to take a look around and talk to people.

Eyerly said he can count his top priorities on one hand. He wants to find funding for flood-recovery projects and get it delivered; make sure the city is moving ahead in a timely manner on neighborhood and business recovery, property buyouts and demolitions, and future flood protection.

As for the city’s key flood-damaged buildings, Eyerly said the city and FEMA are in wide disagreement right now on the level of damage on the Veterans Memorial Building and the Central Fire Station, for instance.

One breakthrough, he said, is that FEMA has agreed to set aside its approach to the issue, which Eyerly said is based too much on prior disasters and square footage. The city and its consultants have been asking for a room-by-room analysis of the damages.

Eyerly said his mission is to make the post of flood-recovery director unnecessary in a year or two, he said.

Two factors that will help Cedar Rapids’ flood recovery have nothing to do with who is doing or not doing what, he said.

The city’s flood recovery will be helped if the national economy picks up and if the nation does not experience a major hurricane or other natural disaster this year, he said.

A detail spotted in a City Hall handout prompts library board president to launch a press release: Yes, she says, a new library will cost $45 million

In Cedar Rapids Public Library on June 24, 2009 at 3:51 pm

The City Council and the Linn County Board of Supervisors are working to prioritize a long list of 80-plus local projects, each of which would like a piece of $118.5 million still remaining in the state’s I-JOBS economic-stimulus pot.

Among the project details that have come to light as part of the I-JOBS competition is the fact that the Cedar Rapids Library Board of Directors has plans to build a new $45-million library to replace the flood-damaged one on First Street SE.

Susan Corrigan, library board president, defended the price tag on Tuesday evening when asked about it by a reporter at the city’s open house to discuss flood-damaged city buildings.

On Wednesday afternoon, Corrigan issued a press release to say the replacement cost for a new library will be $45 million, an amount that will cover a new building, materials, furnishing and parking.

Corrigan said the city expects to receive $22 million of that amount from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to replace the flood-damaged library. She noted that the state I-JOBS fund already has given the library $5 million, and she said the library will be seeking an additional $10 million from the I-JOBS program. Additional funds may come from the Vision Iowa program and from a private capital campaign, she said.

“FEMA will pay to build a new facility, but we owe it to the community to make our new library a smart, long-term investment,” Corrigan said.

The library board does not want to rebuild a new library on the site of the flood-damaged one. It’s preference is to get to higher downtown ground.

The library board envisions a 105,000 sq. ft. library to replace what had been an 85,000 sq. ft. one.

Renovation getting closer for smaller flood-damaged venues; Ellis pool, trails, police locker room, Jones golf clubhouse and Third Avenue parkade

In City Hall, FEMA, Floods on June 23, 2009 at 11:31 am

Having just passed the one-year mark of the June 2008 flood, the city is getting closer to beginning work to renovate a few of its smaller flood-damaged facilities.

This week, the City Council will hold a public hearing to discuss renovation plans for the flood-damaged Jones Golf Course/Clubhouse. The estimated cost of the work is $292,000.

Also, the council will hold a public hearing on a $330,000 repair of flood damage to the Cedar River Trail, the Sac and Fox Trail, the Ellis Trail and the A Street levee.

In addition, the council will hold a similar public hearing on July 8 to discuss repair plans for the flood-damaged Ellis Park pool, the cost of which is estimated at $367,000.

A second public hearing on July 8 will address $400,000 in repairs to the flood-damaged locker room area of the Police Department.

Also on that date is a public hearing on repairs for the flood-damaged Third Avenue SE Parkade. Renovation is expected to cost $731,000.

Meanwhile, City Hall on Tuesday is holding the first of three open houses to obtain public input as it decides what to do with the city’s major flood-damaged buildings, including the Veterans Memorial Building/City Hall, the library, the bus depot and Paramount Theatre. Other open houses will follow on Aug. 18 and Oct. 6.

Fast change in City Council agenda can’t conceal the thought that University of Iowa business manager ranks as front-runner for City Hall flood-recovery post

In City Hall on June 22, 2009 at 5:12 pm

George Hollins, the University of Iowa’s business manager who has worked on the university’s flood fighting and recovery, appears to be the front-runner to fill a new city of Cedar Rapids post, flood-recovery director.

Late Monday afternoon, City Hall released the weekly City Council agenda with agenda item #39 stating, “Resolution approving the appointment of George Hollins as flood recovery director.”

A short time later, City Hall released an amended agenda showing item #39 crossed out.

Conni Huber, the city’s human resources director, said late Monday afternoon that all four finalist candidates remain candidates for the job.

Thirty-one people applied for the new post, and a nine-member selection committee picked six to interview.

Greg Eyerly, the city’s utilities operations manager, Tom Watson, Palo’s flood-recovery manager, Sara Jones, an emergency management planner in New Jersey, and Hollins are the four who remain in the competition.

This City Hall flood-recovery job is unique for Cedar Rapids because of how it will be financed — the private sector will pay some of the cost — and because it was created at the urging of Rockwell Collins, the city’s largest employer.

Hollins was earning $116,400 in salary at the University of Iowa in the 2008 fiscal year.

City Council keeps its distance from May’s Island; may extend lease for 2 years on temp setup in suburban-style office park; big June 13 ceremony on river’s west side

In City Hall on June 2, 2009 at 4:11 pm

The City Council isn’t rushing to go near May’s Island, home to the flood-damaged Veterans Memorial Building, which houses City Hall.

On its agenda this week, the council says it will discuss at its next meeting, on June 10, a proposal to extend its lease at City Hall’s temporary location, 3851 River Ridge Dr. NE, for another two years. The city’s lease for the spot in an office-park building owned by AEGON USA is $23,410 a month. The Federal Emergency Management Agency pays the money. The AEGON USA sign is still out front.

The return of city government to May’s Island in the future is among the questions about the city’s flood-damaged buildings that the public will be asked to weigh in on during a series of open houses, the first of which is June 23.

On another front, City Hall revealed this week that it will hold a Flood 2008 Commemoration Ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 13.

The ceremony, though, will not be on the giant lawn on May’s Island in the middle of the river, but instead, will be held at Sunner Park and Lot 20 on the west side of the river near the police station .

Cassie Willis, the city’s communications liaison, on Tuesday said the parking ramp underneath the May’s Island lawn was flood-damaged, and it’s unclear if it’s safe to congregate on the lawn above it.

Willis noted that she has invited Iowa Sens. Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley to the event, neither of which can come, she reported. Congressman Dave Loebsack, D-Mount Vernon, will be on hand and will speak, though Gov. Chet Culver’s office has said, to date, that the governor will not attend, said Willis.

Spielman’s Event Services and Rausch Productions Inc. will help put on the event for the city.

About 100 are expected to attend in addition to 45 participants and 35 event volunteers.

Coe, St. Luke’s first victors in local scrap to land U.S. Commerce Department diaster-related funds

In Floods on June 2, 2009 at 10:44 am

Coe College and St. Luke’s Hospital are the first victors in the local competition to secure disaster-related funds from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA).

Iowa’s senators, Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley, have announced that the college and hospital will use a $4.65 million EDA grant to build a steam heating plant that the two local institutions will share.

This week’s announcement was little surprise.

Coe College and St. Luke’s Hospital were two of eight large users of cheap steam produced by Alliant Energy’s Sixth Street Generating Plant, which was destroyed in last June’s flood.

Last week, the City Council discussed how it would dispense $21 million in federal and state funds to help about 200 steam users covert (or help pay those who already have converted) from the Alliant system to their own steam systems. The council left out Coe College and St. Luke’s in their calculations on the expectation that EDA money was coming for them.

Harkin and Grassley this week confirmed that it is.

The council also left out another of the Sixth Street plant’s eight large steam users, Mercy Medical Center, and for the same reason that it left out Coe and St. Luke’s. Mercy, too, has applied for EDA money, and that now is apparently the next anticipated announcement from EDA.

Several other local projects are competing for the funds. The City Council has said it most would like the EDA to support a proposal to upgrade the U.S. Cellular Center and to add a convention center to it. The city’s Facilities Commission is seeking a $39-million EDA grant to help finance the $52-million project.

Patrick DePalma, chairman of the Facilities Commission, said he and other community representatives met recently with representatives of the EDA, and he said he came away optimistic that EDA is interested in the project.

On its priority list for EDA funding, the City Council placed a proposed recreation center/community center second behind the U.S. Cellular Center proposal.

The Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce also is seeking an EDA grant for a new Regional Commerce Center and the community also is seeking money for downtown rail study as a prelude to redirecting freight train switching maneuvers from the downtown.

Watershed management does matter in flood protection: Harkin announces $24.2 million for Iowa to buy flood-prone land and return it to its natural state

In Floods on June 2, 2009 at 10:01 am

Rep. Dave Loebsack and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials were on the Cedar River last week to talk about protecting Cedar Rapids and other flood-prone cities against another flood.

Both the Congressman and the Corps said flood-protection systems and watershed management were both necessary ingredients in flood protection.

As proof of the need for watershed management, Sen. Tom Harkin on Tuesday announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture was sending $24.236 million to Iowa to fund 42 floodplain easement projects.
Harkin’s office said the money will be used to purchase easements from landowners along floodplains to allow land most prone to flooding to be restored to a natural state.

By taking easement land out of farm production, the Emergency Watershed Protection Program will allow flood waters to spread out and slow down, helping to reduce flooding on private property elsewhere in the watershed, Harkin’s office said.

“As we approach the one-year anniversary of the flooding that devastated Iowa, these funds will continue the process of rebuilding our state and will help prevent future flooding,” Harkin said in a news release.

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will acquire the property, which can both be private land or certain public land. Landowners will retain several rights to the property, including the right to control public access.

City hires OPN Architects for $400,000 to help with open houses to determine future of flood-damaged city buildings; county, schools dropped out of process

In City Hall, Floods on May 26, 2009 at 5:57 pm

The much-anticipated series of public open houses will start June 23 to help the city determine the future of flood-damaged city buildings.
And Wednesday evening, the City Council hired OPN Architects Inc. of Cedar Rapids for $400,000 to help lead the several-month process.

OPN not only will help conduct the public open houses, but the firm also will provide design and planning options and an analysis of the costs involved in renovating buildings or building new ones.

OPN’s contract runs from May 28 through Oct. 31 and may be renewed in 60-day increments.

Among the key flood-damaged buildings under discussion will be the library, the Paramount Theatre, the Ground Transportation Center bus depot, the Veterans Memorial Building/City Hall, the Public Works Building and the existing federal courthouse, which the city is scheduled to assume ownership of once the new federal courthouse opens in the fall of 2012.

Sufficient damage was done to the library that it will be rebuilt not renovated, and the city’s library board already has asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to allow the city to rebuild the library on a different site.

The council also will be interested in hearing about proposals to build a new City Hall, called a community services center, a new Public Safety Training Center and a new community operations center, which would house city departments like fleet maintenance, streets and solid waste.

Only city government is left to participate in the lengthy process to get public input on facilities.

Some months ago, both Linn County government and the Cedar Rapids school district were involved in the facilities process when the idea was that the differing jurisdictions might “co-locate” in a shared facility.
The county dropped out a few months ago, saying they wanted to move faster than the city. The school district dropped out this month.