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

Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Department of Commerce’

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.

Council members weren’t kidding about killing a downtown coal plant; they now put their support for federal bucks behind a better U.S. Cellular Center and a new community/rec facility

In City Hall, Floods on May 13, 2009 at 2:39 pm

The chase continues for federal dollars from the U.S. Department of Commerce that the Cedar Rapids community never really knew much about until it started trying to recover from last June’s flood.

A line of local projects is lined up for a shot at this pot of federal funds, and each of the project sponsors has come to City Hall asking the City Council to provide the required council endorsement of their projects.

A few weeks ago, the council decided to prioritize the requests so the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration might use that information to help it make a decision on what to spend money on in Cedar Rapids.

And a few weeks ago, the council put the concept of some kind of new downtown steam plant at the top of its list.

But that was then. Last week, the council pulled the plug on any plans to rebuild Alliant Energy’s flood-damaged Sixth Street Generating Station using public dollars because the plan called for the plant to burn coal. The council can make such a decision because federal funds have to come through the city. They can’t come to privately owned Alliant.

The council is now ready to pass a new resolution with new priorities for how it would like to see Commerce Department funds spent in the city.

There no longer is any mention of a community steam plant.

At the top of the new list is a plan to upgrade the city’s U.S. Cellular Center and add a new convention center to it. Next in line, is a plan to build a new community center/recreation center to replace the flood-damaged Witwer Senior Center and Time Check Recreation Center and the aged Ambroz Recreation Center and outdated Bender indoor pool.

Both projects are among the fifteen projects in the Fifteen in 5 community planning initiative, which was conceived in 2005.

Below the U.S. Cellular Center and community center/rec center on the priority list: a new Economic Commerce Center; steam systems for Coe College and the two hospitals; planning to remedy freight train traffic in the downtown; and funding for a joint communications network now being built to connect city, county and school facilities.