Government

Flood control funding, greenways, among top priorities as Cedar Rapids council begins setting goal

The Cedar Rapids City Council chamber at City Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
The Cedar Rapids City Council chamber at City Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Members of the Cedar Rapids City Council identified protection for missing segments of the flood control system and determining a funding strategy to pay for it as the top new priority for Cedar Rapids.

The nine member council met last week for a three-hour review of initiatives already underway and vetted each member’s top new priorities, which touched on greenways, homelessness, the site once planned for a casino and other topics.

“Keep these priorities in front of you and have periodic updates, I would recommend every quarter,” Jeff Schott, director of the University of Iowa Institute for Public Affairs, said during the goal-setting session he led on April 26.

“That does not mean you aren’t going to do other things, but what you are telling yourselves, what you are telling staff, what you are telling the public — these are things you absolutely, positively want to get done.”

The council is expected to continue the goal-setting discussion sometime this month. While several goals rose to the top, they are not considered a final list and could be voted on in the future.

Goal setting is a regular council process. Some members of council, particularly those newly elected, had questioned why there was not more of a discussion about goals and priorities before approving the $500 million city budget for fiscal 2019 in March.

On flood protection, city officials noted its commitment to the flood control system is at least $430 million, an amount which could shrink if federal aid or other grants come through.

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City officials and council members in the past have discussed the need to devise a funding plan, such as extending the one cent local-option sales tax and bonding. But nothing has been formalized.

The latest estimate for the entire flood control system is $750 million.

Top items, in addition to flood control, included:

l Develop a funding strategy for the greenway program and enhance the greenway system along the Cedar River.

l Determine the best way to address the recommendations from the Safe, Equitable, Thriving Communities Task Force.

l Develop the former casino site near First Avenue and First Street SW.

l Build on the excitement found in places such as Iowa Startup Accelerator and NewBo, create jobs and leverage innovation.

l Develop short term job opportunities for homeless.

A handful of other goals also were identified although didn’t make the top priorities list. Some of those included:

l Building a second entrance for the Seminole Valley area.

l Renaming Mount Trashmore to Mount Smeti, which is the Czech word for garbage.

l Stop charging at parking meters an hour earlier to attract more people downtown in the late afternoon and early evening.

l Redeveloping the old Terex site in the College District.

The goal-setting exercise focused on new priorities, so initiatives already underway, such as street repairs, were not included in the list.

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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