News Track: Linn County flood protection would cost millions

Supervisors decide to not to include expenses in capital budget

Linn County Supervisor James Houser talks Sept. 27, 2016, about flood protection measures including moving furniture and other items from courtrooms and offices on the first floor up to the ground floor the Linn County Courthouse on May’s Island in Cedar Rapids. To prepare for possible flooding, crews had placed about 4,500 feet of sand-filled barriers using 4,000 tons of sand to protect Linn County buildings in the flood zone, including the courthouse, jail, Juvenile Justice Center, the Sheriff’s Office and the County Services building. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Linn County Supervisor James Houser talks Sept. 27, 2016, about flood protection measures including moving furniture and other items from courtrooms and offices on the first floor up to the ground floor the Linn County Courthouse on May’s Island in Cedar Rapids. To prepare for possible flooding, crews had placed about 4,500 feet of sand-filled barriers using 4,000 tons of sand to protect Linn County buildings in the flood zone, including the courthouse, jail, Juvenile Justice Center, the Sheriff’s Office and the County Services building. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

BACKGROUND

CEDAR RAPIDS — Last year, the Cedar River crested at nearly 22 feet — the second highest level on record, after the historic 2008 flood — in Cedar Rapids.

As water levels climbed, city and county officials erected temporary flood walls using sand-filled barriers.

Flood protections proved largely successful. Linn County government’s damages were isolated mostly to the Sheriff’s Office and May’s Island, where the county courthouse and jail are located.

All told, Linn County was designated a little more than $731,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the event.

In December, the Board of Supervisors discussed possibly seeking professional consulting on flood protections for the jail, courthouse and Sheriff’s Office.

Supervisor James Houser initiated the discussion, expressing a desire to pursue the installation of temporary flood walls around the three structures. In times of rising water, aluminum walls would be erected.

What’s Happened Since

Garth Fagerbakke, Linn County facilities director, said rough estimates came in at about $2 million for protections around the Sheriff’s Office and another $4 million for May’s Island.

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Those estimates were included in budgeting discussion earlier this year for possible capital improvements, but the majority of the board decided not to pursue those expenses at this time.

Houser said he still supports adding temporary flood walls on May’s Island, but said it’s nice having cost estimates in case additional funds become available.

“It is an idea I’d like to see us continue on with, but at this point in time we hit a snag,” he said. “I think we should be proactive instead of reactive.”

Currently, the county is pursuing about $464,000 in repairs and flood mitigation for the Sheriff’s Office.

The project includes repairs to the building’s basement as well as added drainage tiles and a permanent sump pump to the basement. A shut-off also is being added to the sewer system to prevent backflow.

l Comments: (319) 339-3175; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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