Every time we get heavy rains up north I do not sleep well.
Residents and business owners who have been affected by flooding worry every time this happens. We rebuilt and invested billions after the Flood of 2008. Ten years later we need to get flood protection in Cedar Rapids completed. We deserve to have the security of flood protection.
Flooding affects everyone, not just those with property under water. Employees of flood-affected businesses lose their jobs. Employees who live in flooded areas cannot make it to work, affecting those businesses as well. In the last two years we have had five major flood scares. While the City has successfully protected us, this protection has cost more than $11 million dollars. Businesses and individuals also lost millions of dollars in lost sales, evacuation expenses and lost wages. There is a huge expense in not getting protection done.
As a stakeholder in the Northwest Neighborhood and president of the Northwest Neighborhood Association, I field many questions and comments about the flood control system. The most common one is “It never will be built” or “Why is it 10 to 20 years down the road?” We need to have a more definitive timetable for completion with all funding sources to show when and how it will be built.
The city has identified property taxes as the way to fill a gap in funding. Everyone is affected by the flooding and everyone should help pay for it. We tried twice to pass the local option tax to fund flood protection and failed. We could have had protection by now.
The cost of flood insurance is expensive. Major employers are paying hundreds of thousands for flood coverage. Homeowners are paying thousands of dollars for this coverage. Flood protection will eliminate the need for flood insurance and offset the additional property tax costs.
More than 1,000 homes on the Northwest side have been built or rehabbed. Businesses on the Northwest side such as mine have invested millions to reopen. But redevelopment on Ellis Boulevard has been slow to happen. We finally have condo developments valued at more than $10 million happening along Ellis Boulevard. One of them incorporates a flood wall that will be integrated into the levee system. With flood protection fully funded, we will have more development and the Ellis Boulevard area will be rebuilt. This growth in core neighborhoods is important for many reasons, in particular because the infrastructure is already there and it will help the tax base.
Flood protection is so important in so many ways: peace of mind for the thousands of individuals and businesses; financial security for thousands of individuals and businesses; economic development will soar with the contracts for levee construction; businesses like mine will invest more in expansions; new development will happen in the core with the promise of protection. Let’s get this funded and the time frame shortened. The time is now!
• Al Pierson of Cedar Rapids owns Pierson’s Flower Shop & Greenhouses.