Cedar Rapids Headlines 12/23/12

Christmas Dinner Serves Hundreds Annually at Metro High School

By Christy Aumer, Reporter   CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Several hundred people attended the annual free Christmas Dinner at Metro High School on Saturday.
For three hours today, volunteers served up a free meal while attendees had their choice to take home clothing, non-perishable food items and toys – all free of charge. Santa was also there to spread a little Christmas cheer and bring smiles to the faces of the little ones there.This annual event has helped hundreds of people since 1997 when Henry Davison began events like these.
“People need it,” Davison said. “They get to come in, eat, enjoy themselves and leave.”
Families that attended were able to give each child at least one book, one stuffed animal and another gift of their choice. Last year, the program served around 500 people.
“How many people do you see sleep under the bridge every day?” Davison said. “I’m not doing it for me, I’m doing it for them.”
86-year-old Davison started the HD Youth Center in the late 1990s to help members of the community. The center puts on several events during the year, including an Easter Egg Hunt, a Back to School program, a Thanksgiving dinner and an Adventureland trip that Michael Lewis said gives kids the opportunity to get out of the city and have fun.Lewis has been with Davison since he started the program and attended many speeches Davision gave around town in the 1990s in an effort to spread the word about the need for the neighborhood center.
“This really brings the community together,” Lewis said. “It’s a reminder that someone out there cares about you, even if just for a minute.”
HD Youth Center Christmas Coordinator Eric Hansen said the program has seen rough days, especially since the Flood of 2008 which involved a relocation of the center, and events., but Hansen said they’re hoping to open a new location on Mount Vernon Road in the next three months.
“Hoping,” Hansen reiterated. The program is seeking more volunteers to aid in projects and events like these to keep it moving forward.
26-year-old Brittany Hermon said this was one of the biggest events of the year for her and her four kids. Being her second time attending the Christmas dinner, she enjoys seeing familiar faces and plans on coming back again. The toys she selected will be the Christmas gifts for her children, besides two other toys she previously purchased.
“God got me through another Christmas once again,” Hermon said with a smile.
Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Henry Davison at (319) 329-8841.

Flood protection in Cedar Rapids remains top priority

Work goes on to bring it to reality

CEDAR RAPIDS — The flood gauge just upstream from the Eighth Avenue bridge here has the depth of the Cedar River these days at less than three feet.The river’s low flow and a distance of four and a half years from the city’s historic 2008 flood — when the river climbed to 31.12 feet — conspire to blur the need to build the city’s proposed $375 million flood protection system, acknowledges Mayor Ron Corbett.  I’s only natural, said the mayor. Finding public dollars to help in the aftermath of a flood or other natural disaster, he said, is always easier than finding those dollars to protect against what the future might hold.“Once the disaster is cleaned up, then you’re looking for long-term construction dollars, and you’re fighting with all the other aspects of government spending,” Corbett said. “The emotional piece has been lost.” Amphitheater progress
The most visible sign that the work of flood protection is inching ahead is the city’s towering outdoor riverfront amphitheater, now under construction on the west bank of the river across from downtown. This $8 million entertainment venue, which doubles as a flood levee, is a reminder of just how high floodwaters climbed in 2008. In recent weeks, as part of the amphitheater project, a set of concrete pillars have gone up, providing a first look at what a flood wall could look like elsewhere in the city’s flood-protection system.
For his part, Corbett said he is reserving judgment about the aesthetics of the wall until the work is complete, though Dave Elgin, the city’s public works director and city engineer, says the pillars will come with landscaping and other enhancements to make them look more appealing than they might look now.
The section of wall, Elgin adds, is one of many examples of a removable flood wall, which are designed so removable panels can be inserted between the pillars during the approach of a flood. Removable walls are in the city plan for much of downtown.
At first glance, 2012 would seem to have been a bad year for the city’s flood protection plans. After all, local voters in March — for a second time — defeated a measure that would have extended the city’s existing 1 percent, local-option sales tax to provide local dollars to help pay for flood protection.
Corbett, though, says the tax defeat didn’t change what he says is the widely held view in Cedar Rapids that flooding will recur and flood protection will be built.
Flood fund
The tax defeat aside, 2012 brought what Corbett calls a “significant” victory for Cedar Rapids flood protection when the Iowa Legislature created a new state flood protection fund based on an idea that Corbett and the city of Cedar Rapids came up with and spent two years pushing. The new law will direct a portion of the incremental increase in the state sales tax into a fund, which cities can make application to if they have local matching funds.
‘Preferred’ plan’
The city’s Elgin calls the city’s preferred plan a Chevy and not a Cadillac, a plan that provides protection but not extravagances.
With four years now passed since the City Council adopted the preferred plan, Elgin reports that the city now has asked one of the plan’s consultants, Stanley Consultants of Muscatine, to calculate the costs of a less-ambitious flood protection system for the west side of the city.
In the preferred plan, which protects to the elevation of the 2012 flood, the cost of west-side protection now is thought to be between $150 million and $155 million because about $30 million already has been spent to buy out and demolish flood-damaged properties in the way of a flood-protection system.
Stanley Consultants has put the price tag at about $125 million to protect the west side to the 100-year flood level and $140 million to build a foundation sturdy enough to provide 100-year flood protection and to allow the protection to be enhanced to the 2008 flood level in the future. In the end, Stanley has advised that it doesn’t cost that much more to go from 100-year protection to the preferred plan’s 2008 level of protection once the foundation for the latter is in place, Elgin says.

I have to wonder why the city continues to go on and on about “flood protection” when we all know that the reason we flooded as badly as we did was because we had trains sitting on bridges acting as dams! People I talk to in the community want the river dredged.

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About Ajai Dittmar

There is nothing 'radical' about wanting to save your historical neighborhood! There is nothing 'negative' for wanting an 'outside investigation' done a public service that has had a lot of embarrassing news, especially when they don't do their jobs! There is nothing 'odd' about wanting politicians to uphold the Constitution they swear to uphold when they are sworn into office! Follow @sibzianna View all posts by Ajai Dittmar

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