Is someone getting unfair favors?

The Central Fire Station connection to Bradley & Riley Law Firm
By Lisa Kuzela, February 28,2011

The 2008 flood damaged the city’s Central Fire Station located at 222-3rd Street N.W.

Although it wasn’t originally deemed “substantially damaged,” the City managed to get FEMA to change its ruling on it. (There is only two ways FEMA will pay to have a public facility demolished, and therefore rebuilt: 1) if it’s over 50% damaged, “substantially damaged;” or 2) if the building is deemed an imminent threat.)

On November 13, 2008, the City entered into a two year contract to lease a building for the temporarily location of its fire department at 1010 – 1st Street N.W. This facility is now right across the street from the river – in the Greenway. The City paid the owners $30,606 per month rent for this. After two years, this comes to $734,544.

This building was assessed in 2008 (before the flood) for $1,800,000. It was receiving an Urban Revitalization tax exemption beginning 2002. As with all TIFs, the exempt portion decreases consistently and gradually over ten years. It hasn’t done that. (See table below.) In addition to this tax exemption, the owners received the flood reduction on the property value, but so far the assessment hasn’t increased, even though the property has been rehabilitated – and rented – at the taxpayers expense.

The owners of this building are Lehman, Allsop and Evans. More specifically, Russell W. Lehman, Stephen W. Allsop, and Thomas J. Evans.

Going to the Secretary of State’s website, the “registered agent” for Lehman, Allsop & Evans is Joseph Schmall, an attorney of Bradley and Riley.

Bradley and Riley is one of the firms the City hired to handle the buyouts.

I emphasize that this property is in the Greenway and is also on the voluntary acquisition list to be purchased by the City through the HMGP program (FEMA-funded). Yes, our city located our fire department even closer to the river, in the Greenway, and is paying hefty rent – all to be reimbursed by FEMA.

I also want to emphasize that while nothing is supposed to be built in the 100 year flood plain, “critical action” facilities, such as police, fire, hospitals, are not even supposed to be built in the 500 year flood plain. However, not only did our city build the (flooded) Central Fire Station in the 100-year flood plain, when the historical 1,000 year flood hit us in 2008, they relocated the temporary facility in this risky 100-year flood plain – even closer to the river! Why? Were there no other buildings available temporarily until they rebuild the Central Fire Station? What happens if we get a 100-year flood? We again lose our fire department!

Once the owners, Lehman, Allsop & Evans get bought out, shouldn’t the funds paid to them by FEMA – through the City – be deducted as a “duplication of benefits?”

On November 9, 2010, Council voted to extend the lease agreement an additional two years. What the resolution does NOT say is how much we’re paying for the rent. With this extension, the taxpayers are now paying $31,523.68 per month rent for our fire department to be located across the street from the river in the Greenway. After another two years, this amount will come to $756,568; added to the first two years they received for rent, (after four years), FEMA – through the City of Cedar Rapids – will have paid Lehman, Allsop & Evans and unfathomable $1,491,112 rent! The property is currently assessed (post flood) at $1,009,453 and prior to the flood at $1,800,000.

They got a 3% monthly raise. But the City staff didn’t wait for that increase to be effective after the Council approved the extension on November 9. What they did wait for is to pay the October 12, 2010 invoice until the end of December to give them the new rate.

NOTE: Joseph Schmall is also the attorney who prepared the deeds for True North to purchase the property in March 2011. See related True North articles regarding the Public Library and LOST funds.

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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

12 responses to “Is someone getting unfair favors?

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  • Jesusa Bloomgren

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  • baltimore cruises

    Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point. You definitely know what youre talking about, why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your blog when you could be giving us something informative to read?

  • Booker Kwang

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  • Rob Cooper

    There going to give 50 properties to Affordable Housing Network DBA: Block-By-Block. Can we all say “Dishing out Favors”.

    But, we first need to consider why they are doing this. By locking in the development and controlling the sale price the city can maximize property taxes. Its a brilliant idea to screw us all.

  • Tom

    True North Deal was done in March of 2010, was it not ?

    • Lisa Kuzela

      Tam – In February 2010, the Council voted to relocate the library to the True North site. At that time, it was owned by Busse Investments. In March 2010 Busse Investments sold the property to True North for $3.6 million. Five months later in September 2010, the City bought it from True North for $7.5 million: $3.5 million coming from FEMA and $4 million from our local option sales tax. In December 2010, the Council approved using our LOST to pay the $4 million gap between the value and the purchase cost. Hope this clarifies. You could go to http://www.WeCanDoBetterCR.com for some of this documentation. The site has not been updated since the last LOST extention election March 2012 — Lisa Kuzela

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