City Council to consider $660,000 Aid to Agency grants and more this Tuesday
Last month, the Iowa City City Council passed on a utility-scale solar panel project with MidAmerican Energy at Waterworks Prairie Park. The project, which was directly mentioned in the city’s Climate Action Plan, could have produced enough energy to power approximately 580 average-sized Iowan homes, greatly increasing MidAmerican’s renewable energy portfolio. But a number of letters convinced the council that the damage done to the existing prairie wasn’t worth it.
In the following meeting, the council agreed to a $244,019 contract with Applied Ecological Services, Inc. to restore prairie at a number of city-owned areas. But based on correspondence, this also is facing opposition.
Judy Pfohl, the president of the Ty’n Cae Neighborhood Association, wrote in, saying the neighborhood has not been consulted about these plantings.
“Please interview neighbors across the city about their concerns the Parks department has decided to take climate action irregardless of community wishes and change 100 acres of city parks into prairie,” Pfohl wrote. According to her letter, Pfohl is particularly writing about the 10 acres of planting approved for Willow Creek Park, which represents a fraction of the 86-acre restoration project.
Iowa City has declared a climate crisis. The city has committed to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and net-zero by 2050. To do so, it is using a multi-part plan that includes a campaign to educate private properties about native plantings like prairie, which once covered an estimated 75% to 80% of Iowa. Today, less than 0.1% of that original prairie remains, according to the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, a conservation organization that works with private landowners and public agencies to protect and restore Iowa’s land, water and wildlife.
Here are the locations and acres of prairie to be established:
- Benton Hill Park – 0 .2 acres
- Bloomington Prairie – 2.7 acres
- Crandic Park – 1.9 acres
- Happy Hollow Park – 0.2 acres
- Hunter's Run Park – 5.8 acres
- Kiwanis Park – 1 acre
- McCollister Prairie – 1.8 acres
- Oakland Cemetery – 0.5 acres
- Park Road Prairie – 13.0 acres
- Scott Park – 20.1 acres
- Sturgis Ferry Park – 6.7 acres
- Taft Speedway Prairie – 8 acres
- Terrell Mill Park – 4.2 acres
- Villa Park – 3.5 acres
- Walden Prairie – 1 acre
- Waterworks Prairie – 3 acres
- Willow Creek Park – 9.7 acres
- Wolfbrook Prairie – 2.6 acres
Also coming to Council
Aid to Agency Funding – The Iowa City Housing and Community Development Commission submitted their funding recommendation for fiscal year 2021 (July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021). City Council will consider the following allocation.
For Legacy Aid to Agencies, HCDC recommended:
- 4 C's Community Coord. Child Care – $24,923
- Arc of Southeast Iowa – $19,938
- Big Brothers / Big Sisters – $24,923
- Crisis Center of Johnson County – $69,086
- Domestic Violence Intervention Program – $49,846
- Free Lunch Program – $17,944
- HACAP – $24,923
- Horizons, A Family Service Alliance – $43,863
- Inside Out Reentry Community – $39,877
- Iowa City Free Medical/Dental Clinic – $24,923
- Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity – $24,923
- Neighborhood Centers of JC – $54,830
- Pathways Adult Day Health Center – $24,923
- Prelude Behavioral Services – $39,877
- Rape Victim Advocacy Program – $24,923
- Shelter House – $84,738
- Table to Table – $30,904
- United Action for Youth – $32,898
- Total Request – $658,262
For Emerging Aid to Agencies, HCDC recommended:
- Grow Johnson County - FY21 Season – $0
- Houses into Homes - Inventory Management – $5,438
- Successful Living - Snow/Mow – $0
- Successful Living - Software – $0
- Unlimited Abilities - Operations – $11,300
- Total Request – $16,738
Rezoning Eastbrook Street and American Legion Road – Iowa City Council will consider rezoning approximately 35 acres on Eastbrook Street and American Legion Road. American Legion Road is set for an upgrade with wide sidewalks and utility infrastructure.
“These factors make the property ripe for development,” the developer wrote in a letter submitted in the P&Z packet. Currently used as farmland, the property is bordered to the east and west with low-density residential uses. The land is currently Interim Development Single-Family. The application asks to rezone 10.14 acres to Low-Density Multi-Family Residential, 2.14 acres to Neighborhood Public and 22.51 acres to Low-Density Single-Family Residential.
The project came to Iowa City Planning and Zoning on April 2 and received a 7-0 approval subject to conditions ranging from affordable housing to traffic calming.
Triple-A bond rating – Moody’s Investors Service gave Iowa City's $12.1 million 2020 General Obligation Bonds a triple-A rating, calling their outlook “stable.”
A triple-A, or AAA, is the strongest investment-grade bond rating offered by Moody’s. The ratings are an assessment of the issuer’s financial ability to make interest payments and repay the loan in full at maturity.
Moody’s analysts assigned AAA based on the city’s large tax base anchored by the University of Iowa and the UI Hospitals & Clinics. Further, it’s a reflection of the city’s “liquidity and fund balance,” as well as its “ample revenue raising flexibility.” Both the tax base and budget offset the city’s “heightened leverage” ($64.6 million debt outstanding) and its participation in statewide retirement plans.
The coronavirus pandemic did not impact Moody’s rating. The report notes that a reduction in reserves or liquidity or growth in pension or debt burden could lead to a downgrade of the city’s credit rating.
Letter to the governor – Iowa City City Council is sending a letter to Gov. Kim Reynolds asking her to issue a shelter-in-place order. The letter argues that such an order would be a strong message to residents about the danger of spread. Reynolds has instead opted to begin loosening pandemic mitigation measures. The Johnson County Board of Supervisors sent a similar letter at the end of March.
Infrastructure Projects – During each meeting, there are several city infrastructure projects at varying stages of the process. City Council will consider the following projects:
- Iowa Avenue Bridge Repair Project – The West Iowa Avenue Bridge needs some replaced joints, floor and edge repair and sidewalk and curb repair. The final completion date is August 14, 2020. The project manual estimate was $100,000. There was only one responsive bidder, Minturn, Inc. of Brooklyn, Iowa who submitted the low bid for $128,025.
- Prentiss Street Bridge Replacement Project – The Prentiss Street Bridge needs replacing and the surrounding roadway will also need repairs. This project includes ADA sidewalk ramps, public utility and water main work and storm sewer replacement. The start date is June 1, 2020. The project manual estimate was $1.3 million. There were four bids. Portzen Construction, Inc. of Dubuque, Iowa was the low bidder for $1,398,708.11.
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Zachary Oren Smith writes about government, growth and development for the Press-Citizen. Reach him at email@example.com or 319 -339-7354, and follow him on Twitter via @zacharyos.