CBJ Report: CR leaders approve property tax and bond plan for flood control

    CR leaders approve property tax and bond plan for flood control

    Cedar Rapids leaders on Sept. 11 reached a long-awaited decision on a formula for filling the funding gap to construct a roughly $750 million permanent flood control system.

    Under the plan, the city will issue $20 million in bonds each fiscal year from 2020-2029, and an additional $8 million per year from 2022-2029. The $8 million per year represents a continuation of bonding that is already being done to finance a program to bring city property into compliance with federal ADA standards, which will conclude in 2022.

    The plan is expected to raise the city’s tax levy approximately 22 cents.

    The stage was set for the action this summer when the federal government announced plans to award the city $117 million in flood control funding, although it was later determined that about $6 million of the amount could be a loan requiring repayment.

    About 48 cents of each dollar spent on the flood control system will come from the federal or state government under the formula, Finance Director Casey Drew said in outlining the plan. He said this is likely the only time the city can receive such a high percentage of the project cost from the federal government. Delaying the project would result in inflation of project costs, higher flood insurance rates for residents and less investment in core areas of the city that would result in lower property tax collections, he added.

    The plan includes a flood control system that covers both sides of the Cedar River, despite a lack of federal support for the west side system, with flood protection for Cedar Lake that could potentially be reconsidered. The city continues to seek ways to lower the overall project cost, according to Rob Davis, the city's flood control system manager.

    The plan had previously been vetted through two city council committees, and council members, who unanimously supported the plan, came with speeches prepared to support it.

    Property owners across the city and not just those in the city's 100-year flood zone will benefit from the plan because it will create a system of public spaces and greenways that all citizens will enjoy, said Tyler Olson, who chairs the city council's flood protection committee. He said residents throughout the city also benefit from jobs in the flood-affected areas.

    Council member Ann Poe noted that the city has incurred expenses responding to a series of lesser floods since the massive 2008 flood that devastated the core area of the city, including one the previous week. She expressed pride that the city has held its tax levy constant at $15.22 for 10 years, adding it’s the responsibility of city government to protect its citizens. The first tax levy increase under the plan will come before the city council next spring.

    ICR Iowa Talent Hub launches as newest regional recruitment tool

    A new online "talent hub" aimed at selling the region's quality of life and recruiting those from outside the region to move (or move back) is now live.

    Developed by ICR Iowa, the regional joint venture tasked with business and talent attraction, the new ICR Iowa Talent Hub features a wealth of regional information, including lists of popular events and attractions; the various "neighborhoods" making up the region, including smaller communities like the Amanas and Robins; links to area job boards and select job postings; and information on local education initiatives and programs, such as DeltaV Code School through NewBoCo and the Jacobsen Institute for Youth Entrepreneurship at the University of Iowa.

    "The thought was, instead of going out and meeting people outside of the region and talking jobs, we're going to go out and talk about quality of life - the short commutes, Iowa nice, those kinds of things," said Tim Carty, director of talent attraction with ICR Iowa. "It's about getting them [prospective recruits] interested, so we can say 'If the right opportunity would arise, would you consider moving back?'"

    Those interested in learning more and being matched with an available job opportunity can click on a button labeled "I'm Sold! Recruit Me" to be personally contacted by Mr. Carty. Users also have an option to "Recruit Someone I Miss," which will result in a personalized email sent to someone who might have once lived in state with an invitation to consider the region again.

    Much like initiatives like the Iowan Project from the Technology Association of Iowa, the new Talent Hub aims to put a "more personal touch" on the process of attracting workers who might have a tie to the region, but aren't yet sold on coming back. It is expected to dovetail with other personalized initiatives, such as the soon-to-relaunch Wingman project, which paired new Corridor residents with seasoned "connectors" who can help ease the transition to a new place. That program is expected to relaunch at the beginning of next year after a brief dormant period, Mr. Carty said.

    "Who doesn't like a personal contact," he added. "It's flattering when someone calls and says, 'We'd think you'd be great for this job.'"

    With the Talent Hub not yet a week old, Mr. Carty said ICR Iowa hopes that employers will share the site with any potential candidates, as well as those who may not be a good fit for a specific job but may still be interested in the region. The organization will regularly review metrics generated by the site, in terms of recruitment contacts and hires, with the hope of continually refining its sales pitch.

    "We're going to track everything. We want to know how many applicants we're getting through the talent hub, how many diverse applicants we receive," he said, adding that "We're relying on employers to let us know we got this person through you guys - not for credit, but so we can tell it's working."

    The site was developed by de Novo Marketing of Cedar Rapids, with additional guidance provided by Robyn Hepker, of Benson & Hepker Design of Iowa City.

    Corridor real estate associations collaborate on lock boxes

    Showing homes to prospective buyers across the Corridor became more efficient this month when the Cedar Rapids Area Association of Realtors (CRAAR) and Iowa City Area Association of Realtors (ICAAR) implemented a reciprocity agreement for lock box access.

    Under a reciprocity agreement, members of the CRAAR and ICAAR will both be able to open each others' lock boxes, avoiding the need to contact one of the listing agents for the property to obtain a one-day code to open them.

    ICAAR was one of the first associations in the state several years ago to adopt SentriLock, an advanced digital lock box system that provides multiple convenient ways to open the lock box to secure the house key, including a phone app and a swipe card, explained ICAAR CEO Carlton Jackson. The reciprocity agreement became possible in the spring of 2017 when the CRAAR switched to SentriLock as its lock box vendor, according to CRAAR Association Executive Kevin Platz.

    Mr. Platz said the two associations have a strong working relationship and are continuing to look at other ways to collaborate. He said East Central Iowa Association of Realtors, which includes the Dubuque area, has also expressed interest in a reciprocity agreement for lock boxes with the ICAAR and CRAAR.

    The new lock boxes are highly secure, Mr. Jackson said, and provide a record of everybody who has opened it.

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