Bettendorf High School addition to open

A new, 840-seat performing arts center is expected to open in March at Bettendorf High School.

The facility is the final piece of a $19.2 million expansion. Other components were a district administration center, a high-security entrance, renovations in the guidance and nurse’s offices and media center and a new commons area.

The project also included new classrooms and commons area at Hoover Elementary School.

Last spring, the Bettendorf High School Fine Arts Boosters started a campaign to raise money for sound recording equipment and a grand piano for the performing arts center.

In order to pay for the project without bonding, the district’s school board voted in July 2011 to reject all bids for the project because they had come in about $3.5 million over budget.

When a second round of bids also came in over budget, the board cut proposed improvements to the school’s athletic facilities.

— Steven Martens

New future for casino

As Davenport officials announced the city’s effort to acquire the Rhythm City casino for $46 million three months ago, Mayor Bill Gluba warned the process wouldn’t be a sprint nor travel in a straight line.

The purchase from Isle of Capri, being funded through municipal bonds, has proved to be a process full of twists and turns. City officials, from Gluba to aldermen to City Administrator Craig Malin, have lobbied residents, the Riverboat Development Authority and Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission on what they are trying to do.

Next week, city officials host a trip to Dubuque to show off what could be in Davenport. They have pointed to Dubuque as a municipal and gaming model for what they are trying to do, which is keeping casino profits in the city.

When the plan was announced in October, city officials explained that the boat returns about $10 million in revenue, with annual bond payments of $3.5 million, leaving the rest for city

projects or property tax relief. That revenue is expected to increase with a land-based casino, the city’s ultimate goal.

The announcement was made shortly after the city cut ties with developer Steve Edelson just weeks before a two-year agreement with him was to expire, costing the city $99,000.

The city’s purchase agreement includes a $5 million premium to Isle of Capri if a casino is built in the interstate corridor, a $2.5 million non-refundable down payment and an agreement to keep current Rhythm City employees. The future of the casino barge remains undetermined.

Also on next week’s schedule are interviews of three potential developers for a land-based casino. Two of the proposed projects would be located downtown, while the third would have downtown and interstate casinos.

Meetings in past months with the Riverboat Development Authority have been contentious at times as the city officials try to bring board members around to their way of thinking. An operating agreement has been met in principle but remains unapproved by the RDA.

The city created the Davenport Community Improvement Corp. to oversee the casino’s operation once it is acquired. The seven-member panel met once in December and already has old business to deal with — potentially expanding its body after concerns of conflict of interest and financial management experience were raised by board members.

— Kurt Allemeier

Davenport budget pains

Davenport’s city budget will be somewhat less daunting than the one aldermen approved last year.

Faced with increasing pension costs, the city council passed a $196.36 million budget that hit residents and business owners with an 8 percent property tax rate increase and led to 30 employees being laid off.

The city’s property tax rate rose from $15.53 per $1,000 assessed value to $16.78 per $1,000.

Aldermen met for several consecutive weekends in a council chamber filled with city employees trying to offer alternate proposals and fight for their jobs. During public hearings, residents and business owners complained about the property tax increase.

Aldermen split their vote on the budget, ultimately passing it 7-3.

This year, alderman face a gap of $700,000, but plan no property tax increase, according to interim finance director Brandon Wright. He thinks most of the gap can be made up through cuts in expenditures and improved efficiencies.

Budget meetings are expected to begin later this month.

— Kurt Allemeier

Crundwell to

receive sentence

The former Dixon, Ill., comptroller accused of stealing more than $53 million in city funds has been free since her April arrest.

But Rita Crundwell, 59, is to be sentenced Feb. 14 on a single federal charge of wire fraud. She pleaded guilty to the charge and is facing a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

The nationally recognized quarter-horse breeder also faces 60 felony theft charges in state court. Her next court appearance in Lee County is March 4, which was scheduled after her public defender was granted a continuance in December.

The attorney said he is considering seeking dismissal of the state charges on the grounds they constitute double jeopardy.

The U.S. Marshals Service took control of Crundwell’s assets, including a herd of more than 400 horses, which were sold at auction. Several additional auctions have resulted in the sale of her personal property, including custom-made furnishings and jewelry.

About $8 million has been generated from the auctions, and most of the money is to be returned to the city of Dixon as restitution for its losses.

— Barb Ickes

Mental health

reforms move on

Mental health providers in the Iowa Quad-Cities will wait and see what happens in

Des Moines this year as legislators consider reforming the system again.

Early on, it appears that Scott County would benefit as the state transitions to a new funding formula, although a feasibility study is still expected from the state.

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, Vera French Community Mental Health Center and Handicapped Development Center had a combined shortfall of nearly $1 million.

Under the state’s per capita funding of mental health, Scott County should get

$7.9 million through the county levy and a state equalization payment of $4.59 million for fiscal year 2014. The county has budgeted $5.7 million for mental-health services in the current fiscal year.

While Scott County benefits from the formula as it stands, Clinton County is expected to lose about $500,000. The formula creates similar imbalances across the state.

Scott County sought state money late last year to reimburse Vera French to make up for its shortfall.

— Kurt Allemeier

LeClaire subdivision

fights erosion

Neighbors in a LeClaire subdivision are hoping 2013 delivers solutions to their erosion-plagued properties and streets.

At least a dozen homeowners in The Bluffs, just east of the now-closed Welcome Center, have experienced considerable gaps and breaks in their sidewalks, approaches and driveways. Some also have repeatedly filled large sinkholes in their yards — all the product of an unsolved underground erosion problem.

The city spent $360,000 in the late fall to have portions of 10-year-old streets in The Bluffs mudjacked, but the gap-filling measure is intended as a short-term solution.

Neighbors are hopeful a geologic study of their subdivision will yield an explanation for the problems, along with a long-term solution.

— Barb Ickes

Light bulb factory to open in Bettendorf

LEDS America is expected to begin construction this summer on a $10 million to

$12 million manufacturing facility at the Interstate 74 Technology Park in Bettendorf.

The facility is expected to be open in the fall and will employ 130 to 150 people.

The company announced plans to move its light bulb production plant from China to Bettendorf in August 2011, but the project was held up while the company worked to secure financing.

Alan Frankel, one of the developers of the project, said the company also expects at least one of its suppliers to open a location in the technology park.

Ground was broken at the technology park last summer for a 4,800-square-foot office building, the first structure at the park. That building is expected to be occupied soon by an unidentified business, and planning is under way for a second office building, Frankel said.

— Steven Martens

Walmart to open

in Rock Island

By late fall, a new Walmart could be open for business along 11th Street in Rock Island.

Rock Island aldermen approved spending $6.3 million to buy properties at Watch Tower Plaza and demolish them. Price Properties LLC, a development company working with Walmart, will pay $4.5 million to the city for the Watch Tower property and adjacent land.

The city is assisting tenants, such as Black Hawk College’s Adult Learning Center, that will be displaced by the project. The center will move into a new building on a city-owned 7.5-acre site near the City Limits Saloon and Grill, west of 9th Street and a few blocks south of Watch Tower. Also relocating to that location is Christine Elsberg State Farm Insurance office.

City Manager Thomas Thomas says Walmart will bring in about $1.4 million in sales tax revenue and $300,000 in property taxes per year. Over a 20-year period, that would be about $34 million in what he called a conservative estimate.

— Doug Schorpp