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Davenport city work plan includes getting Juvenile Assessment Center off the ground
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DAVENPORT BUDGET WORK SESSION

Davenport city work plan includes getting Juvenile Assessment Center off the ground

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After years of conversation with community partners, Davenport city officials plan to push forward a funding proposal in the hopes of getting a long-talked about Juvenile Assessment Center off the ground.

"The Juvenile Assessment Center is going to happen," Davenport Mayor Mike Matson said. "And very shortly this council will be probably apprised of a recommendation to help fund it. So you'll see that very shortly. ... And our partners in the county and other cities around here need to also step up, because we're going to. We're going to lead this effort and we're going to step up, and you're going to see that very shortly."

Matson did not elaborate or provide details or an outline of what that recommendation would entail.

The Davenport City Council held its last budget work session Saturday morning, which focused on City Administrator Corri Spiegel’s proposed city work plan for the 2021 calendar year.

Chief among the list of city priorities for the year is to move ahead with the creation of a coordinated, multi-agency center to provide early intervention screening and assessment for youth and families to identify and address factors contributing to concerning behavior that if unchecked could lead to criminal activity, Spiegel and Matson said.

Youth and families would be referred by parents, schools or agency partners and other professionals.

"Staff ... have been working tirelessly with a lot of partners for several years on this, and I feel like we're starting to make some headway on ... bringing that concept to life," Spiegel said. "This will be a focus for this year."

The fight for such a center has been ongoing for the better part of two years. The goal is to create a one-stop-shop where police can take juvenile offenders for needs assessments, and where youth and families seeking help can access and navigate an array of local services available under one roof.

Matson and other city leaders stressed the Juvenile Assessment Center is not meant to serve as a new or expanded detention facility.

"It is not the improvement of the Juvenile Detention Center," Matson. "The point is to help juveniles so they stay out of the Juvenile Detention Center."

Other top initiatives for the year outlined by Spiegel include:

  • Continuing the city's reinvestment in Davenport's older neighborhoods through the continuation of the city's Davenport DREAM Project. Rolled out in 2019, the neighborhood restoration project provides eligible homeowners in the city's older, historic neighborhoods up to $20,000 for exterior home restoration projects and to fix outstanding code violations.
  • Wrapping up the city's ongoing flood study and presenting findings and recommendations to the City Council by the end of the calendar year on how best to handle the city's riverfront and implement mitigation strategies to protect properties and prevent another downtown flood.
  • Pursuing state funding for the redevelopment of some of city's core commercial corridors, including Northpark Mall.

"Retail is fundamentally shifting," Spiegel said. "If I picked one piece of property in our community that had all of the opportunity in the world, that is the one I see ... for re-imagining what that property ... can be and future-proof it a little bit, right? We are at that point in our consumer cycle where we need to be thinking differently."

Alderman Patrick Peacock, 7th Ward, criticized the city's proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 for not including more funding for the Davenport Civil Rights Commission.

"We have to correct a historical travesty," Peacock said of the "woefully underfunded" city commission.

Peacock previously said at a prior city council meeting this week that the city continues to "pay lip service to marginalized communities."

The Civil Rights Commission investigates employment, housing, education, public accommodation and credit discrimination complaints based on race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation and other protected classes.

The Commission had requested a $340,000 budget increase to pay for four additional investigators to "reduce case processing times, improve customer service, and increase revenue through additional resolutions," Davenport Civil Rights Director Latrice Lacey wrote in her budget request.

Lacey projected the the increased staffing costs would be offset by additional revenue for case processing.

Davenport saw more civil rights cases filed in recent years than any other city in the state, "however, our staffing levels are comparable or less than similarly sized metropolitan areas," Lacey wrote.

City finance director Mallory Merritt city staff were directed to present a flat or neutral operating budget, with the exception of contract escalations and negotiated increases in wages and benefits, due to financial concerns and constraints related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"We also want our property growth to align with growth in our personnel costs," and avoid increasing the city's property tax levy rate of $16.78 per $1,000 of taxable value, which the proposed budget would maintain, Spiegel said.

Council will conduct a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 3 at City Hall on its proposed property tax levy for the 2022 fiscal year.

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