As she addressed council members during the city’s final budget work session this past weekend, City Administrator Corri Spiegel pointed to the city's strong financial position.
“We’re financially prudent,” Spiegel. “This was a particularly easy budget for those of you have been around for a few of these. We’re in the best financial position we’ve been in probably a decade.”
The city administrator’s proposed budget calls for $226.7 million in spending for the upcoming fiscal year. That figure, which includes money for operating and capital expenses, is a 7 percent increase over the previous year.
Now, the city officials must decide whether the administrator’s proposal will go to the state as-is. An item on the city’s committee of the whole agenda for Wednesday calls for a public hearing to be held Feb. 13 during the city’s regularly scheduled meeting. Iowa law requires city officials to hold those public hearings ahead of sending budgets to state officials for certification.
Most of the new spending is earmarked for $49.3 million in capital costs, an area that’ll see spending on major projects for the city’s streets and sewers. Here’s a look at what city officials discussed Saturday during the last budget work session:
Juvenile assessment center
Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch announced late last year the city’s long-term goal to pursue a juvenile assessment center as a way to address a growing trend of crimes often committed by local teenagers.
On Saturday, Spiegel said the city is “we are still very much a part of this, but the city isn’t necessarily the driver on this topic."
“We are very much the sidecar on this one,” she said, adding that a “great foundation” has been built under the issue so far.
Earlier this year, city officials named the center as one item they’d ask Iowa lawmakers for help with. Options presented have included asking for money or the ability to create a special levy for public safety.
The mayor has said the center should be a one-stop shop for teens and families to become connected to existing human services. He’s said it should be guided by Scott County Kids, an area non-profit.
North Park Mall
In the coming months, Spiegel said one of the city’s goal should be to hire a consultant to study the major corridor at Kimberly and Brady Streets near North Park Mall. City staff have already begun conversations with the mall’s owners, Spiegel said, and the objective is to find what potential reuses may fit as some of the big box stores have moved out.
“The mega mall as it was built in the ‘70s and ‘80s is becoming a relic. We can see this as very much a concrete jungle,” she said. “… That’s just not the real estate development of the future.”
Alderman Mike Matson, 7th Ward, agreed with that assessment, saying “this is the decision of the future” and solutions would require planning that is “outside the box.”
Old Kraft plant
Kraft’s decision to move its operations to the city’s north side has left a giant vacant building on the city’s west end, an area some city officials have said needs to see increased attention and investment as part of a wider goal to revitalize older urban areas.
Spiegel said the upcoming year will likely be “conversation and dreaming and planning,” but city officials are ready to react should a developer show interest in the land.
Main Street Landing
City officials are still deciding on a name for a downtown Riverfront property known as “Main Street Landing,” an area often touted as one of Davenport’s most valuable assets.
The working name is “urban lounge,” something cast by city officials as a place that will be home to activities for kids and adults.
“It needs to be the nicest playground in the state of Iowa,” Alderman Kyle Gripp, at-large, said of the upcoming phase in what’s known as Main Street Landing. He said communities around the country that have invested in similar projects have reaped the economic rewards through increased tourism plus the attraction and retention of residents and businesses.
The discussion comes as city officials have also sought federal dollars to pay for some of the projects they’d like to start, something that didn’t pan out during the last fiscal year. A large part of the discussion for investing along the Riverfront has been putting up enough money to finish projects at a pace that meets the desires of community members and elected officials.
Still, the idea drew a short protest from Alderman Ray Ambrose, 4th Ward, who questioned whether the city should invest so much for such a project. He suggested historic parks in the city may deserve more attention than they’re getting.