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Three Bettendorf residents speak up for park board
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Three Bettendorf residents speak up for park board

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A proposal to eliminate the elected Bettendorf Park Board and replace it with an appointed body drew three opponents Tuesday during a public hearing before the city council.

Steve Wilger, one of five commissioners on the board, said elimination would be a mistake because elected representatives have more dedication than appointed members.

"I been on a lot of boards, and they don't have the commitment that elected officials have," he said.

He also said that none of the current commissioners would continue to serve on an advisory board, an opportunity they would be offered if the proposal were passed.

Matt Mooney, who has served on the Friends of the Bettendorf Parks Foundation, also spoke against the proposal, saying the elected system has worked, so why change it? He also questioned whether the council would get "a timely, concise pipeline of information" with an advisory board.

The main reasons City Administrator Decker Ploehn recommended the change are to arrive at a more representative body and to increase efficiency. 

"Having two elected boards provide oversight over the same department is no longer necessary or efficient," he has said, referring to the city council as the other board.

The council did not speak or act on the proposal, but set Feb. 16 as the first reading of an ordinance to make the change.

In a related matter, the council approved the appointment of Kim Kidwell as the new director of the Parks and Recreation Department, a job she will assume in addition to her current position as director of the Family Museum.

The parks department has not had a permanent director since Steve Grimes resigned 2½ years ago under a major employee buyout plan designed to save the city about $1 million annually over time. Liz Solis-Willis has been serving as interim director since then.

Kidwell has been director of the Family Museum since Jan. 26, 2015, and has worked at the museum full-time since 2007. She will be paid $127,850, a 15% increase of her current salary as museum director.

Solis-Willis will stay on as assistant director of parks and recreation.

In other business the council:

• Set Jan. 19 as the date for a public hearing on a request by Windmiller Development to rezone 10.22 acres east of 5805 Middle Road and west of Butterfield Court to build a total of 54 single-story townhouses in buildings of three and four townhouses each.

The zoning change would be from agricultural urban reserve district to mixed residential district. The city's Planning and Zoning Commission voted 7-0 to recommend approval at its Dec. 16 meeting, but five area residents raised concerns, largely about storm water management. Another concern is whether the buffer between the multi-family units and existing single-family homes is adequate.

• Approved the purchase of two 2021 Ford police hybrid utility vehicles from Dahl Ford, Davenport. The bid was $37,025 per vehicle, or not to exceed $55,199 per vehicle after installation of exterior graphics and police equipment, including in-car camera/recording systems.

The two vehicles being replaced are the last in the police department fleet that need to be switched over to the department's new in-car video system, Police Chief Keith Kimball said.

The hybrid option is expected to significantly reduce engine idling, he added. The old vehicles will go to the public works department.

• Approved applying for a $598,126 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to do storm sewer construction and reconstruction to reduce flooding at Sivyer Steel, at 33rd Street, south of U.S. 67.

The city would contribute $89,719 toward the project.

In times of heavy rains, water backs up in the storm sewers, causing flooding within Sivyer buildings, Brent Morlok, city engineer, wrote in documentation to the city council.

Damages have been in the millions of dollars during the past 10 years alone, he said.

• Approved an amendment to a 2016 development agreement in which the city provided a forgivable loan of $750,000 to the developer of The Bridges, a  five-story, 132-unit apartment complex built on the site of the former Twin Bridges Motor Inn.

Although the city's $750,000 contribution — part cash, part in-kind services such as burying of utilities — was called a forgivable loan, the city did expect some repayment over 20 years, although the exact amount was not spelled out, Jeff Reiter, economic development director, said.

Now Frank Levy, the West Des Moines-based developer who built the project, wants to sell the property and asked the city to remove the repayment requirement because that could negatively impact a sale.

In exchange, he agreed to pay the city $150,000 up front in cash, plus half of sale proceeds if the sale exceeds $23.75 million to an amount not to exceed $750,000 total to the city.

This would likely be "a far greater return on the forgivable loan than what was anticipated," Reiter wrote in documents supporting the council resolution.

In addition, the city will get the money — expected to be $300,000 to $350,000 or more — almost immediately rather than in "nickels and dimes" over 20 years.

Reiter said Levy always expected to sell the property at some point, but not this soon.

"The market is hot right now and interest rates are low," Reiter said.

With apartment occupancy running at 98%, the property is attractive to investors, he said.

The project at 1501 State St. cost about $22 million to build, and was encouraged by the city to replace the 40-plus structures that were demolished to make way for the new Interstate 74 bridge.

City officials at the time were worried that the downtown would die without a new project to spur and initiate redevelopment.

"It was important to have a developer like Frank take a certain level of risk at a time when the market was somewhat volatile down there," Reiter told a reporter in 2018.

Since then, a new Ascentra Credit Union building has opened at 2019 Grant St., and a four-story, 65,000-square-foot building that will be the TBK Bank Midwest Division headquarters is under construction just north of The Bridges. It is expected to open later this year.

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