Culver, in Old Capitol, pushes flood awareness

BY TESSA McLEAN | MARCH 5, 2009 7:19 AM

It’s been roughly 150 years since Iowa’s first governor worked at a desk in the Old Capitol.

But Wednesday, Gov. Chet Culver signed a proclamation declaring March as Flood Awareness Month from that desk.

On his first day of work at the Old Capitol, he said the proclamation is designed to increase public awareness on the threat of flooding in the state.

“We are 100 percent behind the citizens in flood-affected communities,” he said. “We are one Iowa, we will never rest, and together we will rebuild a better, stronger, and safer state.”

In an effort to maintain close communications with flood-affected areas, Culver will begin to hold regular office hours — likely once a month — at the Old Capitol.

While at the UI, Culver held a town-hall meeting with Iowans about disaster-recovery efforts.
Iowa City resident Louise Wolf, who lived in the Parkview Terrace Subdivision, told the governor she and her neighbors were not feeling much flood relief.

“We are afraid,” she said, speaking on behalf her neighbors. “1993 was the flood of the century so we didn’t feel that we needed insurance.”

There are more than 140 residences in the Parkview Terrace Subdivision, located along the Iowa River. Most of those homeowners were not eligible for federal buyouts because they are located in the 500-year floodplain rather than the 100-year floodplain. Because of the flood, Wolf is living in a rental property.

Culver suggested implementing assistance for homeowners who are having trouble affording rent as well as rebuilding their homes.

Earlier in the day, Culver met with officials from Iowa City, Coralville, Johnson County, and the UI in the Senate Chamber at the Old Capitol.

When speaking with UI Senior Vice President for Finance Doug True and UI President Sally Mason, Culver focused on not only restoring flood-affected buildings, but rebuilding them so they are better and more focused on sustainability efforts.

“Why couldn’t we build the most energy efficient state-of-the-art auditorium in Iowa?” Culver asked about Hancher Auditorium.

Culver called the UI a leader in the Big Ten for “green initiatives.” For example, he said savings in energy costs by implementing geothermal heating and cooling in Hancher could help the building pay for itself in 15 or 20 years.

“I just heard something about Hancher I really liked,” Mason said. “I am working very hard to make certain that people don’t forget that, as well as we have done to recover, we still suffered from a very serious flood.”

Culver said last summer’s flooding, in terms of infrastructure damage, was recently named the fifth worst disaster in U.S. history, passing 2004’s Hurricane Ivan.

Also Wednesday, Iowa City Mayor Regenia Bailey told Culver elevating North Dubuque Street and the Park Street bridge, as well as relocating the North Wastewater Treatment Plant, are the two most important flood improvements for Iowa City. These projects would cost over $70 million combined.

Culver met with Cedar Rapids officials Tuesday — he also has an office there — to ensure rebuilding efforts in the city were on-track.

The governor applauded Linn County on its approval of the local-option sales tax. Of the revenue, 90 percent will aid flood victims. Johnson County will vote on the local-option sales tax in May.

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