Taft residents raise concerns

BY DORA GROTE | AUGUST 26, 2011 7:20 AM

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Residents of Taft Speedway and the surrounding neighborhood formed continuous lines in front of the microphone Thursday night, eagerly awaiting the chance to voice their opinions at a community meeting.

Officials held the meeting to allow input from community members regarding the Taft Flood Speedway Mitigation Study.

Community members raised questions and concerns about the plan, which would trap a row of houses between the river and the prospective levee.

At the meeting, John Engler, the project manager of Henningson, Durham, and Richardson — the engineering company that did the study — gave a presentation highlighting the process.

“This [meeting] is the bridge from the conceptual to add meat to the alternatives,” he said.

Engler said the company was open to suggestions and input from the community. That input will be taken into consideration when examining cost, infrastructure, hydraulics, property, residents, and technology, he said.

Despite Engler’s words, locals were concerned officials were disregarding community members.

“Taft Speedway residents are not even recognized on the map,” said Taft resident Jim White. “People live here. These are homes.”

The flood-mitigation study is funded by Community Development Block Grants from the Iowa Department of Economic Development. Iowa City has $84,550 to spend on the study, and $8 million for the efforts to build the solution, said Jason Reichart, a special projects engineer for Iowa City.

In the 2008 flood, the Taft neighborhood suffered severe damage and destruction. Since then, officials have discussed solutions for protecting the Taft neighborhood, but they’ve made no decisions.

Immediately following the floods, officials conducted a study to assess the city’s options for preventing the floods from creating extensive damage. This preliminary report, later titled the Stanley Report, addressed advantages, disadvantages, and rough estimates of solutions. One option was to raise the street and create a levee against the floodwaters.

“We’re concerned the people have been removed from the perimeters of the study,” said resident Greg Gerddis. “How is it fair to put a levee across someone’s property to benefit another?”

Reichart said the point of the meeting was to “kick off the Speedway study.” The idea was to listen to the public and the concerns they had.

“It was really the start of finding a solution,” Reichart said.

No project has been started. Officials plan to have a second public meeting in November.

“Realistically, the study started tonight,” Reichart said.

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