Locals voice concerns about Taft Speedway levee

BY AMY SKARNULIS | JUNE 07, 2012 6:30 AM

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Local residents still have concerns about the Taft Speedway Flood Mitigation after having had their last chance to provide feedback in a public setting Wednesday night.

The purpose of the meeting, held at Parkview Church, 15 Foster Road, was to present a study analyzing different flood-mitigation options to determine each option's feasibility and to inform community members about the analysis conducted.

There are seven possible alternatives for the area in discussion, with costs ranging from $3 million to $14.3 million.

John Engel, a project manager from HDR, an engineering firm, said the purpose of the meeting was not to make any official decisions.

"The hope is we gather the information and put it in the draft report," he said before the meeting. "There is no anticipation of action [at this point]."

Yet community members were happy to be involved in the discussions, and they said they were able to receive answers.

"[I want to know] what their concept is and what their procedure is and when it would get done," said Ernie Stoppelmoor, a member of the Parkview community.

Members of the community looked over each of the seven flood-mitigation options before them and discussed what they thought would be best before the meeting commenced.

"Well, [option seven] is the least expensive that would get the job done," Stoppelmoor said. "9D may do it better, but it's twice as expensive."

Jason Reichart, the city's special-projects manager, said he was prepared for any reaction from the community.

"A little bit of both sides is what I hope to hear from the public," he said before the meeting. "We're presenting the results of this study and answer any questions that they may have about how we got to where we are."

Engel said the team putting the mitigation together looked at the environmental and cost impacts.

"We are not making recommendations [on what is best for the community]," he said. "What we are doing is preparing the information so the [City Council] can make a decision.

The Iowa City City Council will receive a full draft report from mitigation officials in a few months.

The first meeting, held May 31, had a community turn out of around 50 to 70 people. Before the meeting, Engel said he had expected a similar, if not larger, number at the meeting on Wednesday, and he was correct.

The same number of people attended Wednesday's meeting as on May 31. Engel noted that more people had showed up to the open house that was held the previous week.

The reason the community has been so involved is because the members voiced their concerns at an early stage of the process.

"After we applied for the initial project, and some concerns came up with the public, they wanted us to more thoroughly analyze and address their issues," Reichart said.

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