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Demolition dates for last UI flood recovery projects set for winter 2013

BY RISHABH R. JAIN | DECEMBER 04, 2012 6:30 AM

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The flood-damaged Art Building and Hancher/Voxman/Clapp building will remain silently vacant along the riverbanks for at least another year. But University of Iowa officials maintain that flood-recovery efforts are still on schedule.

More than four years after the 2008 flood damaged a number of University of Iowa facilities, the state Board of Regents is set to ponder the budget and dates for the demolition of several buildings.

The demolition dates for these still-vacant facilities were previously undetermined, but dates have now been set for November and December 2013.

The Art Building will be demolished by November 2013, with the replacement’s completion set for April 2016. The demolition of Hancher/Voxman/Clapp is expected to occur in December 2013. The replacements for Hancher and the Music Building will be completed in December 2015 and March 2016, respectively.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said he was very proud of the budget put forth by the UI administration and also the timeliness of the project.

When asked why it had taken more than four years to prepare the final budget for the demolition and relocation of buildings that were damaged in 2008, Moore said it has been a rather speedy recovery.

“The Federal Emergency Management Agency has a very complex set of regulations,” Moore said. “… And we have to comply with them very precisely. Our team has done an excellent job in a very prompt manner.”

Members of the university’s recovery team visited a North Dakota town that had sustained lesser damages, he said, where they learned that the funding process from FEMA — the main contributor to flood recovery at the UI — usually takes about 10 years.

With the university’s ambition to both demolish and relocate the current performing-arts centers and the Art Building by April 2016, Moore said, the process has taken less than the average amount of time.

This week, the regents will consider the approval of the demolitions and the budget for the four now useless UI buildings.

As of Oct. 31, major flood-recovery project expenses have equated to $222,447,100, an increase from an earlier estimate of $219,352,800 from Sept. 30. FEMA has been the biggest contributor, having allotted $78,281,389 for the project so far. Moore said the university is greatly appreciative of the agency’s contribution.

Regent Katie Mulholland said the flood recovery project is one of the regents’ top priorities, especially because it has affected students across the campus, both former and current. She also commended the university administration’s effectiveness in securing funds.

“I understand securing federal funds and completing a project of this scale does take time, and like it or not, it is a political process,” she said. “So we really have to be sensitive to honoring the information that we get. In my point of view, the university administrators are doing a fine job in keeping communication open and flowing.”

While UI administrators are planning the physical part of flood recovery, various university departments have worked to better prepare Iowans for future floods with the help of education.

Last weekend, the university hosted more than 30 schoolteachers from seven Iowa communities for a three-day Flood Institute, in which the teachers, along with UI faculty members, developed new curricula that incorporates flood education. The institute is a part of the Living with the Flood project that aims to educate Iowans better about floods.

Hancher Executive Director Charles Swanson said he is trying to be as patient as he possibly can, because he understands that the project is a huge undertaking.

“I am just trying to make sure everything is right before the demolition starts,” said Swanson, also one of the organizers of the Flood Institute. “… And to be honest, we have been so busy with so many other things that the time has actually flown for me.”


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