Coralville candidate devalues Iowa River Landing


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One Coralville City Council candidate hopes to be the voice of financial reason to the city after interest rates for Coralville bonds have almost tripled within a three-month period.

“I’m just the messenger from the bond market,” said Chris Turner. “The bond market is telling Coralville, ‘You can’t borrow any more money or if you want to borrow, it’s going to be at a much higher interest rate.’ ”

Turner, a University of Iowa professor in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department and a resident of Coralville for almost 18 years, did not consider running for the council until he read about the city’s debt.

He blames most of the debt on the Iowa River Landing development — a project he advises city officials to do away with.

“My choice would be to provide the necessary services, provide for the schools, provide all these things, and dump the River Landing,” Turner said. “The Iowa River Landing is the main risk. It’s too risky.”

However, one city official iterated that Coralville’s debt was created throughout many years, and in 10 years, the city will have paid 63 percent of it back.

“We look to stress that with the debt, it did not occur overnight, and it isn’t going away overnight,” said Tony Roetlin, Coralville’s finance director. “There are plans to still borrow a small amount for certain things cities are going to borrow for.”

In contrast to Turner’s views, Coralville Mayor Jim Fausett said a key solution to paying back the debt is to continue with development of the Iowa River Landing.

“I would want [the City Council] to continue to develop the area,” Fausett said. “With Von Maur as an anchor, and with the second hotel, and the university … having its clinic there, there is continued work to be done to bring more business.”

One manager in the Iowa River Landing believes the area will be beneficial to the city and create a variety of jobs.

“The fact that it’s growing, it will provide jobs to the local community,” said Bryan Stolz, general manager of the Coralville Marriott. “It’s all opportunity for local community to gain employment and for new businesses to provide new employment opportunities.”

Roetlin echoed Fasett’s sentiment that the council should continue with the project to pay back the debt.

“The plans are to make [the Iowa River Landing] successful,” Roetlin said. “It’s obviously been a focal point for the council over many years, and it definitely has come a long way than before. It’s kind of a gateway to Coralville and the metropolitan area.”

However, Turner believes the city should abandon the project to focus on the School District and more pressing matters that affect Coralville residents.

“Why can I retire when I’m young, it’s because I can balance my checkbook, and I didn’t borrow all kinds of money,” Turner said. “The debt that Coralville has — millions of dollars — I’ll be dead before they pay it off.”

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