Metro briefs

BY DI STAFF | FEBRUARY 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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Walt Rogers withdraws from Congressional race to focus on Iowa House

Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, announced he was ending his campaign for Congress and instead will return his focus to maintain his Iowa House seat, according to a press release.

“While I thought I could balance running a congressional campaign and my responsibilities in the Iowa House, it became apparent that I must choose between the two,” he said.

Rogers was among four Republicans vying for the chance to take Rep. Bruce Braley’s, D-Iowa, seat. Braley decided to run to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa instead of running for re-election in the 1st District.

First elected in 2010, Rogers was elected to leadership position by his Republican colleagues, who control the Iowa House. The Black Hawk County Republican said he missed a vote last week in order to attend a campaign fundraiser, which he said was “no secret” it takes a lot of time.

Rogers’ exit leaves Dubuque businessman Rod Blum, Cedar Rapids businessman Steve Rathje, and Marshalltown attorney Gail Boliver competing for the Republican nomination.

— by Brent Griffiths

Council to hold hearing on UI rezoning

The Iowa City City Council will hold a public hearing March 4 for two ordinances that would rezone two properties to be used by the University of Iowa and move first consideration on these ordinances.

The first of these two ordinances would rezone 1.45 acres of property located west of Clinton Street and south of Burlington Street from central business support (CB-5) to institutional public (P-2) and acknowledge the UI’s ownership of the property, which would be used for the new UI music facility.

The second ordinance would rezone .54 acres of property located at 109 River St. from neighborhood stabilization residential (RNS-20) to P-2 and acknowledge the UI’s ownership of the property. The property would be used for the new UI art facility.

— by Daniel Seidl

Council to vote on mailbox clusters

The City Council on March 4 will vote to adopt an ordinance that would amend the city code to remove distance limits on mailbox clusters and add ordinances to regulate the construction and placement of these structures.

The item the council will vote to remove is one that limited mailbox clusters to being within one block or 600 feet of the residents they serve. The proposed removal of this ordinance follows the U.S. Postal Service’s indicating it will no longer support distance limits.

The two sections the council will vote to add aim to make mailboxes accessible and convenient for residents.

The first says that these clusters would have to be located conveniently and not force residents to cross a heavily trafficked road. It also states that no driveways would be allowed within 12 feet of the cluster.

The second section states that mailbox clusters would have to be located on a concrete pad, with a sidewalk leading to the cluster.

The ordinances also state that installation and maintenance cost for these mailbox clusters would be the responsibility of the neighborhood’s homeowners association and/or the Postal Service.

— by Daniel Seidl

Council to hold hearing on animal shelter

The Iowa City City Council on March 4 will hold a public meeting and vote on a resolution approving plans and specifications for the Animal Shelter Care and Adoption Center Project.

The new facility is being built as a replacement to the old center, which was damaged beyond repair in the 2008 flood. The total cost of the project is estimated at $3.1 million, and Federal Emergency Management Agency, state funding, general-obligation bonds, other local governments, and fundraising from the Friends of the Animal Center Foundation will fund the project.

The new center would be built at 3910 Napoleon Lane and would contain animal holding space, animal-support space, and office space.

The proposed resolution sets the bid security for the project at 10 percent and sets the end of the bidding process at March 27.

— by Daniel Seidl

Council to award City Hall project contract

The City Council on March 4 will award the contract for the City Hall Police and Fire Department heating, ventilation, and air conditioning 2014 project.

The project will replace two aging units on the roof of City Hall, and the estimated total cost is $147,000.

The city will stop accepting bids March 3, and city officials will then examine the bids and make a recommendation to the council.

— by Daniel Seidl

Council to consider taxi ordinance

The City Council on March 4 will consider an ordinance that would amend the City Code to change policies on taxis.

The changes, which were proposed in response to a Feb. 4 meeting with taxi companies. The proposed ordinance would require taxi drivers to maintain manifest laws, require some uniformity of rate cards, require notification when a license plate number of a taxi is changed, eliminate taxi stands, allow taxis to be parked on residential streets, and authorize the city to suspend a taxi driver’s license.

The council passed first consideration of the ordinance on Feb. 18 on a 6-1 vote with Councilor Jim Throgmorton opposed.

— by Daniel Seidl   

Council to move on department merger

The Iowa City City Council on March 4 will consider an ordinance that would merge the Planning and Community Development and Housing and Inspections Services Department into a single Neighborhood and Development Services Department.

The proposed ordinance would remove the director of Planning and Community Development and the director of Housing and Inspection Services. The ordinance would replace them with the director of Neighborhood and Development Services.

This change could potentially aid the city by improving internal and external communications and streamlining workflow procedures, said City Manager Tom Markus. This will also allow for a more comprehensive approach to the City Council’s strategic plan of healthy neighborhoods and enhance resources dedicated toward economic development.

Though the merger will lead to many day-to-day changes for employees, it would not result in any layoffs, Markus said.

These new positions would be filled internally by the city, he said.

Though there may be some cost to the city as a result of these changes, there is enough flexibility in the current budget to cover the cost.

If approved, Markus said he aims to have the new department organized by July 1.

The council passed first consideration of the ordinance on Feb. 18 with a 7-0 vote.

— by Daniel Seidl

Local man accused of driving while under the influence of drugs

An area man faces many charges after being pulled over in a traffic stop.

Michael Thompson, 36, was charged on Feb. 21 with two counts of possession of a precursor with intent to manufacture, possession of drug paraphernalia, driving while barred, and OWI second offense.

According to an Iowa City police complaint, an officer pulled the defendant over because the vehicle’s owner was barred from driving in Iowa. When the officer approached the defendant, according to the complaint, the defendant appeared to be under the influence of a controlled substance. The defendant was asked to exit the vehicle and placed under arrest for driving while barred. He also had an outstanding warrant, the complaint said.

The officier reportedly found a pipe on the floorboard of the vehicle, which tested positive for drugs. The defendant allegedly admitted that he smoked methamphetamine earlier that day, the complaint said.

The defendant had two lithium batteries in a package and in the glove box. He also reportedly had a grinder in a backpack in the back seat of the vehicle. Inside the grinder, the complaint said, the ground-up remains of pseudo pills. Pseudoephedrine is one ingredient used in the meth manufacturing process, the complaint said.

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