The steady decade-long decline in admissions and revenue at Bettendorf's Isle of Capri casino continued in fiscal 2014...

Another year with heavy rainfall. Another year with flooding. And, another year of pumping raw sewage into the Mississippi...

A proposed land swap of Bettendorf's Forest Grove Park property would give a Texas-based land developer nearly five acres...

The long-anticipated move of Bettendorf's Isle of Capri Casino from its riverboat to a land-based site is moving forward...

Spring daffodils, jonquils and tulips flood the hillside along 8th Street, Bettendorf, with a palette of bright colors....

The immorality of our economy

Wendell Berry, America’s farmer/poet and advocate for peace and justice, met with Centre College Professor Eric Mount at the Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky May 18 with over 200 people in attendance.

Berry and Mount engaged in a rambling conversation in which Berry explained that when we abstract important concepts that are critical to the real lives of people, we loose their interest in solving real problems that the world faces.

An example of such abstractions is the idea of environmentalism.

People understand their relationship with the air they breathe and the water they drink and the weather events that are destructive.

“Environmentalism” is an abstract concept, something that academics discuss and argue over, but real people want clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and weather patterns that one can plan for and live with.

As the conversation progressed, Berry read a prayer from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer entitled, “For Every Man In His Work.” The prayer, in part, reads as follows: “Deliver us, we beseech thee, in our several callings, from the service of mammon, that we may do the work which thou givest us to do, in truth, in beauty, and in righteousness, with singleness of heart as thy servants, and to the benefit of our fellow men.”

Bettendorf casino admissions, revenues fall; declines higher than statewide gambling fall-off

The steady decade-long decline in admissions and revenue at Bettendorf's Isle of Capri casino continued during fiscal 2014.

Admissions for the 12 months ended June 30 fell to 923,000 – more than 1 million fewer than the casino's peak year in fiscal 2000.

Revenues declined to $70.4 million during fiscal 2014, down nearly 6 percent from the previous fiscal year. At its peak in 2004, the Isle had revenues of more than $105 million.

Amid sale rumors, Isle consolidates management to trim $2.5 million in corporate expenses

Amid rumors of its sale to a real estate investment trust, the Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc. announced Thursday (7/10) a consolidation of top management positions to cut corporate expenses by $2.5 million annually.

However, the news was not welcomed by investors, as the Isle stock price dropped more than 14 percent today (7/11) declining to $8.55 a share in early trading. Volume was more than five times the average number of stock transactions.

The management changes included the elimination of the executive chairman of the board of directors position, and the departure of the Isle's Chief Financial Officer Dale Black "to pursue other interests."

Familiar scenario: Heavy rain, then floods. . . then pumping sewage into the Mississippi River

Another year with heavy rainfall. Another year with flooding. And, another year of pumping raw sewage into the Mississippi River.

The all-too-familiar scenario is playing out again along the Bettendorf and Davenport riverfront as the Davenport Wastewater Treatment Plant struggles to cope with high flows – a combination of storm water runoff, flood water and sewage – resulting in the backup of interceptor sewer lines along the Bettendorf and Davenport riverfront.

Bettendorf activated its pumps along the riverfront near Leach Park and the Isle of Capri Casino June 29, according to reports filed with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), and in just the initial hours pumped 1.3 million gallons of raw sewage mixed with storm water into the river. The pumps have been pumping since, and a full tally of the sewage disposed in the river is expected when the pumps are turned off. Pumps were still on as of today (10/10) at three locations along the Bettendorf riverfront.

Davenport also reported bypassing of sewage June 30 at the River Drive and Howell St. lift station as well as 11 sewage back-ups in basements and nine sewage manholes overflowing between July 1 and July 3.

During the wet March-June period in 2013, Bettendorf flushed more than 200 million gallons of untreated sewage diluted by storm water into the Mississippi River.

UnityPoint Health returns for third time seeking variance to allow for billboard-sized sign

For the third time in four months, UnityPoint Health (formerly Trinity Terrace Park) is seeking a variance from the Bettendorf Board of Adjustment so it can erect signs on its building fronting Interstate 74 to promote its recognition by Truven Health Analytics as a "top 100" hospital.

The variance before the board Thursday (7/10) would allow the hospital to erect a second on-premise sign that is 513 square feet in size. Under city ordinance, only one sign is permitted on the frontage facing the interstate and the size is limited to 300 square feet. The hospital already has a sign with its name on the building fronting the interstate.

As with the previous two other sign variance requests, city zoning staff is not in favor of the latest plan.

Move to new land-based casino in Bettendorf comes as rumors surface Isle seeking a buyer

About the same time the Isle of Capri Casino, Inc. was telling Bettendorf officials last week it plans to move from its riverboat to a land-based facility, unconfirmed reports began circulating that the St. Louis-based gambling firm was in talks to sell out to a real estate investment trust.

While still unconfirmed, the rumors helped push the stock up more than $2 per share in the past week. The stock hit $10.71 per share today (7/7), a 52-week high, before closing at $10.12 per share.

Forest Grove Park land twice as valuable as property city will get in land swap

The new Forest Grove Park land the city of Bettendorf plans to swap with a subdivision developer is twice as valuable as the property the city will receive, according to a city appraisal obtained by Bettendorf.com as part of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

The 4.6 acres Ven Green Development is acquiring are valued at $38,500 per acre, or $177,100, according to a February 2014 appraisal by Douglas C. Nelson of Nelson Appraisals. The 3.7 acres in three parcels the city is receiving are appraised at $25,000 and $15,000 per acre, amounting in total to $89,750.

Part of the land Ven Green will gain would be used for construction of a shared access street to the park and subdivision, Spencer Hollow First Addition, reducing the size of land available for homebuilding to approximately 3.6 acres. However, even with the reduction in acreage, the developer would still gain 11 building lots.

Isle writes down value of gambling properties; reports $142-million loss for 4th quarter

The Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc. Tuesday (6/17) wrote down the value of its operations – including a $60-million impairment charge for its Bettendorf casino – and reported a $142-million loss for its fourth quarter ended April 27.

For its 2013-14 fiscal year ended April 27, the Isle reported a loss of $3.26 per share, or $127.7 million. That compares with a loss of $47.6 million, or a loss of $1.33 per share, in the previous fiscal year.

"Weakness in both visitation and win per visit impacted revenue from customers who spend less than $100 per visit," President and Chief Executive Officer Virginia McDowell said in the company's earnings release. "However, visitation and revenues from our top customers has remained relatively constant. In the current environment, we remain disciplined in our marketing and promotional activities."

Proposed park land swap gives developer additional lots; leaves city with unusable parcels

A proposed land swap of Bettendorf's Forest Grove Park property would give a Texas-based land developer nearly five acres designated for parking and playground areas under the park master plan, and leave the city with three parcels essentially unusable for recreation purposes.

The swap also would enable the developer to add 11 additional home lots. Residential lots in Huntington Meadows subdivision, just south of Forest Grove Road and across from the park, range in price from $55,000 to $70,000.

The proposed swap was given approval by the city park board June 10, despite commissioners not knowing how much the city will end up paying for extension of the street serving the park and subdivision.

The city paid $2.92 million – nearly $32,000 an acre – for the 92-acre park property in 2010, and have spent nearly $200,000 on master plans for development of the park south of Interstate 80 and north of Forest Grove Road.

Isle of Capri unveils new land-based casino plan; seeks approval for site adjacent to its hotels

The long-anticipated move of Bettendorf's Isle of Capri Casino from its riverboat to a land-based site is moving forward with the firm seeking approval to build a 70,000 square foot casino in the courtyard between its two existing hotel towers along the city riverfront.

The move to land by the Isle would mark the end of the era of riverboat casinos in the Quad Cities. The Rhythm City casino riverboat in Davenport (now owned by competing gambling operator Dan Kehl) is slated to move from its riverfront location in downtown Davenport to a new facility at Interstate 74 and 80. The Isle had indicated it planned to move to a land-based operation, but details of where the new casino would be built had not been announced.

In its filing with the city planning and zoning commission, the Isle is asking for approval of a 70,000 square foot casino to be built in the courtyard and entrance drive area near the north and south towers of the existing Isle of Capri hotel complex.

National Fair Housing Alliance sues developers of Bettendorf senior housing; alleges violations of disability access standards

The Iowa Finance Authority has begun an investigation into whether construction of the Bettendorf Thomas Place apartments along E. Kimberly Road complies with federal standards for access by people with disabilities.

The Bettendorf senior housing complex at 2205 E. Kimberly Road is one of nine properties cited by the National Fair Housing Allliance (NFHA) in its lawsuit filed June 5 against Ryan Companies US, Inc., James N. Bergman, of LeClaire, IA, and Thomas and Thomas Associates.

"The lawsuit alleges that since about 2005, the defendants have engaged in a pattern and/or practice of building apartments for seniors which do not have the accessible features required by the Fair Housing Act," according to NFSA's news release on the court filing. "The defendants' apartments had many problems including: insufficient space to access sinks in kitchens and bathrooms; showers stalls that are too small to allow access; steep slopes on sidewalks and other routes of entrance; access aisles for accessible parking spaces which are blocked by concrete pillars," NFHA said.

The 116-unit Thomas Place senior housing was built with $29 million of Low Income Housing Tax Credits from the Iowa Finance Authority, plus $650,000 in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) incentives provided by the City of Bettendorf.

Gas station wants taller, bigger signage with LED display three times size permitted by code

The new BP gas station being rebuilt at Middle Road and Interstate 74 doesn't want motorists to miss noticing its advertising as they zip along the heavily traveled roadway between Iowa and Illinois.

The station has asked the Bettendorf Board of Adjustment to grant four variances which would allow the station to increase the height of its on-premise sign, increase the size of the on-premise sign, permit an electronic display three times larger than allowed by city code and allow the sign 10 feet closer to the adjoining property line/interstate on-ramp.

The variance requests will be heard by the board at its Thursday (June 12) meeting.

Branstad can veto environmental bucks, but the bill will still come due

by Todd Dorman, 24 hour Dorman
The Gazette, Cedar Rapids

June 3, 2014

If you care about water quality, soil preservation or local recreation and conservation projects, Gov. Terry Branstad sent you a clear message Friday evening.

Go jump in an impaired lake. Or maybe a river. He really doesn’t care.

Under the flimsy guise of fiscal responsibility, and with timing intended to bury his actions on the back pages, Branstad used his veto pen to slash approved funding for the Resource Enhancement and Protection, or REAP, program, and to ax bucks for several water and soil conservation programs.

CLICK HERE to continue reading 24-Hour Dorman on The Gazette web site.

Second Bettendorf alderman submits resignation; two seats will likely be on special July 1 ballot

A second alderman has resigned from the Bettendorf City Council in less than two months.

Alderman At-Large Lisa Brown submitted her letter of resignation May 6.

A special meeting of the council has been called for Tuesday (5/13) to accept the resignation and consider a resolution asking the Scott County Auditor to add the vacancy to the city's July 1 special election, which had already been scheduled to fill the 5th Ward alderman vacancy created by the resignation of James Stewart March 10.

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Editor's Note: The city council at its May 13 meeting added the at-large alderman vacancy to the special election scheduled July 1. Candidates have until June 6 to file petitions to place their name on ballot for the council seat.

Lee posts $1.49 million profit in 2nd quarter; begins rollout of new subscription model

Lee Enteprises, publisher of the Quad City Times and Muscatine Journal, posted a $1.49 million profit for the second quarter ended March 30 despite a 4 percent drop in revenues compared with the same period last year.

Lee reported Thursday (5/8) earnings of 3 cents per share, $1.49 million, for the quarter, compared with a loss of $6 million, 12 cents a share, for the same period in 2013. Operating revenues for the second quarter totaled $154.1 million, down 4 percent from the $160.6 million in quarterly revenues last year.

"Our business transformation initiatives continue to create efficiencies," Lee Chairman and CEO Mary Junck said in the company's earnings news release, "driving cash costs down almost 6 percent in the quarter and creating an increase in operating cash flow over the prior year."

An 8 percent decline in the number of full-time employees, from 4,770 at the end of March 2013 to 4,486 at the end of March this year, helped lower the company's cash costs, along with a 13 percent drop in newsprint and ink expenses.

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