Greenhouse gas emissions in Iowa declined in 2013, thanks primarily to a decline in electric power plant production and...

Iowa air monitors recorded 91 exceedances of national ambient air quality standards during 2014, with the vast majority (71)...

The recently unveiled Bettendorf comprehensive plan painted a rosy future image of the city's riverfront highlighting...

Animal welfare inspections of Cricket Hollow Zoo by state and federal agriculture officials paint almost opposite images of...

University of Iowa Credit Union plans to build a branch location along 53rd Avenue, Bettendorf, just west of the new McDonald...

Consensus sought by city council on riverfront and downtown redevelopment plans

In a rare public discussion among Bettendorf aldermen about downtown and riverfront redevelopment, the city council and staff this week conceded they have no consensus on where they're headed and agreed to work toward a unified vision for the area.

The city has accumulated four different concept plans over the past 10 years for downtown and riverfront redevelopment, including the most recent version developed by RDG Consultants as part of the city's new comprehensive plan. A master plan from 2009 included specific street-scaping standards for the Grant and State Street corridors and called for development of a park-like city block between State and Grant Streets and 20th and 21st Streets.

Even the name of the block is a work-in-progress with the proposed green space variously called City Square, Town Center and Waterfront Commons.

Cricket Hollow Zoo critics seek to force USDA to take action to close troubled Manchester facility

An animal rights group has taken its efforts to close the troubled Cricket Hollow Zoo near Manchester, Iowa to the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

In their lawsuit filed last fall, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Tracey Kuehl, of Davenport, and Lisa Kuehl of Des Moines, argue the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a "pattern and practice of rubber-stamping the renewal of the zoo's AWA (Animal Welfare Act) license each year, despite the zoo's serious and flagrant violations of applicable AWA standards. . ."

A key legal hurdle is whether the USDA can grant renewal of Cricket Hollow's license without determining if the facility is in compliance with USDA regulations. USDA attorneys have asked the court to dismiss the case. The two sides have been given until March 12 to file arguments for and in opposition to the USDA motion to dismiss.

Take the broadband quiz and win a cupie doll

What's with all the political hot air about broadband service in Iowa?

Even before President Obama visited Cedar Falls to talk about lack of competition among providers of broadband service, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and state legislators were pointing to expanding broadband to rural areas as an important issue to tackle in this year's legislative session.

Never mind that no one agrees on what "broadband" means.

So in the interest of educating voters above age 25, here is today's "broadband" quiz:

1) What is "broadband?"

  • a. A large rubber band of various colors worn on your wrist to show support for social justice.
  • b. A group of musicians who play a broad variety of songs from classical to hip hop.
  • c. Dial-up service, but without the "kkkkkkkkkkkkshhhhhhh" sound and that fun "You've got mail!" welcome.
  • d. A political term used by non-technical people who don't really understand what they're talking about.

Iowa greenhouse gas emissions declined in 2013; reflects lower power plant production from coal

Greenhouse gas emissions in Iowa declined in 2013, thanks primarily to a decline in electric power plant production and greater use of wind power, according to a recently released report by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).

The IDNR greenhouse gas inventory issued Dec. 29 reported total emissions were 130.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, down a half percent from 2012 levels and 6.78 percent below the statewide greenhouse gas emission peak recorded in 2007.

Emails indicate bias by state ag department in inspections of troubled eastern Iowa zoo

The two Iowa agriculture department employees primarily responsible for inspecting the troubled Cricket Hollow Zoo have been critical – in emails to superiors and on social media sites – of citizens filing animal welfare complaint against the facility near Manchester.

In emails obtained by bettendorf.com through a Freedom of Information request from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), one state inspector calls the citizens who reported concerns about animal care at the zoo as being part of "the complaint crowd," and suggests in a May 2013 email to his boss – the state's top veterinarian – that future complaints by the animal welfare activists will likely be unfounded.

Exceedances of air quality standards in Iowa up in 2014; majority occurred at Muscatine monitors

Iowa air monitors recorded 91 exceedances of National Ambient Air Quality Standards during 2014, with the vast majority (71) occurring at three locations in Muscatine.

Of the 76 exceedances of sulfur dioxide standards in the state, 66 were recorded in Muscatine at the Musser Park, Greenwood Cemetery and Muscatine High School air monitoring stations. Of the 15 exceedances of fine particulate matter (less than 2.5 microns) statewide, five occurred at Muscatine monitors.

City riverfront: great location for condos or future site for new road salt storage dome?

The recently unveiled Bettendorf comprehensive plan painted a rosy future image of the city's riverfront highlighting possible locations for high-rise condominiums on city land adjacent to Leach Park.

However, just weeks later, the city council is considering a decidedly different development opportunity for the old lime pile property: a road salt storage dome.

Funds to build a "temporary" road salt storage dome are contained in the new city Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) under review by the city council.

Federal, state inspectors paint opposite views of animal welfare at troubled eastern Iowa zoo

Animal welfare inspections by state and federal agriculture officials of Cricket Hollow Zoo paint almost opposite images of the troubled facility near Manchester, Iowa.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors have cited the small rural zoo for repeated major and minor infractions of animal welfare regulations dating back to 2011, but Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship inspectors speak glowingly of the facility in emails and reports obtained in a Freedom-Of-Information request by bettendorf.com.

State inspectors of the facility also refer with contempt to citizens who have reported bad conditions at the zoo, calling them "the complaint crowd," and suggesting to superiors they would file complaints even if none existed.

Credit union seeks rezoning for 53rd Ave. location

University of Iowa Credit Union plans to build a branch location along 53rd Avenue, Bettendorf, just west of the new McDonald's restaurant.

The credit union received approval for rezoning the land from agriculture to C-5 (office/transitional) zoning from the city's planning and zoning commission last month and the company is expected to get city council approval at its Tuesday (12/16) meeting.

Lee Enterprises posts $3.2 million profit in 4th quarter; earns $7.7 million for full fiscal year

Lee Enterprises – owner of the Quad City Times and 45 other daily newspapers – posted a $3.2-million profit in its fourth quarter ended Sept. 28, and finished its fiscal year in the black for the first time since 2010.

The Davenport-based company posted a $7.7 million profit – 6 cents per share – for the 2014 fiscal year. That compares with a loss of $1.71 per share for fiscal 2013 when the firm recorded a $171-million impairment charge. For fiscal 2012, the company reported a loss of 6 cents per share.

Lee Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mary Junck noted the company reduced its debt by $10.3 million during the fourth quarter. As of Sept. 28, Lee's debt was $804.7 million, down nearly $43 million from a year ago.

City debt tops $132-million as city council begins developing next capital spending plan

Bettendorf aldermen will begin discussing next year's capital spending plan later this month after closing the books on the past fiscal year with a mountain of debt – $132.2 million to be precise.

It is hard to know where the city will find sufficient funds to pay for a plate full of projects discussed in recent months: rebuilding sections of Middle Road; combining or renovating community recreational facilities; enhancements to the new Forest Grove Park; redevelopment projects in downtown and along the riverfront; extension of sewer and water lines north of I-80; and development of a I-80/Middle Road sports complex.

The $132-million debt is nearly 85 percent of the legal limit set by the state (as of June 30), and substantially above the 73 percent level city officials projected the debt margin would fall to in 2012. Not incidentally, that projection was made during the last mayoral election year when the debt – $111 million at the time – became the focus of political debate.

Riverdale initiates first TIF district to collect $16,700 from ALCOA and other firms in new urban renewal area along State Street

Riverdale's first Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district – aimed at diverting future property taxes that its largest taxpayer ALCOA would normally pay to Pleasant Valley schools and county government – will be set up before the end of the year to help fund municipal improvements of the 400-resident village.

Riverdale officials have asked the Scott County Auditor to establish a TIF district that will generate $16,700 in "incremental" taxes from the recently established Urban Renewal Area along State Street, which includes the sprawling ALCOA aluminum rolling mill with an assessed value of more than $40 million.

Based on the current tax levy rates, the new TIF will mean Riverdale will receive approximately $7,100 which would otherwise go to the Pleasant Valley School District and about $3,000 which would have been paid Scott County. Riverdale's portion, based on its own tax levy, would be approximately $6,000. Incremental property taxes due the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency and assessor's office also would be paid to the village.

Growing interest cost on debt swings Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc. to $1 million loss in 2nd quarter

Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc. today (12/2) reported a $1 million loss for its second quarter as much higher interest costs on its debt offset a 3 percent increase in net revenues for the period.

For the three months ended October 26, the Isle – owner of three gambling operations in Iowa including the Bettendorf Isle of Capri – reported a loss of 3 cents per share, compared with a gain of 20 cents per share for the same period a year ago.

Used car dealer seeks city funds; has yet to complete landscape plan for high profile location

A used car dealer – forced to relocate because of the Interstate 74 bridge project – is seeking $15,000 from the city even though his business has yet to complete any of the promised landscaping of his highly visible new location on the east entrance to downtown Bettendorf.

Premier Picks Auto in 2011 obtained city council approval for its move to 26th Street (where State Street becomes a one-way) despite opposition by the city's Planning and Zoning Commission. The planning commission by a 3-1 vote denied the rezoning request to allow the use of the parcel for used car sales saying it felt the car dealership did not fit the downtown redevelopment master plan and its streetscaping plans.

The city council overruled the zoning commission and allowed Premier Picks to relocate to 2540 State Street in 2011. The car dealership has yet to install any landscaping as outlined in its rezoning request to the plan commission and city council.

Air pollution exceedances reach 81 thru Nov. 4

The number of exceedances of National Ambient Air Quality Standards in Iowa totaled 81 through November 4, nine more than the total number recorded in 2013, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).

The vast majority of the exceedances so far in 2014 involved high levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution, with 63 of the exceedances recorded at air monitors in Muscatine.

While the primary source of SO2 pollution in Muscatine – Grain Processing Corp. (GPC) – has begun work on plant upgrades aimed at sharply reducing SO2 emissions, the community continues to have the poorest air quality in the state.

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