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...

Bettendorf aldermen will begin discussing next year's capital spending plan later this month after closing the books on...

Riverdale's first Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district – aimed at diverting future property taxes that its largest taxpayer ALCOA...

A used car dealer – forced to relocate because of the Interstate 74 bridge project – is seeking $15,000 from the city even though...

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.

Pleasant Valley school district raises red flag over Riverdale plans to include ALCOA plant in urban renewal areas eligible for TIF rebates

Pleasant Valley school officials are raising a red flag over Riverdale's plan to include the ALCOA plant in its first-ever Urban Renewal Area, the initial step in making the multi-million-dollar manufacturing facility eligible for Tax Increment Financing (TIF) rebates on future expansion and renovation projects.

Granting TIF incentives for future plant renovations could cost the district millions in school taxes, funneling those monies instead to either city coffers, back to the plant or into contractor/developer pockets.

In LeClaire, more than $1 million in school taxes are kept by the city and rebated to developers each year under TIF projects. The school district has objected to LeClaire's continued long-term use of TIF for residential and commercial developments, but the city has ignored its objections.

"ALCOA has the second largest amount of property tax valuations in the Pleasant Valley Community School District," Supt. Jim Spelhaug wrote in the letter to Riverdale officials last week objecting to creation of the Urban Renewal Area. "Therefore, ALCOA’s property taxes comprise a significant portion of the school district’s property tax revenue and overall revenue.

Democrats are paying heavily for their political failures — and for ditching the working stiff

Dick Tuck, the legendary political prankster and wit, once ran for local office in San Francisco and lost. His concession speech, in its entirety: “The people have spoken — the bastards.”

Now, you know me — I wouldn’t say anything like that about the recent elections. It’s vulgar and I’m couth.

However, if the shoe fits…

Perhaps it’s safer to quote the Sage of Baltimore, H.L. Mencken, who said: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

The 2014 midterms were a Mencken moment.

Vacant Bettendorf gas station eyesore to get new life. . . as new gas station/convenience store

A new Shell gas station and 2,000-square-foot convenience store would be built on the site of a long-vacant gas station along Bettendorf's State Street if the new owner gets a setback variance from the city.

Business group submits 'wish list' for Bettendorf downtown/riverfront corridor improvements

The downtown Bettendorf business owners that are part of the Bettendorf Business Network have submitted an 11-point list of improvements they hope the city will undertake to upgrade the area.

Municipal odds and ends. . .

Bettendorf City Council members and city staff met recently to set goals for the coming year, but you won't find any information online about the sessions.

Even though the meetings with the city's Florida-based consultant were open to the public, no video or audio recording of the discussions were made. For that matter, there aren't any written minutes of the sessions. According to the city's attorney, the council just talked about its priorities, it didn't take any votes on its priorities. . . yet.

Consultant Lyle Sumek has billed the city more than $18,000 so far for this year's planning services, plus $345 for snacks and lunches for the council.

Kwik Trip seeking permit to allow gas station and convenience store along 53rd Avenue

Kwik Trip, Inc. is seeking a special use permit to allow construction of a convenience store, gas station and car wash along 53rd Avenue, just east of the new McDonald's restaurant in Bettendorf.

The request is expected to go before the city's Board of Adjustment at its Thursday, Oct. 9 meeting, and appears likely to again draw protests from neighbors who have voiced concerns about noise and traffic when the McDonald's restaurant sought a special use permit for a drive-up window, and, more recently, when a proposed restaurant on Falcon Avenue sought a permit for an outdoor patio.

We can conserve by not wasting stuff we don't actually need

By Jill Richardson

California is on the verge of becoming the first state to ban plastic grocery bags. Governor Jerry Brown says he intends to sign the bag-banning law California lawmakers approved in early September. The ban will go into effect at grocery stores and pharmacies next year and extend to liquor stores and additional kinds of retailers in 2016.

In addition to making it against the law for stores to give shoppers single-use plastic bags when ringing up purchases, the new law will also require stores to charge customers 10 cents for each paper bag they get. The kinds of disposable plastic bags used for loose or perishable items like produce will still be allowed.

California’s not the first place in the world to ban plastic grocery bags. In fact, one out of three Californians live in cities and towns — including San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles — that are already plastic bag-free. So are Boulder, Chicago, Santa Fe, Seattle, Austin, and lots of other places across the country.

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