A lone white pelican plies the Mississippi River just upstream from Lock & Dam 15, Davenport.

Users – including one person lying down and one person standing on the transparent "oculus" feature – of the new Interstate 74 Bridge recreation trail wave to the passing Mississippi Belle Riverboat below.

All Bettendorf City Council input into sports complex tax rebate deal done behind closed doors

The City of Bettendorf recently negotiated a complicated agreement with sports complex developers over a six-month period, but did so without even a single email or written document shared with city council members.

So how did the city reach a deal with developers Doug Kratz, Kevin Koellner and Ryan Hintze without sharing any written communication with city council members or any public meetings to discuss what should be in the contract?

According to City Attorney Chris Curran, the council was kept abreast of staff negotiations through "informational meetings" held behind closed doors.

Iowa greenhouse gas emissions declined 7.6% in 2020; drop primarily from pandemic impact


Source: 2020 Iowa Statewide Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report, Dec. 31, 2021

Iowa's greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 fell 7.6 percent from 2019, primarily because of lower electric power plant production and fewer vehicle miles traveled that resulted from the pandemic.

CLICK HERE to download the full report from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Sports complex development agreement released; public hearing set for Feb. 15 council meeting

Scott County opposed to use of new tax incentives for hotel, retail and commercial service businesses in proposed urban renewal area

The agreement providing millions of dollars in tax rebates for expansion of the sports complex at Forest Grove and Middle Roads was released Friday afternoon (2/11), less than three days before the Bettendorf City Council holds a public hearing and votes on it.

The council has discussed the agreement in so-called "3-on-3 meetings" outside the public view for months, but has yet to talk publicly about the multi-million-dollar Tax Increment Finance (TIF) deal with developers Doug Kratz, Kevin Koellner and Ryan Hintze.

It is possible the city council could approve the deal without any members even expressing their views on the agreement.

The agenda for the council's committee-of-the-whole meeting at 5 p.m. Monday (2/14) includes a presentation by the city's Director of Economic Development Jeff Reiter. No public comments are allowed at those sessions.

The council is then expected to hold a public hearing and approve the development agreement at its 7 p.m. Feb. 15 meeting.

CLICK HERE to download the proposed development agreement.

Lee Enterprises reports 20 percent decline in first quarter earnings as Alden Global pushes takeover

Lee Enterprises, Inc. today (2/3) reported a 20 percent decline in first quarter earnings compared with a year ago, while efforts by hedge fund Alden Global Capital to acquire the Davenport-based print and online media company intensified.

Lee – owner of the Dispatch/Argus and Quad City Times – earned $13.2 million ($2.21 per share) during the quarter ended Dec. 26, 2021, compared with $16.4 million ($2.79 per share) for the same period a year ago. The lower earnings occurred despite the inclusion of a one-time $12.3-million gain from the sale of company assets.

Meanwhile, Alden Global is seeking to replace Lee's Chairman and CEO Mary Junck and long-time board member Herbert Maloney III on the company's board of directors. Alden has submitted an alternative slate of candidates for the director slots coming up for election at the company's annual meeting to be held March 10.

Cricket Hollow Zoo owners avoid jail, say the case against them could ‘cripple’ Iowa agriculture

Iowa Capital Dispatch

Last September, the owners of Manchester’s Cricket Hollow Zoo were ordered by an Iowa judge to pay $70,000 or serve five months in jail for refusing to surrender the animals at their roadside attraction.

Four months later, zoo owners Pamela and Thomas Sellner have yet to pay anything toward that fine or serve any time in jail. The couple is taking their case to the Iowa Supreme Court and arguing that if a contempt-of-court ruling against them is allowed to stand, it could “cripple our agricultural sector.”

Over 56 percent of tax rebates to sports complex developers would come from PV school taxpayers

Of the $14 million in tax rebates earmarked for developers of the bettplex sports complex expansion, more than 56 percent – nearly $8 million – are expected to come from the pocket of Pleasant Valley School District taxpayers.

That's because the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) planned by the City of Bettendorf for the northeast corner of Forest Grove and Middle Roads would allocated 75 percent of the "incremental" taxes from the development back to the developers Doug Kratz and Kevin Koellner over a 20-year period up to a maximum of $14 million.

When the city employs a TIF, all "incremental" property taxes (except those levied for debt service) are rebated back to the developers.

Those aren't just property taxes levied by the city, but by all taxing bodies within the TIF area, including those for the school district and county.

City officials plan more taxpayer subsidies for Bettendorf's hottest commercial corridor

Despite being the hottest commercial corridor in Bettendorf, city officials are planning to dole out nearly $20 million in taxpayer subsidies to developers looking to expand the "bettplex" sports complex at Forest Grove and Middle Roads.

In addition to tax rebates totaling $14 million, the city would give developers $5.8 million in outright grants and agree to pick up the tab for all infrastructure improvements in the area at an estimated cost of $25 million.

In just the next two years, the agreement calls for the city to complete $5.3 million in public improvements including $1.5 million for a pedestrian bridge across Middle Road, $2 million for an extension of Forest Grove Road and a roundabout, $1 million for internal roads and trails in the development and $800,000 for storm water and sanitary sewer work.

And, unlike the first development agreement, the new deal would not require that developers share sales tax rebates with the city nor pay a $5 per night fee on hotel rooms planned as part of the expanded sport complex/urban renewal area on the northeast corner of Forest Grove and Middle Roads. (In the agreement released publicly 2/11, a clause to share sales tax rebates, if granted by the state, is included. The city would get a 45 percent cut of those rebates. And, a provision has been added to require hotels in the TIF area to charge a $5 per night room fee to be paid the city.)

Lee Enterprises touts management strategy; reports $5.3 million profit in fourth quarter ended Sept. 26

Lee Enterprises, Inc. – owner of the Quad City Times, Dispatch/Argus and news operations in 76 other markets – earned $5.3 million during the fourth quarter ended Sept. 26.

The positive earnings announcement Thursday (12/9) came a day after the Davenport-based company's board of directors unanimously rejected the $24-per-share buyout offer made by Alden Global Capital last month.

While the Lee earnings news release held up fourth quarter operating revenues ($194 million) and fiscal year operating revenues ($794.6 million) as signs the company's strategic plan was working, on a pro forma basis, full year operating revenues were down 3 percent compared to 2020.

Hedge fund Alden Global Capital makes $24 per share, all-cash offer to buy Lee Enterprises, Inc.

Hedge fund Alden Global Capital today (11/22) made an unsolicited all-cash offer of $24 per share to acquire Davenport-based Lee Enterprises, Inc. with its 77 daily newspapers including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Buffalo News, and local Quad City newspapers, the Dispatch/Argus and Quad City Times.

Alden acquired Tribune Publishing earlier this year. That publishing group includes the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, Orange County Register, Boston Herald, Baltimore Sun and the Mercury News (San Jose, CA).

‘Like he was my lawyer:’ State Sen. Roby Smith intervened in Davenport animal-welfare case

The owner of a Davenport dog kennel says state regulators scaled back their punishment against his business this summer after a state legislator intervened in the case on his behalf.

Earlier this summer, the Animal Playground boarding kennel in Davenport, run by Robert Burns, was visited by state inspectors working for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. At the time, the kennel was supposed to be shut down due to a license suspension triggered by a series of serious regulatory violations.

The kennel, however, was in full operation with 40 dogs milling about, inspectors reported.

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