The Perfect Enemy | Destination Iowa grant application gains support of Cedar Falls City Council
September 25, 2022

Destination Iowa grant application gains support of Cedar Falls City Council

Destination Iowa grant application gains support of Cedar Falls City Council  WCF Courier

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CEDAR FALLS — Despite some reservations, the Cedar Falls City Council OK’d being the smaller piece of a joint grant application with Waterloo that could bring funds to projects near and around the Cedar River.

The Iowa Northland Regional Council of Governments and Grow Cedar Valley officials worked on the $14.09 million application for nearly six months. They emphasized Tuesday how the opportunity is good one, but does not come at the optimal time. The council later voted 6-1 in favor of the application.

That’s because the larger “placemaking” vision – for connecting the two downtowns through the shared waterway – is still being developed and the possible projects, included within it, are not close to “shovel ready.”

“We couldn’t really develop anything new just because of the timeframe,” said Community Planner Isaiah Corbin. “We were working with the constraints. When we had these conversations, we knew we needed to bring projects that had already been proposed, that already have some sort of design; otherwise, they just weren’t going to be valid within this application.”

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If awarded the grant, the city of Cedar Falls would receive $226,478, or 40% of the estimated cost for decorative lighting for the bridges at Main, Center and West First streets as well other improvements to Olsen, Tourist, Washington and Island parks.

The city would be on the hook for $339,716 in matching funds, or the remaining 60% of the cost.

The goal of the grant is to bolster the quality of life in Iowa’s communities and attract visitors and new residents to the state through “transformational” projects.

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Additionally, the council was told Tuesday night to keep in mind the larger regional vision for the Cedar River – and how planning for a slew of projects is ongoing and will set the cities up for future funding opportunities.

“The big pots of money that are going to be available for communities to access will have to include regionalism and regional collaboration … there’s been a lot of conversation that it’s about time (the Iowa Economic Development Authority) and Des Moines invest some money in the Cedar Valley,” said Cary Darrah, president and chief executive officer of Grow Cedar Valley.

Waterloo’s former Police Chief will be paid out for unused vacation and sick time following his resignation.

Councilor Susan deBuhr, the lone dissenting vote, as well as others, took issue with the lopsided nature of the application favoring Waterloo and specific projects in Cedar Falls being included in the application because they were not earmarked in the city’s capital improvement program.

“It looks to me like we’re moving these projects up ahead of projects that we already discussed at goal setting,” said deBuhr. “Also, when we did a budget last year, we had to cut some things, so I’m really concerned where you’re going to get the funding because the $340,000 is going to have to undo some of the projects that we already approved.”

Additionally, arguments were made that the projects had not been discussed with the council at length.

The old church was built in 1916, when it was the Evangelical United Brethren Church, and replaced a building at the time used by the parish and constructed on the same land in 1876.

The initial $100,000 pool of Destination Iowa funding was made available through the federal American Rescue Plan Act, but only about $64 million remains after three rounds of grants were approved.

A Waterloo downtown whitewater rafting course, between the Park Avenue and Sixth Street bridges, is a bulk of the application, $11,348,536 of the $14,094,050 in total project costs.

Cedar Falls already received a $1.5 million grant through the U.S. Economic Development Administration for a river recreational improvement project, and is not eligible, according to Darrah.

Lining up the funds for those projects, as well as evaluating where things stood “environmentally,” was largely what took the application’s development through the summer, said Corbin.

The Waterloo City Council unanimously supported the grant application last month.

“There’s probably some concern about dedicating $340,000, that we don’t know where it’s going to come from yet and I personally hesitate to spend $340,000,” said Councilor Dustin Ganfield. “But I clearly see a return on investment whether it’s this year or by 2027. We’re already doing some monetary contributions down there on the river, and this just adds to it, so I say let’s get behind it.”

The application could be submitted later this month after the city councils receive a draft version and approve resolutions supporting it at their next meetings.

The larger visioning plan could be finalized by the end of the year.

“I still think bettering our parks, connecting us with the Cedar Valley and moving forward with a vision like this is beneficial,” said Councilor Simon Harding. “If it helps Waterloo, it’s only going to help us because people are going to come over here and see our downtown as well, and commingle.”

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