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Two New Site Prospects to Replace West-side Rec Center

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Building a new city recreation center with federal disaster dollars to replace the flood-destroyed Time Check Recreation Center just doesn't seem to get much closer to happening.

The City Hall's Site Selection Task Force the second such task force on Tuesday did decide they would throw in the towel on its plan to build the proposed new $3 million replacement facility in the 100-year flood plain near the park site of the former rec center, which took on 14 feet of water in the city's 2008 flood.

Officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency regional office in Kansas City, Mo., made it clear in a video conference with the task force last month that FEMA would not permit its $2.5 million in disaster dollars for the center to be used to build a facility in the 100-year flood plain.

The task force which includes five of the nine City Council members, Dale Todd, former city parks commissioner and council member, and Linda Seger, president of the Northwest Neighbors Neighborhood Association now must pick a new site, and on Tuesday there was not a clear consensus of where that site should be.

Council member Monica Vernon, for instance, called on the task force to change its site criteria for a new recreation center so that it can be put on the west-side of the city and not just in the northwest quadrant. She said she'd like a west-side location that could serve youngsters who attend both Harrison Elementary School in northwest Cedar Rapids and the Taylor Elementary School in southwest Cedar Rapids. Both schools are in and near core neighborhoods recovering from the 2008 flood.

However, council member Chuck Swore reminded the task force that it was replacing the Time Check Recreation Center in northwest Cedar Rapids near Harrison Elementary School.

Sven Leff, the city's recreation superintendent, presented the task force with two fresh site options, both which come with extra costs, he pointed out.

One, which Vernon liked, would put the recreation center in the neighborhood across the Cedar River from downtown that the council has come to calling Kingston or West Village. The site is between Second Street and Third Street SW between Fourth and Fifth avenues SW near the police station and the city's riverfront amphitheater.

The city now owns much of the block where flood-hit homes and businesses now have been bought out and demolished, though some homes are still in place on the block.

Neighborhood president Seger said the site was in a busy area that wouldn't be safe for youngsters to get to on bicycles. She said she preferred a site nestled more in a neighborhood, though Vernon countered, saying she preferred something that was more centrally located so people can see it and use it.

Leff said a second new option would put the new recreation center on the site of the city's parks maintenance building on the edge of Ellis Park. The maintenance building, Leff noted, is in bad shape, though he estimated that it would cost an extra $1 million to build a new maintenance building if the existing one is demolished to make way for a new recreation center. One possible site for a new maintenance building would be on city-owned property now used to store houseboats and boathouses above Ellis Harbor, Leff said.

Council member Don Karr said he didn't necessarily dislike the proposed site in the Kingston area, though he said the maintenance building site on the edge of Ellis Park is nicely accessible from busy Edgewood Road.

Karr noted, too, that the city is planning to extend Ellis Boulevard NW to Sixth Street SW, which will make it easy via Ellis Boulevard NW to get to the maintenance facility site.

Council member Scott Olson said he wanted to look at options in the area where Ellis Boulevard NW will be extended toward Sixth Street SW, which would make such a center available to both Harrison and Taylor school areas, he said.

A first site selection task force had selected three possible sites in or near Ellis Park, but the City Council eventually rejected those in early 2012 and created a new task force.

Aggie Doyle, chairwoman of People For Parks, has been opposed to putting the recreation center in Ellis Park, but Doyle said after Tuesday's meeting that the site at the park's maintenance facility might work and would get rid of an unattractive maintenance building in the process.

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