Nick's Council Connection (8 April 2013)

DSCN8865.JPGCouncil Meeting Date: April 8, 2013
Council Meeting Location: City Hall, 220 Clay St, Cedar Falls, IA 50613

-Committee of the Whole (6:05pm, Mayor's Chamber)-

1) Prairie Parkway Connection... staff presents on geometry and intersection details for Prairie Parkway which makes an essential connection between Greenhill Rd. to Viking Rd.  This is a 'stat' project to improve Viking road connectedness and to alleviate 58/Viking congestion.  The road is designed exceptionally well for motorists. The proposed 4-lane boulevard features serpentine geometry, flowing design speed (35 mph) and roundabouts.  Taken together, these wise traffic calming features will result in reasonable speeds and a safer (and faster) corridor for most users.  The design also recommends an adjacent, off-road, over-sized sidewalk (or side-path, or trail).   While good for pedestrians and some bicyclists (i.e. young children in bicycle training), it is unfortunate because it relegates bicyclists to sidewalks.  Sidewalks can be dangerous for bicyclists because they increase the number of conflict points, lower visibility for motorists and create inefficiencies for the cyclist due to increased number of stops. In the future, I believe vibrant cities will feature better bicycle and pedestrian accommodations which will likely include on-road accommodations and sidewalks where appropriate.   In terms of road design, I will be taking a closer look at vehicular capacities forecasts to make certain the proposed design is compatible with the long-term traffic projections.

2) Light it Up… Cedar Falls is close to adopting an LED lighting standard and change-out policy.  This committee presentation LED_vs_HPS_lighting.jpg(jointly developed by the City and CFU) will explore the options for converting HPS (high pressure sodium) to LED (light-emitting diode) lights.  LEDs are 50% more efficient, have better illumination qualities (CFU tests are remarkable), and reduce long-term operating and maintenance costs by 4x.  Over 20 years, the city will save at least $3.17MM.  For reference, Cedar Falls residents fund approximately $400,000/yr on our street lighting program.  Investments in energy inefficiencies in cases like this will payback many times going forward.  A great return on investment (ROI). 

 -Regular Council Meeting (7:00pm, Council Chamber)-

In Special Order of Business

Item F.2 is a real estate agreement for the sale of 1.39 acres of city-owned property in the Industrial Park to Midwest Development on behalf of The Gym/Cross Fit Kilo (a health/fitness establishment).  The sale amount equals $65,340/acre which is near market valuation.  It is important to note that no financial incentives (land, rebates, tax forgiveness, etc.) were extended.  Though not explicit in the council memo, this is consistent with city practice not to offer economic development incentives to retail-like developments, particularly those that are (or could be) served outside of the TIF boundaries.  I oppose incentives that do not meet the specific economic objectives of TIF zone which are mainly quality job creation and targeted industry expansion.

On the Resolution Calendar

Items H.2.o & p relate to site plan approvals in the College Hill area from CV Properties LLC.  Both plans represent a high development standard using sound design principles.  Item H.2.o is an 8 unit complex.  The design features a mixed of hardy materials, good proportion, screened parking, and horizontal and vertical building articulation.  All these add-up to complement the neighborhood surroundings.  Item H.2.p is the much anticipated mixed-use structure on the Hill, the former Stebs site.  I applaud of the design effort, yet offer one observation.  The inner-unit is void of natural light in the living space. Some might criticize this as an effort to maximize bedroom count at the expense of living quality - which may well be the case.  Since there is no applicable code requirement, the market will judge the wisdom.  

 

-Briefly Speaking-

Budgets - On February 25th, the Council passed the FY14 budget (which started on July 1st).  I voted against this budget for two reasons.  First, Council decided to raise taxes beyond staff's original recommendation.  Second, the budget did not contain essential efficiency and cost cutting measures necessary to maintain current levels of service and programs without additional tax hikes.   In the council budget session, I made a recommendation to adopt a resolution initiating a budget task force to explore efficiencies and cost cutting measures in the next 5 years.  Council passed the resolution and now the work begins.

As an Industrial Engineer, I am obsessive about searching for opportunities to improve product and delivery of service.  I am tasked to evaluate every production element needed to deliver a product or service at the lowest possible cost while meeting the expectation of the customer or end-user.  Said differently, I am trained to identify and eliminate waste, to implement technologies and processes to increase productivity and quality, to integrate systems, people, information, and resources to create optimal results.  The best ideas and greatest solutions are identified by broad stakeholder input - community, employees, and professionals that know.  This is a community conversation.

HudsonRdRun.JPG

In Cedar Falls, our commitment to taxpayer value is evidenced in our historical trends.  People invest in Cedar Falls because it is a 'good deal'.  When faced with fiscal challenges of the past, we developed creative solutions.  We've completely reorganized and streamlined City Hall, implemented effective public-private partnerships, developed constructive labor agreements, created policies and procedures to promote efficiencies just to name a few.  We are at another fork in the road; we must again evaluate everything we do and determine how we can do it better.  We will be making bold, sometimes difficult, decisions to improve taxpayer value in our city... great organizations are always evolving, this is one more step in our evolution.

Currents and Gardens - you can find the latest edition of Current online here.  Currents is a terrific publication and resource to the community.  One article didn't meet the press deadline... Spring is breaking and that means its time to think about planting seeds.  Cedar Falls Community Garden is open for business and good healthy fun (and incidentally, it is also gardner supported!)

I'm not a Traffic Engineer, but... - so yeah, Greenhill Road and Cedar Height intersection could use some redesign.  Thankfully it will.  The 'painted lines' were an an interim step to open the road for use.  This season, staff will be working on intersection improvements to improve the flow logic to eliminate lane merges and improve turning efficiencies.

Why the running picture? - I wanted to thank y'all for sharing the road this snowy winter.  I was the guy in orange.  Why do runners and walkers oppose traffic?  For safety.  It is best practice to run against traffic to be seen and to maneuver if not seen. Why not on the sidewalks?  Sidewalks contain numerous hazards from unlevel sections, snow piles, tree root damage to awkward terminations. In winter, they are especially prone to water collection and ice.  By running in the street (or bike lane), the runner is safer and faster.  I will be running the GO! St. Louis Marathon this month. I last ran the race in 2004.  According to many, the St. Louis has undergone a transformation since that time.  I will report back any extraordinary observations.

It is an honor to serve the citizens of Cedar Falls.  I would love to hear from you!


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