Cedar Rapids Library project hits a bump in the road - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Cedar Rapids Library project hits a bump in the road

CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) -- Frustrating.  That's what Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett calls the latest bump in the road to flood recovery.

Corbett says they learned Wednesday afternoon that FEMA has concluded that cost to benefit ratio for the new downtown library is too far off in relation to National Flood Insurance Program requirements to financially support the project.

The city decided to rebuild the library on the site that TrueNorth now occupies on Fourth Avenue SE across from Greene Square Park.  That project is estimated to cost $24 million.

The other two sites that were considered, the Emerald Knights site and the Gazette site, are also too costly according to FEMA.

Corbett says that FEMA has suggested the demolish the existing library building, raise the land one foot above the flood plain and build a new building.  An option that FEMA originally told the city they couldn't do, according to Corbett.  FEMA says that plan would cost about $18 million.

Mayor Corbett says the city has three options:

- It can appeal FEMA's decision
- It can submit a request to build an "improved" project on the TrueNorth site
- Or it can find a fourth site that would fit the cost/benefit ratio

The "improved" project option, which Corbett says he is leaning towards at this point, would mean the city would lose about $2 million of the $18 million in FEMA funding and means the city would have to come up the $8 million difference for that project.

He added that the city council could ultimately decide that coming up with $8 million is not feasible and they would then appeal the decision which could lead to delays.

Corbett emphasized that a lot of time and money has been put into preparing both the TrueNorth site and the old library site and doesn't think that the plan would be abandoned.

He says it's frustrating because they have gone so far into the process, but he added that they are partners with FEMA in helping rebuild the city and this is not the time to be throwing darts at one another.

Corbett said that they are now working with FEMA to make sure that this doesn't come up again as they move forward with rebuilding the Central Fire Station and the Animal Control facility, among others.

He said the one difference between the library and the Central Fire Station is that while a library is needed, a fire station is an essential service.  He believes that will lead to that process going smoother.

Online producer:  Eric Page

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