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Waterloo red light traffic cameras ready to issue citations

WATERLOO — Cameras soon will begin nabbing motorists running red lights at nine Waterloo intersections.

Thirteen automated traffic enforcement cameras are being installed at those locations with plans to have them operational and issuing citations for violations by the day after Thanksgiving.

“I’m confident that not only will our traffic safety improve at these intersections, it will improve across the Cedar Valley,” said Police Chief Dan Trelka, who said the goal of automated traffic enforcement is to motivate safer driving habits.

City Council members voted in August 2017 to authorize the use of cameras to fine owners of vehicles that speed or run through red lights. The city retained Sensys Gatso USA, of Beverly, Mass., to supply the enforcement equipment in return for a cut of the fine revenue.

The police department began using hand-held speed cameras a year ago and later received a “speed Jeep” with cameras to catch speeders. But the red light camera implementation was delayed while the city and Sensys Gatso worked out details on their locations.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled in April cities could install automated traffic enforcement cameras on state highways through their jurisdictions without approval of the Iowa Department of Transportation, putting the program back on track.

“Our statistics show that those are intersections where we’re having some really bad accidents, even some fatal accidents, where people are running red lights,” Trelka said.

City officials said there will be a two-week grace period when the cameras first go operational, with warnings instead of fines being sent to the registered owners of offending vehicles.

Fines set by City Council resolution are $75 for running a red light, $100 for a second offense and $125 for each subsequent violation.

The cameras will take high resolution still photos and video, which a police officer will review before a citation is mailed to the registered owner of the car.

A violation occurs when a vehicle enters the intersection after the signal turns red. Vehicles can still make right turns on red lights if they come to a full stop first or do not make the turn faster than 12 mph.

The citations are municipal infractions, meaning they are not reported to the Iowa Department of Transportation to affect driving records.

Sensys Gatso provides and maintains the cameras at no cost to the city but receives $36 for each citation paid. The city receives the rest of the revenue, which the City Council has earmarked for property tax relief.

Pearl Harbor casualty returns home
Sailor killed in Pearl Harbor attack returns home (PHOTOS)

TRAER — At least 400 people packed a Traer church Friday to at long last lay to rest one of their own.

The remains of 22-year-old sailor William L. Kvidera, who was killed at Pearl Harbor, were returned to his hometown for a funeral with full military honors. Members of the community and Kvidera’s family filled the church for the solemn ceremony.

“It’s something like a dream,” said the late sailor’s brother, John Kvidera, 91.

On Dec. 7, 1941, William Kvidera was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft, said a U.S. Department of Defense press release. “The USS Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen, including Kvidera.”

On Friday, members of the Patriot Guard stood outside St. Paul Catholic Church, lining the entrance with American flags. The Rev. Jon Seda, a chaplain at St. Stephen the Witness Student Center in Cedar Falls, led the service.

Freedom isn’t free, Seda said, and we enjoy it because of William Kvidera and the thousands of military servicemen and women who’ve made the ultimate sacrfice. “There is no greater honor than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” Seda said, quoting Jesus from the book of John.

John Kvidera hoped for this moment for many years, he said. He was 14 years old when he found out about the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

“We just had a radio and huddled around it,” he said. “We didn’t know what was going on.”

The family initially received a telegram saying William, the oldest of six brothers, was missing in action. In February 1943, a telegram arrived at their home notifying them of his death.

Not long after, John Kvidera asked his father if he could follow in William’s footsteps and join the Navy. He was met with an emphatic “no,” he said. Later on, John was drafted into the U.S. Army.

John was instrumental in William’s homecoming. In an effort to identify the bodies of servicemen killed at Pearl Harbor, the Department of Defense’s Prisoner of War and Missing Personnel Office collected DNA samples from surviving family members. John and his son, Mark, donated their DNA five years ago.

It was that DNA match that eventually brought William Kvidera home to Traer.

Petty officers Michael Mason, Christopher Beeler, Derek Hansen, Preston Gibbons and Ryan Adams, and Lt. Cmdr. Jarrod Johnson carried a flag-draped casket containing William Kvidera’s remains to his final resting place in the St. Paul Catholic Church Cemetery. Rear Adm. Deborah Haven presented the flag to John Kvidera, William Kvidera’s last surviving brother.

“Not only is that sailor important, but the service their family provides supports that sailor, so this brings closure to that team that’s behind the military,” Haven said. “Our military, our Navy couldn’t be strong without the family, so this is an opportunity to recognize that.”

U.S. Sen. Grassley leaving Senate judiciary committee chairmanship to head finance committee

WASHINGTON — Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa will step down as chairman of the judiciary committee and instead will helm the finance committee when the next Congress convenes in January.

“The economy is better than it’s been in years, and there’s a sense of optimism about the future of our country that people haven’t felt in a long time thanks to the pro-growth policies of a Republican president and a Republican majority in Congress,” Grassley said in a statement Friday. “Looking ahead, at the Finance Committee, I want to continue to work to make sure that as many Americans as possible get to experience this good economy for themselves.”

As chairman of the judiciary committee, Grassley led the confirmation hearings of U.S. Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. The new position is another high-profile job atop the committee that handles legislation involving tax codes, trade policies, Medicaid and Medicare.

Grassley said additional tax relief, expanding market opportunities for farmers and manufacturers, and providing accessible health care for Americans are areas he will focus on.

Grassley led the finance panel for much of former President George W. Bush’s administration.

Grassley, who has represented the state for nearly 40 years, is the longest-serving Republican in the Senate. Separately, Grassley also announced this week he would become the next senate’s president pro tempore, a leadership position that puts him third in the line of succession to the presidency.

Architect sues over hotel, convention center work

WATERLOO — A local architect has filed a lawsuit claiming it was not paid for work on a failed renovation of the downtown Ramada Hotel and Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center.

Invision Architecture, of Waterloo, filed a petition Wednesday in Black Hawk County District Court against Leslie Hospitality Consulting, LK Waterloo and Edwin Leslie seeking payment for $86,327 in work the firm provided on the project.

Leslie Hospitality Consulting, based on Omaha, Neb., had been managing the downtown hotel and convention center under a purchase agreement with the hotel owner, Watermark Hotel Equities.

The Waterloo City Council had approved development agreements in July and August of 2017 with LK Waterloo, a company managed by Leslie Hospitality, to renovate the hotel and city-owned convention center.

Invision Architecture, in court filings, said it was retained in September 2017 to provide design drawings for the renovation project.

The deal, which would have transferred title to the convention center to LK Waterloo along with grant funds and tax rebates, fell apart this year when company president Edwin Leslie was unable to secure financing for the estimated $20 million deal.

The contract to buy the hotel from Watermark Hotel Equities was terminated. The city’s contract with LK Waterloo for the convention center was contingent upon the sale of the hotel.

Invision Architecture is the second local company filing court action over claims it was not paid by Leslie Hospitality.

Martin Brothers Distributing Co. of Cedar Falls has filed a petition Oct. 17 seeking to recover more than $118,000 in unpaid invoices for food services provided to Leslie Hospitality while Leslie was managing the hotel and convention center.

Leslie Hospitality had not filed a response to either lawsuit as of Friday afternoon.