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PHOTOS: Ashley Furniture warehouse opens in Cedar Falls

CEDAR FALLS — There’s a new neighbor in the Cedar Falls Industrial Park — a 153,000-square-foot neighbor.

Furniture Mart USA of Sioux Falls, S.D., has opened its new $7.2 million Ashley Furniture distribution center at 2615 Capital Way, between Bossard-IIP and the Target Distribution Center.

The building will serve Ashley Furniture stores throughout Iowa, company officials said. The building isn’t full of merchandise yet, but that will change as the company plans to add several new stores in the region, including one in Cedar Falls at a site yet to be determined.

Local online orders also are being served out of the warehouse.

“We’re excited to be there and looking toward the future,” said Tom Kovash, vice president of the Ashley HomeStore Division of Furniture Mart USA.

The company also plans to construct a 20,000-square-foot outlet store within the warehouse, said local manager Todd Stewart. Work is anticipated to begin soon for an April opening.

“It kinda starts things up until we get another brick and mortar store,” Stewart said.

The warehouse will serve “pretty much our whole state of Iowa, a little bit of Wisconsin, possible southern Minnesota.” And there’s room for expanding to the north on the 18-acre site. The company has stores in Cedar Rapids, Mason City, Dubuque, Davenport, Sioux City, Spirit Lake and a new store in Burlington.

The 25-bay warehouse, with four customer pickup doors, employs about 25 employees, and that could increase to more than 50, Stewart said. “I wouldn’t even say we’re 25 percent full,” he said. “There’s a lot of room for growth.”

The project, approved by the city of Cedar Falls in the summer of 2016, has attracted a lot of interest.

“Lot of traffic through the area here,” Stewart said. “It’s going to be exciting once that (outlet) store finally opens,” as well as the retail store. “Anything you could probably imagine, we carry out here.

Stewart said city officials have been “very responsive” with assistance through the start-up process, and the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber has assisted in recruiting employees.

The transportation access is ideal, with U.S. Highway 20 and Interstate 380 close by, Stewart said.

The warehouse opened for business Nov. 27. A ribbon cutting will be 4 p.m. Thursday. More than 20 twin size mattress sets will be donated to local families as part of the company’s Hope to Dream program, in which a portion of sales are devoted to providing beds for children in disadvantaged families.

The company received a partial property tax exemption under a development agreement with the city. The exemptions are expected to total $463,208 over six years, while the amount paid would be $772,012 during that time. The city also provided land for the warehouse. No incentives were extended for the proposed 25,000-square-foot Cedar Falls retail store.

Waterloo police chief to donate kidney

WATERLOO — Waterloo’s police chief will donate a kidney to a friend of a friend.

“Just one,” Chief Daniel Trelka said Tuesday.

The procedure is scheduled today at Froedtert Hospital in the Milwaukee, Wis., area.

“I’m a little nervous, but my mindset is there,” said Trelka, who in the past has donated plasma.

The organ donation plan started awhile ago when a retired police officer from Sturgeon Bay, Wis., where Trelka had been police chief before coming to Waterloo, fell ill and needed a replacement.

Trelka, 53, worked with the officer and applied to be a donor, which involves a battery of tests.

During the process, the retired Sturgeon Bay officer got better and no longer needed a kidney. But Trelka decided to go ahead with the donation anyway after learning a friend of a friend had the same need.

“For a guy my age, I’m in excellent health. … I figured what the heck,” Trelka said.

The procedure originally was scheduled for around Christmas. Then it was pushed back to Jan. 9 and again postponed until today, Trelka said.

The operation and recovery are expected to take him out of action for about five weeks. Maj. Joe Leibold will be acting chief, and Trelka will keep up with developments through email.

Crime jumps in Cedar Falls

CEDAR FALLS — Crime in the city was up 11.9 percent in 2017 over the previous year, a departure from an otherwise downward trend over the past five years, Public Safety Director Jeff Olson said.

“It’s disappointing to see that big of an increase. But you want to look over the years where you’ve been,” Olson said. “The five-year trend is certainly good.” He noted crime was down three of the past five years and the 2017 numbers are still down 4.1 percent compared to five years ago.

Figures released by Olson showed there were 2,288 reportable offenses during 2017, up from 2,045 in 2016 but down from 2,388 in 2012. The numbers do not include crimes reported on the University of Northern Iowa campus, which are compiled separately by the university.

Olson also noted Cedar Falls crime rates hover about 22 percent below the Iowa mean and 34 percent lower than the nation. In violent crimes, the city is 45 percent and 59 percent lower than the state and national means, respectively.

“We are fortunate to live in a city with overall low crime and steady growth. Cedar Falls remains a great city to work, live and do business,” Mayor Jim Brown said.

Major “index” crimes were up more than lesser “category B” offenses, which include several alcohol-related offenses. The number of rape reports nearly doubled, from 14 to 26.

Among points Olson noted:

There was an increase in thefts which includes shoplifting. Assaults were up 19.4 percent, while shoplifting was up 14 percent. A growth in retail centers and loss prevention efforts by some of the those contributed to the apprehension of more shoplifters.

An increase in burglaries can be contributed to one individual who was apprehended and charged with 27 home burglaries in early 2017. A series of crimes committed by one person can contribute to increases in individual categories. Burglaries were up 11.6 percent.

Olson also noted increases can be anticipated as the city grows.

“If you grow, and your population grows and you draw more people to town, you’re going to see some increases,” Olson said.