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Cal Poly’s Dominic Frasch, right, upends Northern Iowa’s Briley Moore, but not before a first down during the Panthers’ overtime win Saturday in the UNI-Dome.

Waterloo walkway bridge canopy nearing completion

WATERLOO — The renovation of the iconic canopy over the Fourth Street Bridge pedestrian walkway over the Fourth Street Bridge is about a month and a half away from completion.

“It looks like it will probably open in late October or early November,” City Engineer Eric Thorson said.

The canopy and the entire bridge has been closed to pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic for most of the summer. Lighting, electrical work, some wood trim and overhead window panels have yet to be installed.

“The project’s pretty much on schedule,” Thorson said. “It’s just a lot of work to do, and they’ve been working on it steadily. That’s good.”

The window panels, once installed, will have a grayish tint to them — as approved by Main Street Waterloo officials, Thorson said. No side panels are being installed. There were panels when the walkway was built in the mid-1970s, but they frequently had to be replaced when broken and ultimately were removed altogether.

In April, the Waterloo City Council approved a $1.49 million contract with Minturn Inc. of Brooklyn, Iowa, including an estimated $93,000 to replace the faded windows in the 40-year-old steel canopy, built as part of a downtown revitalization at that time concurrent with the opening of ConWay Civic Center, now The Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center.

The canopy project is funded in part by a $750,000 grant from the Black Hawk County Gaming Association, with the remainder coming from city general obligation bonds.

Main Street Waterloo Executive Director Tavis Hall said of the project, “We’re excited that it’s nearing completion. And it’s going to be a great structure for the next 40 years.”

He said Main Street members would like to see decorative LED Lighting added in the future, similar to that at the RiverLoop Amphitheatre. He said the project is a “great restoration” that will contribute much to the downtown district.

Green bridge replacement in Waverly to be pedestrian only, says council

WAVERLY — Despite the vocal protestations of the audience, the new bridge that will connect Third Street Southeast again will be for pedestrians only.

The Waverly City Council voted 4-3, with Ward 5 council member Tim Kangas joining Ward 1 member Dan Lampe, At-large member David Reznicek and Ward 3 member Wes Gade in voting for a pedestrian-only bridge at that crossing.

Those four officially voted for Option C, to develop and let out bids for a 12-foot wide, pre-engineered weathering steel parallel chord truss bridge at an estimated cost of $1,370,000. It was one of 18 pedestrian-only options prepared by WHKS and Co.

The bridge will replace the historic “green bridge,” which has been unable to be used for years due to deterioration. That bridge allowed for one lane of traffic.

The vote was heated even before Monday’s meeting began, with multiple calls and emails between Waverly residents and council members, and even between council and city staff, in emails shared with The Courier.

“We came to this discussion rejecting the repair option,” Mayor Charles Infelt said at the beginning of the discussion, allowing public input limited to three minutes per person. “I know we’ve all weighed in millions of times, but council needs to hear from you regarding these figures only.”

Mary Schildroth previously spearheaded a group advocating for repair and, when that didn’t pass, a pedestrian-only crossing. She read one letter of support before her time limit was up and was loudly heckled by the crowd when she attempted to read another, passing two more letters to another supporter to read.

Brian Birgen, who is currently running for Lampe’s Ward 1 spot, noted he also was in favor of pedestrian-only.

“I don’t think a two-lane bridge where the green bridge is now is a great idea,” he said. “I would like to see a pedestrian bridge. ... That’s my neighborhood.”

They were followed by several speakers in favor of a one- or two-lane vehicular bridge.

Paula Stevenson, who advocates for downtown Waverly businesses, said she and volunteers gave surveys to dozens of people asking which option of bridge they preferred. Fifty-nine people on the southeast side of the river wanted a vehicle crossing, while two preferred pedestrian, she said. On the southwest side, 32 preferred vehicular to one pedestrian.

“It’s pretty overwhelming what we do want,” she said.

Other speakers said their reasoning was because of the money being spent for a pedestrian-only bridge or the inconvenience residents would continue to experience driving around. Nancy Conklin, a real estate agent in Waverly, said it could affect the city’s growth.

“Buyers are going against living in that neighborhood because it is very inconvenient to get across,” she said.

Ward 2 council member Dan McKenzie echoed the driving convenience argument.

“Those 3,000 cars didn’t just disappear — they went into my neighborhood. So I struggle with that,” he said.

Ward 4 council member Mike Sherer said he preferred to wait on any vote until the Cedar River Parkway was completed to assess how traffic patterns changed. At-large council member Edith Waldstein noted a vehicular bridge would likely garner $1 million in funding from the Iowa Department of Transportation, while a pedestrian-only would garner none.

But Lampe, who represents the green bridge ward, said he preferred the pedestrian option, arguing a two-lane bridge would be inappropriate.

“When (drivers) whipped across the bridge before, it was a one-lane. This would be a two-lane,” he said, adding he drives around it often and “we’ve learned to get along without it.”

Reznicek said he didn’t believe another vehicular bridge would be “good city planning” and said the inconvenience amounted to just minutes for drivers.

“The pedestrian bridge solves the problem of kids going to school, helps biking and park access that our city is trying to develop,” he said.

Kangas echoed those comments.

“I’ve heard talk about connectivity,” added Kangas, “but to me, this is a bridge to nowhere.”

Brandon Pollock / BRANDON POLLOCK, Courier Staff Photographer  

Waverly City Council members voted the Third Street East Bridge will be for pedestrians only 10 days ago.

FEMA funding action puts local trail repair on hold

WATERLOO — Hurricane damage in Texas and Florida have dealt a setback to the Cedar Valley Nature Trail in rural Black Hawk County.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has put on hold a request from the county conservation board for $380,000 in recovery funds to repair portions of the trail damaged by flooding a year ago.

Conservation director Mike Hendrickson, who has been trying since April to get a response from FEMA, called the decision “very disappointing.”

“We were notified Friday by FEMA,” he said. “It didn’t surprise us at all that funds were being frozen and critical needs were the only thing they released funds for at this time.”

FEMA’s action came after Hurricane Harvey in late August caused catastrophic damage in areas around Houston and extending into Louisiana, which was followed by Hurricane Irma leaving widespread destruction across Florida.

Wildfires in the western U.S. also are taxing federal disaster aid.

Portions of the Cedar Valley Nature Trail were damaged when the Cedar River spilled its banks in September 2016, including an area near the Gilbertville Depot where a section of the trail was completely washed away. That area has remained closed for safety reasons.

A disaster declaration by President Barack Obama made the county eligible for federal funds to repair public infrastructure, including trails. The county did receive money to make repairs in several of its parks.

But conservation also is seeking mitigation dollars to rebuild the elevated trail with reinforcement to prevent future washouts.

Hendrickson said his office has emailed FEMA 17 times since June seeking a decision “but we could not get them to move on the trail.”

FEMA indicated it was suspending the noncritical funds indefinitely. Conservation staff were planning to discuss options for the trail repairs Monday.

“We don’t feel we can go another year with a 150-foot hole in this trail,” Hendrickson said.

The Cedar Valley Nature Trail runs 52 miles from Evansdale to northern Cedar Rapids and is jointly maintained by Black Hawk and Linn counties. Along with the closure near Gilbertville due to flood damage, the trail also closed in La Porte City due to an unsafe bridge over Wolf Creek.

Officials with the city of Waterloo said they had not received a similar notification from FEMA. Waterloo Leisure Services is still waiting on a request for federal funding to repair the skate park in Exchange Park, which was also destroyed in the 2016 flood.

C.F. police probe whether bullying involved in teen's death

CEDAR FALLS — Police are investigating whether bullying was involved in the suicide death of a Cedar Falls High School student earlier this week.

“We are confirming there was a suicide. We’re investigating the matter to see if bullying was involved,” said Jeff Olson, Cedar Falls public safety director and chief of police.

“We are aware that there were some claims of bullying and we’ve seen what was floating around on social media, so we have opened up an investigation,” Olson said. “We’re working closely with the (Black Hawk) County Attorney’s Office to determine if we have any law violations or not with social media posts and communications with the deceased. I can’t comment on what the posts say. But I can comment that we are aware of comments that were made, both in person and through social media, and we’re certainly looking into that.”

Olson said police are not releasing the deceased student’s name. Pending consultation with the county attorney, he declined to say how severe a charge could result from the incident if a violation of law were found.

Cedar Falls Schools spokeswoman Janelle Darst said, “We are working with the police on the investigation.”

She said school district officials were made aware of the death early Tuesday. The death was in a private location.

Darst also provided a letter Cedar Falls High School Principal Jason Wedgebury sent to parents about the matter.

“All of us at CFHS were saddened to receive news this morning of the death of one of our students. Our counselors, teachers and staff are assisting in helping students deal with this news,” Wedgebury wrote.

He provided parents and caregivers guidelines on how to discuss and address the matter with their students. He encouraged them to:

Be available and willing to discuss the events and honestly share your feelings about them.

Allow children to express fears and feelings. Let them question things without being judgmental.

Maintain daily routines, as it offers students a sense of security.

Be present and watchful of children in the days and weeks ahead. Watch for any changes in behavior. If you do notice changes, talk them over with a school counselor or a family doctor.

Give assurance of love, support and safety.

Be patient. Children may express a variety of emotions within a short period of time.

“The most important things we should do is be supportive and encourage discussion about the events, our feelings, and what we can do in response to it,” Wedgebury wrote. “Our thoughts are with the family, friends and all those impacted.”



A part of the Cedar Valley Nature Trail damaged by September 2016 flooding is seen in Gilbertville.