There are two (or more) sides to every issue …

There are two (or more) sides to every issue …

Thanks in large part to outrage expressed by some members of the biking community on social media, Riverdale has found itself, once again, in the media’s spotlight. This time, the controversy swirls around the City’s decision to erect a barrier fence along the Mississippi River Trail behind some homes on Wisteria Lane and across a city-owned lot with a cement path that connects the MRT to Kensington Street. By blocking this path with the fence, Riverdale effectively cuts off access to a public road that bikers and pedestrians can take between the MRT and the Duck Creek Bike Trail which terminates in VanGundy Park just a few blocks away.

Members of the Quad City and Des Moines bike riding community seem to think I’m a tool.

Even though this has been a major subject of discussion at Council Meetings and Town Hall Meetings for the past two years, the snow fence erected while Kensington and Wisteria road resurfacing work caught many in the bike community by surprise. The City’s reluctance to remove the snow fence as the road project reaches its conclusion has pushed more outspoken members of the bike community well beyond surprise to indignation.

I’ve included some of the comments made by bike riders in this post so you can see what people are saying to me and about Riverdale during all of this. And while I’ve had to remind a few residents to tone down the rhetoric a time or two, Riverdale residents, by and large, are asking good questions and expressing their points of view fairly openly.

That includes a resident or two who don’t necessarily agree with the City’s decision and have made a point of calling that out on social media as well.

And that’s fine. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

So here’s mine.

According to some bikers, I lie for a living. And as for the north side of State Street – I’m not shifting responsibility there to them – the north side of State Street between Duck Creek and Brenny’s is in Bettendorf.

I, quite literally, don’t have a dog in this fight. I’m the mayor of Riverdale and a user of the MRT and DCBT. I’ve used the connector at Kensington and I’ve had a bike rider who wasn’t paying attention hit my car with his bike while I was waiting for him to pass over my driveway to get onto State Street (fortunately neither the biker nor my car were injured).

I have a lot of friends who bike on the trails. Some of them understand the frustration of the Riverdale residents most affected by the bike and pedestrian traffic using the connector trail to go up and down Kensington, some of my friends do not. But because they’re my friends, they’ve taken the time to reasonably and patiently explain their positions to me.

And, of course, I have lots and lots of friends in Riverdale. Several live right down there in the Havens Acres neighborhood and have had to deal with what all of them (to a person) say is a major inconvenience to the “quiet enjoyment” of their life in the neighborhood. I understand that. I used to live in the McClellan Heights neighborhood in Davenport and although the Bix 7 race was fun every year, dealing with the straggling joggers and walkers doing the “Bix at Six” training runs a month or two before the big race could be a real hassle.

So, it’s as mayor of Riverdale that I approach this problem. And as the mayor, it’s my job to be the point-guy to take the questions and to reach out to those affected most to see if we can work out a solution that will work for everyone in a way that reassures people the roads they travel are safe and that their property rights are being respected.

What that probably means is that NOBODY is going to be 100% satisfied with the solution that eventually results. So, now you’re warned.

I’m a person who tries to deal fairly and from a position of fact and knowledge. That’s a little unusual for someone who trades in emotion, humor and rhetoric for a living, but it’s who I am. And maybe because I work with words and with journalists, I really don’t like exaggerations made to make a point and I abhor intentional misstatements of truth. Those are shenanigans that decrease the power and potency of the person making the claims in my book … and there’s been plenty of that in this latest tempest.

What Do People Have Wrong?

There are incorrect, inaccurate and possibly intentionally misleading claims being made by some people in the bike community that don’t help their argument and undercut the offers to help made by leadership from community bike clubs who want to help us find a solution. One news report showed a member of the bike community say that Riverdale was not allowing people to ride on Kensington Street. “Any cyclists who are using the Mississippi River Trail can no longer use this public street,” said James McAdams to WQAD’s Bianca Reyes.

So, I’m guessing if there’s a lawsuit over this issue, we’ll have the Quad City Bike Community to thank for it.

That’s not true. The streets in Riverdale are public thoroughfares and can be used by anyone. What Riverdale is restricting is access across city-owned property at the end of Kensington Street.

But this is just one of several incorrect portrayals of what’s really going on. I’ve also found references made by members of the bike community to Riverdale’s intention of cutting off or blocking the MRT. Again, that’s not true.

In fact, we want people to use the MRT. As it was originally designed. Ride in at 42nd Street and Duck Creek, peddle behind the Havens Acres neighborhood to Bellingham Road, cross State Street at the federally-approved bike crossing that’s there and then continue down the MRT back into Bettendorf.

But trail users want to be able to make a connection between the MRT and the DCBT and for them, the option of turning left at Brenny’s when they cross State Street isn’t a good option. Some – including the board of the Quad City Bike Club – feel the crossing at State Street isn’t safe.

That’s understandable. It’s common sense that going under a road is safer than going over a road. But to me, this is more about making a desperate argument to forestall the inevitable fence and gate that will be installed over the connector at Kensington Street than it is about safety.

In the nearly 2-1/2 years I’ve been mayor, I’ve received 0 complaints from bike riders or pedestrians about the safety of the Belligham/State Street intersection. During the same time, I’ve received over 400 calls from residents in Havens Acres complaining about bike and pedestrian traffic on Kensington. Recently, I was told that on a good day now, residents in the neighborhood are seeing between 500 and 1,000 people bike, walk or jog up and down Kensington Street.

And therein lies another problem.

Anecdotal claims are interesting, but not necessarily helpful. Is there a lot more bike and pedestrian traffic on Kensington when it’s a nice weekend day? I don’t doubt that. How much more? I don’t know.

I will tell you this, though, I’ve seen bike riders ride through a resident’s yard to get from the MRT to the street. I’ve seen the disrespect shown both directions. And I’ve seen glass and broken rock put on the connector between Kensington and the MRT.

And I’ve seen how the bike community talks about the residents of Riverdale on social media.

None of those things are helpful or acceptable.

So, What Do We Really Know?

Here is a message I sent to a resident who was “ashamed” of Riverdale’s decision. I understand her point. She says she worked with the residents who managed to bring the MRT into reality nearly ten years ago and she’s a frequent user of both bike paths and the connector between them on Kensington Street. But just as she’s questioned residents about the claims they’ve made associating neighborhood crime with the MRT, she makes similarly questionable claims of her own.

All I have to go on is what I’ve seen first-hand and the people I’ve spoken to, personally. These are the things I think are fairly certain about this situation:

1. There has been persistent trespassing by people using the trails:

•  I’ve spoken to bike riders who have apologized for cutting through the city-owned lot before there was a cement connector path for about 3 years.

•  The existence of the connector trail, itself, speaks to the persistent trespassing across the city-owned lot. I’ve spoken with our maintenance man, George Miller, who recalled being instructed on multiple occasions to re-seed and restore the goat path/cow trail the bikers and pedestrians had created on the city-owned lot. He said the City finally had Kenny Mahler just pave the path to cut down on the mud and debris being left in Kensington Street.

•  I’ve seen photography of tire tracks across Mike Steen’s yard from the MRT to Kensington (or, possibly the other direction)

•  I’ve personally witnessed a biker pedal across someone’s yard on Wisteria to make his way from the MRT to the city street.

2. There are not good records of the intentions or plan for the MRT or for the connector path in the City’s archives. According to what I’ve been told by previous mayors, there has been long-standing reluctance to document things because of the City’s history of litigation.

3. The QCTimes report on the original extension of the MRT in 2012 documented the Havens Acres neighborhood’s resistance to the path and their request for a fence to keep people from cutting through the city-owned lot at the end of Kensington.

4. That same article quoted the mayor at the time (Jack Franklin) saying he recommended the fence, but the City Council didn’t vote for it.

5. I personally witnessed previously-elected officials disparaging residents in the Havens Acres neighborhood as being poorer, unintelligent and not worth the effort when it came to dealing with this issue.

8. Home values in the neighborhood have not changed appreciably in the 8 years since the MRT was put in. In fact, the City’s assessed property values have not changed significantly in either direction since the total elimination of the state’s M&E tax in the early 2000s.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I will continue to meet with the Quad City Bike Club and other area bike clubs to make sure they understand that Riverdale will work with them to address the concerns of their members when they’re in our city. That’s an obligation of any elected representative and it’s the right thing to do. One of the first things we’ll be working on is improving and replacing signage for trail users so they have a better understanding of how to make the connection between the trails safely and efficiently.

I will also meet with Bi-State this week to discuss setting up a traffic study at the connector between the MRT and Kensington Street so we can get an accurate count of peak traffic volumes using the connector (and Kensington Street) between the two trails. This will be an inconvenience for residents in Havens Acres (again) for a period of time, but the data collected is really important.

The City has good relationships with both the City of Bettendorf and the Iowa DOT. If there is going to be any work performed on alternate connection routes, those parties need to be a part of the conversation. The north side of State Street (between Duck Creek and Brenny’s) is in Bettendorf and the sidewalk on the south side of State Street (between the Pancake House and Bellingham) is almost entirely within the Iowa DOT’s right of way for Hwy 67.

And here’s the thing, the very first question they’re going to ask is: “How many people are we talking about, anyway?” If we want to make sure something happens, we need hard numbers, not anecdotal claims that opposing sides will question whether they’re accurate or not.

I will continue to reach out to the businesses affected by this decision. There is an impact felt by both the Duck Creek Pancake House and My Place – and we need to be a constructive partner in helping find and develop a solution.

And finally, we need to realize that we have an obligation to work through this issue in its entirety. We can’t just build a fence and call it a day. We need to understand and respect the concerns raised by bikers and walkers on the MRT – and if there’s a way to help them feel safe making the connection between trails while they’re in Riverdale, we owe that to the community at-large. But, by the same token, I am responsible to the City and its residents to make sure our homeowners feel safe in their homes and to reduce or remove nuisances that make the “quiet enjoyment” of their neighborhood difficult.

Nobody is happy now. Nobody is likely to be happy once we’ve worked out a solution. But then again, maybe that’s how we know things were handled equitably?

More Comments from Unhappy Bikers

Here are some of the comments I’ve seen in the past day or two. There are new ones out on Facebook now, more misstatements and misinformation. Some of it, I’m sure, is unintentional (it’s not a particularly easy subject to research and understand if you don’t live here already). But a lot of it is just trying to wind people up.

So, spoiler warning, a lot of these comments say nasty things about Riverdale, Havens Acres residents and me. If that is likely to upset you, don’t waste your time reading them.

Riverdale considers new sanitary sewer rates for FY 21

Riverdale considers new sanitary sewer rates for FY 21

For the past three months, Riverdale has been working on re-aligning its sanitary sewer rates for the coming fiscal year (which starts in July). The City Council is now considering an ordinance change that will allow residents and businesses to have a say in how those rates are set.

The ordinance, which will have its first reading at the May 26, 2020 City Council meeting, establishes a review committee which is made up of residents, business owners and representatives from Arconic, PVCSD and Scott Community College. Their job will be to review sewer infrastructure costs and upkeep issues and to provide recommendations to the City Council on rates and budget expenditures.

It is estimated the committee will only have to meet two or three times a year. If you are interested in serving on the committee, please email the mayor.

 

Re-Structuring the City’s Sewer Fund

The Sanitary Waste Treatment Facility in West Davenport – jointly owned by Riverdale and three other cities.

The Mayor has been working with the City’s accounting firm, BFA, to build a more comprehensive financial model to project Riverdale’s sanitary sewer expenses now that it has become part of the consortium of cities that jointly owns the trunk sewer line extending from Panorama Park to west Davenport (where the waste treatment facility is located).

“Our responsibilities as a co-owner of the waste treatment plant and the main trunk line that serves us means we all need to make sure our sewer fund has enough money in it to manage the on-going operational costs and improvements needed from time to time in that facility,” explained Mayor Bawden.

But the overhaul of the City’s Sewer Fund was needed for more reasons than just the costs associated with the joint sewer service with Davenport, Bettendorf, and Panorama Park. “We also needed to start allocating overhead and engineering costs for the sanitary sewer to the sewer fund,” explained the mayor. “Historically, Riverdale has been covering those costs out of its General Fund and that’s not really appropriate. Those costs are sanitary sewer related, so they should be paid with user fees and not property taxes.”

(from left to right) Mayors Rice (Panorama Park), Bawden (Riverdale), Klipsch (Davenport) and Gallagher (Bettendorf) sign the documents setting the joint sewer 28E Agreement between all four cities in place.

The difference is slight, but it is there. Not all residents in Riverdale are on the sanitary sewer system and, as a result, don’t pay sewer fees.

In addition to the costs of the jointly-owned sewer utility and overhead, the financial model built by BFA also includes capital investments and sanitary sewer rehabilitations currently scheduled for the next 3 to 6 years as Riverdale moves proactively to eliminate I&I (inflow and infiltration) from their portion of the joint sewer system. Failing to do successfully eliminate I&I from the lines could be financially catastrophic not just for Riverdale, but for all of the cities in the partnership.

“The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has a multi-million dollar order ready to hand down to Davenport, Bettendorf, Riverdale and Panorama Park if we don’t ge the I&I situation under control and reduce the amount of relatively clean water that flows through the waste treatment plant at peak times,” said Mayor Bawden. “Most of the work needs to be done in Davenport and some of it needs to be done in Bettendorf – but Riverdale and Panorama Park have a little work as well. In our case, most of the sewer repairs we need to make can be done by re-lining the pipes. There are just a couple of spots where we’ll need to do something more involved.”

 

Rate Increases Are Inevitable, But Won’t Be As High As Originally Expected

With most of the financial modeling completed – thanks in large part to projections provided by the City of Davenport for anticipated waste treatment costs over the next 5 years or so – it’s possible to get a more accurate read on what is expected to happen with sewer rates when they are finally adjusted for FY 2021.

According to the mayor, all sewer rates are going to go up in July, but not quite as much as originally expected.

Even after we increase the rates in Riverdale, we should still be below where Bettendorf and Davenport are, cost-wise, with our rates in all categories (Industrial, Commercial, Residential, etc.). But more importantly, we should be able to control the rate growth and keep it at or below the CPI (Consumer Price Index) and still generate enough cash flow to self-finance the larger, capital projects.

New sanitary sewer fees should be ready for City Council review at its first meeting in July (07/14) and, if approved, will be used in the sewer billing that is mailed to residents near the end of the month. 

Remember to keep your grass out of our gutters!

Remember to keep your grass out of our gutters!

Spring and summer is the heart of lawn-mowing season, so we’re in the thick of it now. But did you know that grass clippings and other yard waste left in the street can cause flooding and storm water drainage problems for Riverdale? That’s because grass clippings in the street ultimately end up in a storm drain. Once in the drain, they can build up and clog pipes and cause drain issues.

This sophisticated diagram spells out what you need to keep in mind when it comes to cutting your grass next to the street.

In Riverdale, we have free, curbside pick-up of yard waste from April through October (and, sometimes, into November), so there’s no reason for residents to leave their lawn clippings, leaves and other plant refuse in the street.

Also, did you know that grass clippings and other yard waste in the streets can cause high levels of nutrients in local creeks and streams which can result in algae problems? It’s better for you to leave your grass clippings on your yard to help restore nutrients back into the soil and increase the amount of organic materials in your soil.

Grass on the road can also be a hazard to motorists, especially motorcyclists and bicyclists. If a two-wheeled vehicle hits a patch of grass in the road, the unstable nature of the grass pile can result in the bike losing traction on the road and, thus, losing control. 

According to Justin Lovely, in this article on the GreenPal website

“Grass clippings in the roadway can be extremely hazardous to the rider and even deadly. Rider’s are taught about potential *gravel* on the road but far too often forget about the dangers of grass. In our area we often see this on the back country rural roads.” 

“Rider’s don’t think about it because the rider is often on pavement or other city roads where this is really not an issue. The moment the rider decides to go on the secondary roads, he or she needs to be thinking and looking out for grass.”

Solutions For Your Grass Problem

There are a number of things you can do to make sure you and your grass clippings are not the cause of Riverdale’s next great storm water management problem.

  • If your mower shoots grass clippings out of the side, make sure you mow a few passes with your mower blowing towards your yard and not into the street – do it first, before you get going on the rest of your yard.

  • If you bag your grass with your mower, make sure you transfer the grass into your disposal bags away from the curb and street.
  • If you mulch, you’re good. Mulch-mowing will not blog grass out the side which means you shouldn’t have to worry about grass blowing into the street.
Erosion on Manor Drive Hill becomes a growing concern

Erosion on Manor Drive Hill becomes a growing concern

Damage caused by erosion on the west side Manor Drive Hill continues to increase thanks in large part to the heavy downpours experienced the last few days (and forecast for the coming week). Resident volunteers, most notably Steve Townsend and Mark Griswold, have worked to clear away debris from the catch basins along the road so water can flow more freely through the storm water system, but erosion coming down the hillside is getting especially pronounced.

Photos and video taken Sunday morning show significant scoring and erosion.

The Mayor will meet with the City’s engineer on Tuesday to discuss this problem in more detail and have a preliminary proposal for Council consideration at its next meeting.

In the meantime, volunteer help is still needed to try and deal with downpours expected this week. If you are interested and willing to help, please call City Hall during regular business hours at : 563-355-2511.

Council agrees to dig into drainage problem behind homes on Manor Drive.

Council agrees to dig into drainage problem behind homes on Manor Drive.

At their last meeting of the City Council, Riverdale Council Members agreed that it was time to look a little closer at the drainage problems causing sink holes to develop in the back yards of several residents in the 200 block of Manor Drive.

The issue was presented as a motion to direct staff to inspect the clogged drainage line behind 234 Manor Drive and then discern the size and shape of the storm water lines running through the back yards and to the main line under Fieldcrest Road (to the north).Once the size and nature of the problem can be determined, staff will work with the City Engineer to estimate a cost to repair the damage.

After the cost and scope of work is estimated, the mayor said he’ll sit down with residents and talk through the options available to them.  “It’s too early to know just who is involved or what a repair might cost,” explained the Mayor. “But it’s not going to get any cheaper – so the Council decided it was better to take this matter head-on now rather than wait for things to get much worse down the road.”

The drainage lines do not appear on any maps of sanitary or storm water sewer maps in the City’s archives. “It looks like this might have been something the residents did on their own,” explained the Mayor. “And if that’s the case, and the lines were never conveyed to the City, then there’s not much we can (or should) do.”

“On the other hand,” he continued. “If we don’t, at the very least, work with residents to find out what’s wrong and what it will take to fix things, property values in the neighborhood could suffer in the long haul and that hurts everyone.”

Investigative work in the neighborhood is expected to occur this summer.

For more information on this project, click here for the initial story

 

Update: Weather slows Havens Acres roadwork, but plans are to finish it this week!

Update: Weather slows Havens Acres roadwork, but plans are to finish it this week!

(UPDATE: MAY 4, 2020) – Roadwork continued today from the weekend with all of Wisteria completed as well as most of the southern half of Kensington Street (south of the railroad tracks). The northern half of Kensington Street is expected to be completed on Wednesday or Thursday, as are a few of the driveway entrances that still need asphalt paving.

The only possible bug in the works? Garbage pick up for the neighborhood was delayed to Wednesday to allow the street crew time to finish the job – but with rain in the forecast for tomorrow (Tuesday), it’s now likely we’ll have garbage trucks and pavers cruising through Havens Acres at the same time.

No good deed goes unpunished, I suppose.

In the meantime, enjoy these photos from Council Member Kelly Krell who lives in the neighborhood:


Work on the Havens Acres Roadway Rehabilitation project moves from “behind the curb”  and “into the street” this week as Brandt Construction, the contractor hired to remove and replace the surfaces of Kensington and Wisteria Streets accelerates their project timeline thanks to an early end to the school year.

According to project manager, Troy Stimpson, Residents in the Havens Acres neighborhood should expect some slight delays this week as roadway is removed on Monday and Tuesday, mat is laid down on the roads on Wednesday and then a new road surface is applied on Thursday and Friday. The schedule is, of course, dependent upon cooperative weather – which doesn’t look likely as of this weekend.

Forecasts for the week show one day of possible thunderstorms (Tuesday) and rain again the following day. If the forecasters are right, it might be sometime next week when the actual roadways are reinstalled.

MidAmerican Energy says “yes” when Riverdale residents asked for “Trees, please!”

MidAmerican Energy says “yes” when Riverdale residents asked for “Trees, please!”

Thanks to some persistence by long-time residents Linda and Dale Hupp, the City of Riverdale is the recipient of a $1,000 grant through the “Trees, Please!” program from MidAmerican Energy. The City Council will consider a resolution authorizing the spending of an additional $1,000 this year to match the grant (a requirement), meaning we could see the two thousand dollars’ of new trees gracing Riverdale’s parks and green spaces later this year.

More information about the “Trees, Please” grant can be found here. The resolution to be considered by the City Council at Tuesday’s meeting – can be found here.

Curbside yard waste pick up to resume on May4 – say goodbye to the dumpsters!

Curbside yard waste pick up to resume on May4 – say goodbye to the dumpsters!

Republic Services has notified the City that they intend to resume curbside, yard waste pick-up on May 4. To get ready, Republic has been instructed to remove the dumpsters in Volunteer Park and at the end of Kensington Street on Tuesday, April 28th.

The yard waste dumpster at Volunteer Park is very full. If it’s possible for you to wait until May 4 to have your yard waste picked up, please do so.

The next, big, bulky waste clean-up day for Riverdale will be this fall (probably in October). Please check the website and e-newsletters for udpates.

Appliance recycling pick-ups scheduled for May 1. Make sure you’re on the list by Tuesday.

Appliance recycling pick-ups scheduled for May 1. Make sure you’re on the list by Tuesday.

As part of the City’s effort to help residents get rid of their bulky waste this month, residents were asked to notify City Hall if they had an appliance they would like to have hauled away on May 1. The deadline for getting on the “pick up list” is Tuesday, April 28.

The program – the first time it’s been offered by the City – was announced on April 1st after Republic Services notified the City they had to suspend their curbside yard waste pick-up service indefinitely due to the COVID-19 outbreak and that they would be unable to participate in the planned Citywide Clean-Up Day on April 18.

While the bulky waste dumpsters delivered to Volunteer Park and Kensington Street were able to accommodate most bulky waste,  residents are asked to not use them to dispose of electronic waste (e-waste) or appliances (white goods). E-waste collection is still suspended until the Waste Commission of Scott County resumes accepting it. White goods disposal/recycling will be done by the City on Friday, May 1st.

Residents are asked to notify City Hall by calling during regular business hours or by using the form, below, to get on the list for a pick-up. Appliances should be to the curb the night before and, if possible, doors should be removed.  Later this week, the City will notify residents who are on the list as to when the City’s maintenance person can be expected to come by and pick up their item(s).


Appliance Pick-Up Request

Please give us your email or phone number so we can contact you with questions or to discuss alternative times for pick-up.
Please give us your preferred time. We will email you a confirmation once we have a schedule of pick-ups completed (on or before April 28).

An early end to the school year may help speed up street repairs in Havens Acres neighborhood.

An early end to the school year may help speed up street repairs in Havens Acres neighborhood.

Iowa Governor Reynolds ordered the end of the school year late last week, so now the City of Riverdale is working with contractors to possibly accelerate the road project currently underway in the Havens Acres neighborhood.

The original plan called for work “in the street” to begin after the end of school on June 8. The Governor’s orders change that, allowing Brandt Construction to move into the streetwork as soon as they’re finished doing their work “behind the curb.”

According to project manager, Troy Stimpson, the contractor will keep the City and its residents informed of their project timeline so accommodations can be made:

“We will proceed with milling and asphalt paving after the other work is done behind the curb.  We’ll keep you posted on our schedule. As always, we will also monitor the virus and any potential impacts it will have on our project schedule.”

The total project comes to around $221,000 and was originally slated to be completed in late-July/early-August.

Bulky waste dumpsters to be picked up on April 28

Bulky waste dumpsters to be picked up on April 28

Bulky waste dumpsters in the parking lot of Volunteer Park (at the top of Riverdale hill) and at the end of Kensington Street will be picked up and hauled away on April 28.

Under the agreement worked out between the City of Riverdale and our waste/recycling hauler, Republic Services, the roll-off dumpsters for bulky waste and flood clean-up would be available until the end of April. The dumpster in the parking lot of Volunteer Park for yard waste will remain until Republic resumes curbside yard waste pick-up.