By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer
After touring Zirkelbach Refrigeration on Saturday, U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, Zirkelbach owner Tim Clark and Clinton Mayor Mark Vulich discussed the Thomson prison, downtown development and aggressive street work as ways to improve Clinton.
Loebsack, D-Iowa, asked about the condition of the Clinton economy and how it affected business owners such as Clark. Clinton's unemployment rate for December was 5.8 percent, nearly a full percent higher than the state's 4.9 percent.
Several projects that would count on federal dollars could improve the Clinton economy, Vulich and Clark said.
“We sure would like to see the Thomson prison open,” Clark said.
It was recently announced that two Bureau of Prisons employees were transferred to the facility to start in April. Two employees, Vulich said, are not enough.
Loebsack said he would do what he could for the project.
“It was good that the decision was made. Now we need to push it along more,” Loebsack said. “It's about trying to expedite the process.”
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., recently stated once the federal budget was passed, it would include funding to open the prison, which is slated to serve as a federal supermax and provide a major boost to the local economy.
Beyond the prison, Clark and Vulich pointed to the potential development of the Wilson Building into market rate apartments.
“We want to develop market rate housing inside the Wilson Building which will hopefully stimulate the retail side,” Clark said.
Frantz-Hobart, the Cedar Rapids-based development group that has sights set on the tallest building in downtown Clinton, uses federal historic tax credits to develop properties.
They would like to create 30 market rate housing units in the upper floors of the Wilson Building and open the first floor for commercial development.
Federal tax credits would likely play a role in other potential downtown upper floor housing development.
“I'll do whatever I can,” Loebsack said.
Clinton roadwork also plays a role in improving the community, Vulich said. Because of a $2.7 million TIGER grant Clinton received from the feds to work on Camanche Avenue, the city was able to repurpose the funds it was prepared to spend on that project to other residential streets.”
“We're never going to get it done if we don't do something now,” Vulich said.
The city has embarked on an aggressive approach to street repair by planning to double funding for the pavement management program to $2.7 million every year over the next six years.
“Clinton is a great community. We want to keep it growing,” Clark said.