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Feature Stories
“Brady and Harrison Acquired a Voice”: Davenport’s Hilltop Campus Village Thinks Small (and Big) to Reinvent Itself PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 05 July 2012 05:59

Hilltop Campus Village Director Scott Tunnicliff. Photo by Joshua Ford (JoshuaFord.com).

Walking through the commercial area of Davenport’s Hilltop Campus Village last month, Scott Tunnicliff picked up trash. The garbage far outstripped his ability to carry it – two hands and a few pockets – but Tunnicliff persisted.

Similarly, the Hilltop Campus Village organization (of which Tunnicliff is director) has over the past three years spiffed up its neighborhood in lots of little ways that seem mostly cosmetic: crosswalks, banners, and decorative streetlights.

There are nine new streetlights on Harrison and 16th streets (installed in the past two years and funded by grants), and they and the crosswalks do serve a safety purpose, designed to make the area more pedestrian-friendly. But these improvements, along with 50 banners on Harrison and Brady streets, are nonetheless modest changes.

Still, said Kelly Wallace – owner of the two-year-old Estate Sale Shop in the old McKay Music building at 1326 Brady Street – they hint at renewal. “The little amenities that we’re seeing make a big difference,” she said. “That type of visual as people drive through gives the impression that it is something that’s being revitalized. Many times, it starts with a flower pot full of beautiful flowers.”

 
Enter the Reader’s Winter 2011-12 Photo Contest! February 6 Deadline PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Feature Stories
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 29 December 2011 08:18

Back in the fall of 2008, we opened our photo contest to pictures of babies and pets. We had previously held themed contests but in a rare generous mood offered a reprieve, with the threat that our next one would feature the categories “ethos,” “riboflavin,” and “Kierkegaard.”

Lucky for you, the powers that be have memories like sieves; when we brainstormed ideas for the resurrected photo contest, those were strangely omitted.

Instead, our three categories for the winter 2011-12 contest are “attraction,” “resistance,” and “ambivalence.” The deadline for entries is February 6, and the rules are below. We plan to publish the winners in our February 16 issue.

(Oh, what the hell: If you want to enter something in “ethos,” “riboflavin,” or “Kierkegaard,” be our guest.)

 
Fall 2011 Best of the Quad Cities PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Feature Stories
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 22 December 2011 08:50

For many years, we asked our readers to fill out surveys to determine the best of the Quad Cities. We gave them categories and lines on which to write, and we tallied the results, and the winners were the top vote-getters in each category.

Our approach this fall was different. We reduced the categories to 20 and asked people to submit Tweets, videos, and short essays in support of their nominations. The aim was to give voice to individuals over the masses, and to allow people to argue for their favorites instead of merely noting them. The ultimate goal was to get past the obvious and automatic responses that seemed to often rise to the top in past surveys – to spotlight hidden gems in the Quad Cities.

 
Study Vs. Reality: Why Consolidated Dispatch in Scott County Won’t Save Money PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 23 November 2011 06:20

Emergency-response dispatching console, located inside the Scott Emergency Communications Center building at 1100 East 46th Street in Davenport.

Leaders in the consolidation of Scott County emergency dispatch and record-keeping claim a number of benefits: that it has been and will be a good deal for taxpayers; that it has resulted in better interdepartmental communications between emergency responders; and that it will eventually reduce the amount of time between when an emergency call is made and when appropriate personnel are dispatched.

But is it, as originally advertised, saving money?

The answer to that question depends on how you look at it, but for property owners in Scott County, the bottom line is that their tax rates are higher as a direct and indirect result of the consolidation.

The Scott County overall tax-levy rate rose by 90 cents per $1,000 of valuation in Fiscal Year 2011, as the levy for emergency management rose from 5 cents to $1.05 – nearly all of which is funding consolidated emergency dispatch. Scott County dropped its levy rate outside of emergency management, and Davenport and Bettendorf have also lowered their property-tax rates, but the net financial effect of consolidation has been property-tax rates that are anywhere from 65 cents to 90 cents higher depending on where one lives.

 
911 Whitewash? Leaders Say the Transition to Consolidated Emergency Dispatch in Scott County Has Gone Well. It Should Have Gone Better. PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 10 November 2011 11:00

(This is the first of two articles on the Scott Emergency Communications Center. This piece focuses on implementation problems with emergency-response consolidation. The second part will deal with the price tag and to what extent taxpayers have gotten what they were promised.)

Let’s start with the metaphors.

We’re roughly six months into the transition to a consolidated Scott County emergency-dispatch and -records system, said Davenport City Administrator Craig Malin on October 6. “This is the part of the movie where ... the anxiety is. Then there’s the resolution at the end, and there’s a happy ending. We’re at that point where we’re going to be focusing on what the issues are.”

“In a crawl/walk/run category, we stood up and got wobbly,” said Bettendorf City Administrator Decker Ploehn, also on October 6. “But we’re still standing. But we’re not walking yet. But we’re pretty much not crawling, either. So we’re working our way forward, and we hope to get to running. And I think we’re going to get to running; we’re not there yet.”

The Scott Emergency Communications Center (SECC) brings under one roof – at 1100 East 46th Street in Davenport – what had been four dispatching centers, serving Scott County’s 12 municipal and county law-enforcement agencies, 16 fire departments, and five ambulance services.

All those agencies are now using the same radio system, and law-enforcement agencies are also using a single record-keeping system – both of which allow for improved interdepartmental communication. Agencies went live with the system from early April through early May.

Still to come – probably early next year – is the consolidation of each organization’s dispatchers into a single dispatching entity, and the separation of call-taking and dispatching functions. The latter of those is expected to shave 30 seconds off the time it takes to dispatch emergency responders.

And late next year, Medic EMS will decide whether to fold its dispatching operations into SECC or just continue to have its dispatchers working out of the SECC building.

By the standards of local government, the project is complicated. “It takes a good solid year to iron out” issues and difficulties, said SECC Director Brian Hitchcock, who previously oversaw consolidations in Ashland County, Wisconsin, and McHenry County, Illinois. “Every one of those has issues and bugs that have to be worked out. ... We all wish it could happen overnight.” He noted that every consolidation takes a different amount of time to work through, but that the one-year estimate runs through next April.

The consolidation – recommended by a 2006 study and put into motion by a December 2007 intergovernmental agreement – is also expensive, with capital costs of roughly $28 million. The building itself cost $7.31 million. New portable radios for all agencies cost almost $7 million, purchased without a formal bidding process. Installing a “central electronics bank and associated communications gear into and around the 911 center” cost more than $1.6 million, Hitchcock said. And the dispatching and record-keeping software that has been so problematic cost $2.7 million.

 
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