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Archives for October 18, 2017

For a while, downtown was really hopping

OTTUMWA — The pop-up businesses, bike racks and landscaping wasn’t put up to mock Ottumwans about what they don’t have. It was a display of what they could have.

“The pop-up bagel shop sold out every day,” said Fred Zesiger, the head of Main Street Ottumwa and one of the key people behind the Better Block event.

Other shops did well, too. Bicyclists told him while they may not put bike lanes in the 300 block, the simulated area did convince them that bike lanes somewhere in Ottumwa would be a great idea.

“The businesses did well, the concert had a very good crowd — better than I expected,” Zesiger said.

The only low point, he said, was a heavy rain Saturday that kept the crowds away. But that was offset by the overall success, including positive comments from dozens of other Main Street communities. They had been represented in Ottumwa by their directors.

“They took ideas home with them; I [posted] some of their comments on our Facebook page,” Zesiger said. “And I had some of my own ideas changed.”

For example, the empty lot at Main and Green, he discovered, drew a lot of children. Bring kids downtown, and you bring their parents downtown.

People are already asking, he said, if the community could do something like this again. We will, he said. But the ultimate goal is to use what we learned last week to make downtown better permanently.

“People saw what Main Street could be,” Zesiger said.

Contact Ottumwa Courier staff writer Mark Newman at or follow him on Twitter @CourierMark.

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Thumbs Up and Down: Affordable housing coming to LaVilla – Florida Times

Thumbs up to the clear popularity of the Lofts at LaVilla, the still- under-construction affordable housing complex hasn’t merely rented out all of its available units — it also already has a waiting list of prospective tenants.

The roaring appetite for the Lofts at LaVilla is fantastic news for our Downtown for two huge reasons (among many others):

It will add to the volume of people who have chosen to live in the city center — a fast-rising number that’s now closing in on 9,000 residents, according to Downtown Vision Inc.’s recent State of Downtown report.

It will be yet another tangible symbol of LaVilla’s revitalization as a Downtown neighborhood, a renaissance that will soon include the Phase One completion of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s $58 million regional transport center.


Thumbs up to a new deal between Downtown Vision Inc. — the nonprofit that represents many of the city center’s major stakeholders — and Block by Block, the Louisville-based company that since 2011 has been handling beautification and cleaning services that Downtown Vision oversees and coordinates.

Under the new deal, Block by Block will add even more equipment and personnel hours to the resources it’s already devoting to Downtown beautification and landscaping projects — including a state-of-the-art vacuum truck that will be used for Downtown street cleanups.

The partnership between Downtown Vision Inc. and Block by Block has already proven to be an effective one, so it’s great news that the collaboration will continue.

Sprucing up Downtown ought to be a top priority for city leaders.

Much of it doesn’t require a lot of money but simply firm commitment and leadership from those already working there.

Do you hear us, City Hall?


Thumbs up to Jacksonville University for making its official return back into the city’s center last week when it unveiled its new Downtown Campus, located in the SunTrust Tower. Right now, some 100 JU students and 30 faculty staff members are using the campus space on the tower’s 18th floor, which underwent a spectacular renovation and now offers some equally spectacular views of Downtown.

Students with lofty goals will have lofty views of the river and Downtown on the way to preparing for their turn at leadership.


Thumbs down to the idea of having the Downtown Ambassadors — the dozen or so dedicated, orange shirt-clad folks you constantly see tidying up Downtown sites and offering help to visitors — wear sponsorship logos on their uniforms.

Fortunately, it’s an idea that’s only in the “being kicked around and considered” stage at the moment.

But let’s hope it progresses no further from that point.

Yes, we can (kind of) see the lure of having an entity pay to sponsor the ambassadors as a way to bring in some extra funds that could possibly be used to benefit Downtown.

But instead of devoting considerable energy to finding some entity willing to put a patch on a uniform, why not invest a little extra effort into encouraging that prospective sponsor to sponsor and fund a Downtown event?

Or to put its name to some innovative, cool Downtown beautification project?

Either of those ideas — and there are surely many more — would be of far greater benefit to Downtown and do a better job of promoting a sponsor’s name than plastering patches on hard-working folks and turning them into walking billboards.

If they need some ideas, our engaged readers in our Email Interactive Group would be happy to provide some great ones.

Let’s kick this idea to the curb.

In other words, let’s have a “no go” on the logo!

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City officials seek projects ideas for upcoming day of service | Nooga …

“The depth of Dr. King’s influence is so great that we wanted a significant way to honor his memory and teachings,” Office of Multicultural Affairs Director James McKissic said in a prepared statement.

Officials are looking for a range of service projects that include not only beautification but also education and outreach.

For example, volunteers made rounds at various apartments across Chattanooga to equip residents with information on their rights under fair housing law on 2017’s MLK Day of Service.

“By gathering 50 projects from all over Chattanooga, we can spread his message of social justice to every neighborhood while honoring his important legacy,” McKissic also said.

On Jan. 15, 2018, volunteers will gather on the campus of UTC at Chamberlain Pavilion and then fan out into neighborhoods to undertake landscaping, clearing debris, trail maintenance, painting, deep cleaning and project repairs.

Check-in is from 8 to 9 a.m., and work begins at 9 a.m. Work lasts until 12:30 p.m. or earlier, if tasks are completed quickly.

Click here to submit a project idea.

Click here for more information about volunteering.

Click here for information about donating supplies.

To become a sponsor, click here.

For more info and to get involved, click here.

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Ann Arbor updates deer cull contract to shoot significantly more deer in 2018

ANN ARBOR, MI – Ann Arbor will expand its deer cull in 2018 after the city council voted Monday, Oct. 16, to spend another $35,940 on the contract to have more deer killed.

The council and mayor voted 10-1 in favor of updating the city’s 2017-18 budget to spend another $35,940 on its contract with White Buffalo, the Connecticut-based nonprofit wildlife control company that has provided services for Ann Arbor’s deer cull the past two years.

Ann Arbor plans to kill significantly more deer this winter

While several city council members expressed their regrets in raising the number of deer to be killed this year, they felt it was the right move in order to get ahead of the growing deer population and put the city in a position to kill fewer deer and simply maintain the population size in the future.

Mayor Christopher Taylor opposed the budget amendment, saying he thinks “reasonable minds can and do differ” on the issue of the deer cull. He said he knows White Buffalo will act professionally and the cull will be safe as it has been in the past.

“I still believe the discharge of firearms in the city, for the purpose of killing deer, affects people’s sense of home,” Taylor said. “That is, I believe, very important. …  I do not dispute the damages or harms associated with deer and the risks associated with deer. For my part, they do not outweigh the harm of shooting and killing in the town.”

The city will now spend $205,940 on the White Buffalo contract this year, compared to the previously agreed upon $170,000. This will be the the third year of a four-year plan to reduce the local deer population.

The goal is to shoot 250 to 350 deer in 2018, compared to the 63 deer killed by sharpshooters hired for Ann Arbor’s first cull in 2016 and the 96 deer killed in the second cull earlier this year.

White Buffalo also sterilized 54 female deer during this year’s cull as another means of controlling the deer population. The new budget for the 2018 cull calls for another 40 deer to be sterilized.

Behind the scenes with Ann Arbor’s deer sterilization crew on a Friday night

Several members of the public attended Monday’s meeting with signs that read “Stop the Shoot,” and one person held a poster with photos of a deer before and after she was sterilized this past winter.

Eight people spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting about the proposal to spend more on the deer cull in 2018, and five of them were opposed to it.

“By your resolution the city was to seek our input. I thought we would be a team and treated with respect and our voice would be heard. That did not happen,” said Robert McGee, founder of Ann Arbor Residents for Non-Lethal Deer Management .

“We enjoyed meeting with the pro cull groups. The problem was with the city. Our input was constantly being discarded and the plan was predetermined.”

McGee said the presence of deer in city parks and the number of deer-vehicle accidents within city limits already are at a reasonable level, so there’s no need to significantly increase the number of deer that will be killed in 2018. He reported there were 27 verified deer-vehicle accidents within the city limits in 2016. State data shows 73 deer-vehicle accidents occured in the City of Ann Arbor in 2016. 

One goal the city set for the deer cull is to reduce the population so there are 40 or fewer deer-vehicle accidents each year.

Look up 2016 deer accidents in your Michigan community

Christopher Dick, a biologist and professor at the University of Michigan, said he supports the city’s budget amendment to increase spending on the deer cull. Dick is the former director of the University of Michigan’s Edwin S. George Reserve that studies native flora and fauna in Livingston County, where he said he learned about the exponential growth rate of deer and the benefits of a cull to maintain ecological balance.

“I think budgeting resources into the cull now, instead of later, makes sense to me,” Dick said. “If we were able to reduce Ann Arbor’s deer population to a more sustainable level – and by sustainable, I mean a deer abundance that permits natural forest regeneration – then this will have an immediate positive impact on our natural areas.”

The deer cull is necessary to address a deer overpopulation problem, city officials say. They say the overpopulation is having adverse effects on biodiversity and sustainability of plants, animals and insects in the city’s natural areas; damaging residential and commercial gardens and landscaping; and contributing to deer-vehicle collisions.

There’s also the potential for deer to spread chronic wasting disease – which is present in Michigan, though not currently in Ann Arbor.

Kirk Westphal, Ward 2, asked for clarification on the concern some people raised that the sharpshooters would be able to walk across or shoot across private property during the 2018 deer cull.

Tom Crawford, CFO for the city, explained the sharpshooters will only shoot deer in pre-determined areas planned out for the cull. They will ask the property owner in advance for permission to access their property, and if the permission is granted, they also will notify neighbors of the potential for deer to be shot in the area.

Jane Lumm, Ward 2, said in light of the deer continuing to damage the city’s nature areas, a growing number of deer-vehicle collisions and the discovery of ticks in the area with Lyme disease – which can be spread by deer – she thinks expanding the cull in 2018 is necessary.

“No one wants to kill deer and no one likes spending money to do it. It is a difficult and emotional challenge we face,” Lumm said. “But unless we are willing to just accept the ecological damage, it is a situation I don’t think we really have much choice but to address.”

Jason Frenzel, Ward 1, said he has always been on the fence on the deer cull issue, although he knows the size of the deer population in the city is a “significant ecological problem.” However, he thinks the city should have allocated more resources to the deer culls from the start, rather than increase the spending and number of deer killed part-way through the program.

“I am again frustrated to hear that the residents who donated their passion and time to our commissions on this matter feel frustrated and pushed out of that conversation,” Frenzel said. 

Julie Grand, Ward 3, agreed with Frenzel that the budget amendment has harmed community relations around the deer cull issue.

“I will be supporting this because I feel like it is part of a four-year plan that we have and front-loading money (to kill more deer in one year) does make sense,” she said. “But it is frustrating because I felt like we took such a step forward last year and to take this step back, I hope that we don’t repeat that.”

Graydon Krapohl, Ward 4, and Chuck Warpehoski, Ward 5, said they think expanding the cull in 2018 is a necessary step to effectively get control of the size of the city’s deer population.

Westphal agreed, saying he doesn’t want the city to have to revisit the issue at a later date at a much larger cost because of how much the deer population has grown. 

“I think it’s our job to learn from this and learn from any process mistakes we may have made when we had a public discussion about this,” he said. 

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Lake Tahoe Unified School District adopts ‘green’ resolution

The South Lake Tahoe Unified School District is getting a little greener.

Earlier this week, the board unanimously adopted a resolution supporting expanded energy efficiency programs and sustainability improvements, according to a press release. The resolution also supports green building practices, greater biking, walking and transit options for students, school lunches with more locally sourced and organic foods, additional school gardens and landscaping practices that minimize water and chemical use.

“It is great to see the school district take a strong position in support of sustainability, energy efficiency and renewable energy,” Rebecca Bryson, co-founder of Small World, a Tahoe-based parent advocacy organization, said in the press release. “The district’s leadership and direction will improve the environment for our students and community, and help prepare our students to land successful jobs in these fields in the future.”

The resolution comes less than six months after South Lake Tahoe became the 26th city in the U.S. to commit to a goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2032. That resolution was unanimously adopted by City Council back in April.

“Given the impact that climate change is already having on Lake Tahoe, it’s critical that we transition quickly to a 100 percent clean energy economy, and give our kids the education and tools they need to be part of the solution,” John Friedrich, spokesperson for Climate Parents and a Tahoe resident, said in the release. “The Lake Tahoe school district board just took an important step in this direction by pledging to expand energy efficiency programs and increase reliance on renewable energy, in line with the city of South Lake Tahoe’s commitment to 100 percent renewable energy. We’re grateful for the leadership of the school district in doing the right thing for Tahoe kids and our environment.”

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Prince George gateway project adds landscaping, lighting along I-95

Gardens at Exit 45

Gardens at Exit 45

PRINCE GEORGE COUNTY, VA — Prince George County leaders unveiled the $1.2 million gateway project along Interstate 95 that was two years in the making and includes new lighting, landscaping enhancements and huge garden spires.

An estimated 40,000 vehicles travel through that area on I-95 each day – a number higher than the 36,656 resident who live in Prince George County.

Now, travelers passing “The Gardens at Exit 45” will be greeted by two 47-foot-tall glass architectural spires that flank the roadway. Leaders intend for the structures to help create a threshold to the commercial district.

The design calls for 139 trees, 363 shrubs, and nearly 3,000 perennials along the exit ramp and at the intersection with South Crater Road. As travelers exit I-95 at night, the trees along the southbound ramp are accentuated by 28 lights.

Gardens at Exit 45

The towers are made of glass, one along each side of the entranceway to the district. Colonial garden spires were the design inspiration for these central features in the 32,000 square-foot gateway plan.

The spire finials are highlighted by four lights, and internal illumination of the spires comes from four color-changing LED flood lights.

County leaders launched a targeted effort to restore the corridor, because they said this area was a major hub for tourism in the past, but had fallen into decline in more recent years.

Gardens at Exit 45

“The Gardens at Exit 45 is expected to stimulate local job growth and increase our tax revenue for the county by attracting visitors and travelers alike,” said Percy Ashcraft, County Administrator for Prince George County.

The $1.2 million cost for the project was shared equally by Prince George County and The Cameron Foundation, who is working with several localities across the Tri-Cities area to develop distinctive community gateways. The Gardens at Exit 45 is the first such project to be completed.

“Gateways can contribute significantly to creating a unique sense of place that is important to promoting tourism and investment in a community,” said Cameron President J. Todd Graham. “By working together with the local governments on these projects, we are combining our efforts to generate large-scale impact,” he added.

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