CEDAR RAPIDS, IA – Effective Monday, March 1, 2021, Mount Vernon Road SE will be reduced to one lane each direction between 30th Street and 33rd Street for utility work. Work is expected to take two (2) weeks, weather permitting.
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA – East Post Road SE, between Trailridge Rd SE and Bever Avenue SE, will be closed to through traffic (local access only) on Saturday and Sunday, February 27 – 28, to allow contractor crews to safely remove damaged street trees. Work will be conducted during the day, and the road reopened each evening at approximately 6:00 p.m.
Crews continue to conduct street tree removals throughout the community. Additional information on final spring cleanup activities will be released at a later date.
Company working with regulators to address higher February natural gas demand, coupled with market price spike
DES MOINES, Iowa – MidAmerican Energy has taken steps, and is working on additional measures, to insulate customers from significantly higher gas bills that they may be anticipating.
While many people are concerned with the impact the February cold snap could have on their budgets, according to company projections, a residential customer in Iowa should see, on average, March bills $13 higher than February. Higher gas bills will continue throughout the year as the effect is spread across several months. When compared to the five-year annual average of a MidAmerican residential gas bill of $566, customers will see an estimated average increase of $214, or the equivalent of approximately $18 per month.
For commercial customers in Iowa, the average March bill will likely be $95 higher than in February. When compared to the five-year annual average of a MidAmerican commercial gas bill of $2,233, customers will see an estimated increase of $1,182, or the equivalent of approximately $98 per month.
While not insignificant, the increases will be less than much of the central U.S. may experience, and significantly less than the staggering cost hikes being reported in Texas and other parts of the South.
February jumps in gas use and market prices
Due to the extremely cold temperatures, from February 5-18, MidAmerican residential customers used 50% more natural gas than normal for that two-week period.
MidAmerican supplies gas to its customers as a pass-through cost without a mark-up or profit. Unusually strong winter demand, combined with a sudden decrease in natural gas production in the Southern U.S., resulted in extreme market price jumps that substantially increased the costs that utilities, including MidAmerican, paid for the commodity.
Gas storage and trading efforts saved customers $400 million
MidAmerican’s underground gas storage, liquified natural gas storage and advance purchase contracts that locked in prices prior to this month’s events, helped mitigate market price impacts to customers. MidAmerican’s efforts helped shield customers from more than $400 million in costs that would have been incurred by making real-time purchases in the market during the extreme price spike.
February billing impacts differ for gas and electric customers
MidAmerican provides some customers both gas and electric service, while only one service for others. The amount billed for each service is calculated separately. As a result of the cold snap, MidAmerican expects minimal impact to the electric component of customer bills. Natural gas charges reflect both the cost of the fuel the company purchases from suppliers and the amount of energy a customer uses. While the impact to customers will vary depending on their energy usage, most customers will see some increases as a result of the natural gas market price spikes.
“We understand that many are worried about an upcoming sticker shock for February heating, so we’re doing everything we can to lessen the financial burden on our customers,” Mike Gehringer, MidAmerican’s vice president of customer operations, said.
MidAmerican asks Iowa Utilities Board to suspend short-term billing window rule
In a request filed late Wednesday with the Iowa Utilities Board, MidAmerican asked the board to suspend a rule requiring the company to collect all February heating costs during a limited billing window that currently ends in August.
The request would help protect customers who face higher natural gas bills over the next several months following February’s unprecedented weather and natural gas market conditions that affected much of the nation.
Meanwhile, at a meeting the Iowa Utilities Board has scheduled for March 12, MidAmerican plans to discuss additional proposals to ease customer financial pressures, which include extending the payback period for February’s higher heating costs beyond August.
In South Dakota this week, MidAmerican discussed a proposal with the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission that would spread out the collection of February costs through December. Currently, those costs are collected through August.
Illinois regulations already spread the payback time for February costs through December. Nebraska regulations provide utilities substantial flexibility in the time period allowed for recovering costs.
MidAmerican offers a budget billing program to help customers ease bill fluctuations. The program is free for customers and simply averages utility charges that vary by changing seasons and different energy usage patterns. Customers can enroll by calling MidAmerican at 888-427-5632, or through the My Account link on the company’s website at www.MidAmericanEnergy.com.
Once enrolled, the bill is reconciled periodically to ensure payments are on track with actual usage. Customers enrolled in budget billing can contact MidAmerican at any time for an evaluation if they are concerned that their budget billing amount in not on track with their usage – they don’t have to wait for MidAmerican’s scheduled review.
Financial assistance for customers
MidAmerican encourages any customer facing financial hardship to communicate with the company so we can discuss options and try to help.
“For nearly a year, customers have been dealing with extraordinary circumstances that have taken their toll and stretched paychecks,” Gehringer said. “We don’t want these increased bill amounts caused by the cold weather to be another worry. There are resources available to help.”
MidAmerican encourages its Iowa customers who may qualify to apply for aid from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Customers in Illinois, South Dakota and Nebraska can apply for similar assistance through their respective state-administered aid programs.
Beyond LIHEAP, several states have provided utility bill assistance to those who have been financially impacted by COVID-19. In Iowa, the Iowa Economic Development Authority used CARES Act funding to provide utility bill payment assistance to small business and residential customers. MidAmerican partnered with IEDA to implement its payment program. Through that initiative, 332 MidAmerican business customers received assistance totaling $736,000 and 1,257 residential households received assistance totaling $662,000.
MidAmerican sponsors its own residential bill payment assistance program, called I CARE, which is managed by community action agencies throughout its service area. In 2020, more than 4,700 residential households received a total of $1.8 million in assistance. I CARE enables people to help local community action agencies provide heating bill assistance and home weatherization to customers in need in their neighborhood. For every $1 donated, MidAmerican contributes an additional 25 cents. Every donation, whether one-time or monthly, is directed to a community action agency in the donor's area, so the program enables neighbors to help neighbors with heating assistance.
About MidAmerican Energy
MidAmerican Energy, headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, serves 795,000 electric customers in Iowa, Illinois and South Dakota, and 774,000 natural gas customers in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota. Information about MidAmerican Energy is available at MidAmericanEnergy.com and company social media channels.
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA – A Public Kick-Off event will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 9, to seek input regarding reforestation efforts in Cedar Rapids. The virtual meeting is the first part of the ReLeaf Cedar Rapids planning process, led by the City of Cedar Rapids and Trees Forever, in coordination with consultant experts Jeff Speck of Speck & Associates, and Confluence, Inc. “We will need a comprehensive plan that will serve as our road map for reestablishing our lost tree canopy in Cedar Rapids for years to come,” said Scott Hock, Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation Director. “It is important that the community help us determine priorities and an equitable process that benefits everyone”
Residents, business and commercial owners, employers, developers, and neighborhood groups are encouraged to attend. Meeting participants will learn why a ReLeaf Cedar Rapids plan is necessary, what it will include, and how it will affect them. Participants will provide initial input and learn how they can continue to be involved in reforestation efforts. Registration for the meeting is required at https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_3-UeQcLkQaK7WK4i12jAJQ. Registration will close at 5:00 p.m. on March 9.
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA – As consistent warmer temperatures melt roadway ice pack, the Public Works Department is continuing plow operations and are actively working through residential neighborhoods to peel up snow and ice and remove snow accumulations at dangerous intersections.
Public Works crews are also conducting pothole patching operations as we enter spring-time freeze/thaw cycles. This time of year, variations in temperature are extreme and moisture from rain or melting snow seeps into pavement and freezes, popping pavement loose and causing potholes.
Public Works crews conduct pothole patching throughout all quadrants of the city, and pass through each street multiple times in any given spring. If you see a pothole that has created a public safety issue, please report it by emailing the location to Street@cedar-rapids.org. Otherwise, nuisance potholes will be addressed as crews conduct their normal routes.
City crews tackle potholes differently depending on the time of year and the material available. During the winter and early spring when hot asphalt mix is not available, crews fill potholes with a cold mix of loose asphalt that is packed into potholes. Cold mix, which is available year-round and can be stockpiled for emergency repairs – serves as a temporary solution to keep roads serviceable until hot asphalt mix becomes available in early summer. Later this summer, crews will transition to using hot mix, which hardens and is weather resistant, creating a permanent solution.
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA – The Cedar Rapids Police Department, in cooperation with the Linn County Attorney’s Office, has made an arrest in the 2011 cold case involving the murder of Dexter Lashun Meeks. Dexter Meeks was 22 years old when the homicide occurred.
On June 26, 2011 at approximately 2:50 a.m. Dexter Meeks was sitting on the porch of his apartment building at 211 15th Street SE with his brother, Andrew Meeks. Dexter and Andrew Meeks had just walked home from the Tycoon Bar in downtown Cedar Rapids.
While they were outside talking, Andrew Meeks observed a man walk eastbound out of the alley next to their apartment building. The subject stopped in the street and began shooting a handgun at Dexter and Andrew Meeks. Andrew Meeks told investigators that he was able to get inside the main door of the building while Dexter Meeks pushed him through the doorway. After getting inside the building, Andrew Meeks stated that he looked back to see Dexter Meeks had fallen in the entryway. Dexter Meeks had sustained a gunshot wound to the head and would succumb to his injuries a short time later.
Police conducted a neighborhood canvas and the only witness identified was Andrew Meeks. Andrew Meeks was unable to identify the suspect that had discharged the handgun. Neighbors reported hearing gunshots, but no one reporting actually witnessing the incident.
The investigation centered around disturbances that had occurred the night of the murder at the Tycoon Bar that involved both Dexter and Andrew Meeks, as well as a group of individuals that were associated with the two brothers. Several individuals were questioned as part of the investigation, however there was insufficient evidence to identify a specific suspect.
By 2012, investigators had followed up on all reasonable leads, however a suspect was not identified.
In March 2020, the Police Department’s Cold Case Unit was contacted by the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department in Modesto, California. Investigator Matt Denlinger was notified that an inmate by the name of Mykel Roberts, age 29, was attempting to confess to a murder that had occurred in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 2011. Roberts allegedly had some information, but was uncertain of the victim’s name. A detective in the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department interviewed Roberts to attempt to collect further details and verify the confession. Investigator Denlinger continued to communicate with the detective and was able to identify the victim as Dexter Meeks.
After a substantial review of the cold case and information provided by Roberts, the Cedar Rapids Police Department determined that Roberts was likely involved in the murder. Two cold case investigators from the Police Department, Investigator Denlinger and Investigator Randy Jernigan, travelled to Modesto, California and interviewed Roberts at the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department on April 28, 2020.
Investigators interviewed Roberts and obtained a complete, detailed confession that supported and corroborated many details of the shooting incident that were learned during the investigation.
Following the interview, both investigators returned to Cedar Rapids and continued to work with prosecutors in the Linn County Attorney’s Office. The Linn County Attorney’s Office filed a three count complaint charging Roberts with Murder in the First Degree, Attempted Murder and Going Armed with Intent. Bond has been set at $3,000,000.
The warrant was served to Roberts in California and he was extradited to the Linn County Jail.
Police Chief Wayne Jerman said, “The Police Department is committed to following all leads and seeking resolution to all homicide cases. Our investigators are dedicated to bringing those responsible for taking the life of another human being to justice. While an arrest does not erase the pain, suffering, and sadness with a murder case that is almost 10 years old, we hope that a suspect being brought to justice lessens that burden.”
Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said, “This case serves as another example of an unwavering commitment by our Police Department to investigate and pursue those who commit crimes of violence in our community. Our office is grateful to partner with them in our continuing effort to hold offenders to account for their crimes and deliver justice to the victim.”
Disclaimer: Any arrest and complaint information included above is based on the legal conclusion that, as with any criminal case, a charge is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.
During the 2021 cookie season, Girl Scouts are using innovative Digital Cookie technology and creative solutions to reach customers safely. With only a few weeks left to purchase Girl Scout Cookies locally, customers ordering cookies through Digital Cookie will receive 50% off shipping costs. The special promotion begins March 1, 2021.
Locally, Girl Scout Cookie season runs until March 14, 2021. Consumers can support Girl Scouts by purchasing cookies in a few different ways:
- Girl Scouts are hosting safe and socially-distant Cookie Booths at local businesses. Look for drive-thru-style cookie booths across the region. Visit www.girlscoutcookies.org to find an upcoming cookie booth.
- Enter your zip code into the Girl Scout Cookie Finder at www.girlscoutcookies.org to purchase from a local Girl Scout troop online for shipment to your door or to donate cookies to essential workers and military members.
- Visit www.grubhub.com/food/girl_scouts to order via contact-free delivery from Grubhub in Waterloo, Quad Cities, and Cedar Rapids. Troops are fulfilling orders every weekend.
Traditional cookie flavors are $5/package, and the specialty gluten-free Toffee-tastic® cookies are $6/package.
The City of Iowa City is now offering a new online sign-up for curbside collection of special items. Customers can schedule collection for items such as furniture and appliances to be picked up at the curb for proper disposal or recycling, depending on the item. Collection fees are added to customers’ monthly utility bills.
Is the Landfill the best destination for your items?
Before disposal, the City encourages residents to consider repairing, reusing, or donating items. Listed below are some options:
- Iowa City Area Repair Directory
- Iowa City Resale and Consignment Directory
- More information and resources at:
Reuse and recycling questions can be directed to Jane Wilch, the Recycling Coordinator, at 319-887-6110 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special Item collection and fees
After considering repair or donation, customers may schedule a special item collection at https://www.iowa-city.org/forms/bulkpickup or by calling Resource Management at 319-356-5151 at least two days in advance of your regular trash, recycling, and organics collection day. Items eligible for the program include:
Large, bulky items. Items that cannot be broken down to fit in your garbage cart, such as chairs, couches and mattresses, cost $12.50 for the first item and $6 for each additional item.
Electronics. Computer monitors and televisions are not allowed in the trash and must be recycled. The cost is $21.50 per item. Electronic waste that does not have a screen/monitor (printers, CPUs, VCRs) are $12.50 for the first item and $6 for each additional item.
Appliances. Appliances are not allowed in the trash and must be recycled. This includes refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, air conditioners, microwaves, water heaters, etc. The cost is $20 per appliance.
Tires. Tires are not allowed in the trash and must be recycled. The cost is $3.75 per tire not on rim, and $7.50 per tire on rim.
Items must be placed at curb by 7 a.m. on the scheduled collection day to ensure pickup. Items should not be placed at the curb prior to 5 p.m. the day before collection. Fees for collection will be added to your monthly utility bill. Additional fees could be charged for items that are abandoned at the curb, or for items have not been scheduled for collection.
Please note the items listed can also be taken directly to the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center. Some items, as noted above, are required to be recycled. Please visit www.icgov.org/landfill for more information and Landfill rates
IOWA CITY -- Weather permitting, beginning on Friday, February 26, 2021, Scott Boulevard will be reduced to one lane of alternating traffic near its intersection with American Legion Road / Muscatine Avenue. Work will occur during weekday daylight hours and flaggers will be on site directing traffic through the area. It is anticipated normal traffic will resume by Friday, March 5th.
Motorists are to take note of this work and allow extra travel time as delays will occur. As always, caution should be exercised when driving through all construction areas.
For updated information on road construction in Iowa City, visit www.icgov.org/travelalerts.
Community Connection is a video series that highlights the different people and organizations in our community. Each episode, Mayor Bruce Teague interviews guests about a variety of issues that are important to our residents.
Celebrate International Women's Day by taking part in the Night of 1,000 Dinners, hosted by the Johnson County Chapter of the United Nations Association. This pandemic-safe virtual event will feature music, dance, and prizes! Plus, all proceeds will go to local food banks to help offset the demand caused by COVID-19.
You can watch previous Community Connection episodes on City Channel 4's YouTube page.