DG12: Focus Davenport - English Transcript

DG Transcript – Davenport, IA

Mayor Bill Gluba: Good environmental practices, good sustainability practices save taxpayers money. We just purchased four more fusion hybrid vehicles for our aging fleet of older cars. So as they wear out we're putting new ones in. We make money off our composting. You'll see that while you're here today. We have a geothermal for example at the new Davenport police department which you'll see. The police built a $20 million state of the art, LEED certified, highest recognized, first major public works building in Iowa completely done with environmentally friendly approaches. It saves us $95,000 a year in the utility costs, 95,000. Same way with our library. So, good environmental practices is good business.

Dennis Ryan: We used to have a utility bill of over $1 million a year, gas and electricity. And we just finished out a fiscal year in actual credit category for natural gas and electricity, where we didn't spend money we got paid for what we were doing here.

Scott Plett: Well everything that we take for the composting process is converted into sell-able product of one form or another. Supply is not keeping up with the demand. So, and it took us a long time to get to that point it doesn't happen overnight. It takes a concerted effort, marketing wise, to get that out there to the public then, finally we're there.

Brian Ritter: Well, Nahant Marsh is a 262 acre nature preserve, and it’s the largest urban wetland on the upper Mississippi river which is pretty phenomenal if you look around us we are surrounded by industry, we're surrounded by interstates, and highways, and rail yards, and houses and agriculture. And despite all that nature is able to survive and seemingly thrive in this place.

Frank Donchez: I came here a little over three years ago took the chief's job about 6 months after the building opened, and I came from Pennsylvania. Our police station back home was in the basement of City Hall. About thirty-five years old, half of it underground, there were very few windows looking out. When I got here and got a tour of the station before I was even offered the job I was just blown away with the progressive nature of things here. I could tell when I got here everyone was very proud of the building as they should be. We're saving energy in the process and saving money for the taxpayers of Davenport. Who could argue with that?


Voiceover: Welcome to the Dream Green Series. With co-hosts Stuart Tanner and James Moore on solar powered KRUU FM. Iowans creating a greener tomorrow, today. A journey of discovery across the state, featuring innovators, cutting-edge projects, and communities leading the way to an energy independent and sustainable future. Visit our website at greeniowa.org.


James Moore: And we are traveling once again on the byways and highways of this wonderful state of Iowa. We have sunlight out, sunshine today, as we move towards the Quad-Cities. We're going to be visiting Davenport today, talking with a number of folks there about some of the great green initiatives that they've had going on in Davenport. We'll be speaking with the mayor there, Mayor Gluba and others. Another river stop Stuart. I love the Mississippi. What about you?

Stuart Tanner: Yeah, I hope we have a chance to get down onto the riverfront. Davenport is a town that's gone through a lot of redevelopment.  And they have a project called the river renaissance which I'm sure we'll be hearing about. It's another scheme where an industrial area that has gone into decline, has been redeveloped, and has a number of different zones in it now for different purposes. So that's going to be really interesting. Part of smarter city design. So, we're actually going out and about again today, meeting the mayor, having a walking tour, seeing a number of people and a number of facilities that are green and really helping the city. And putting it on the map, and winning sustainability awards for the city as well.

JM: Well, fantastic. Sounds like a perfect customer for the Dream Green Series. A perfect focus or feature and we are looking forward to that.

JM: And here we are. We've made it to the Mayor's office in Davenport. My co-host Stuart Tanner, this is James Moore for the Dream Green Series on solar-powered KRUU FM out of Fairfield, Iowa. And we've come to another community that is doing an amazing amount of work in the area of all the good green stuff. We are speaking with Mayor Bill Gluba. How are you doing today, sir?

Bill Gluba: Just fine. And let me just say thank you for joining us, and I commend you for bringing the green issue to the people of Iowa and hopefully around the country 'cause that's one of the things that's lacking. There's not enough attention being given to this. So I commend you for putting all this together.

JM: Well, thanks. Likewise, we commend the city of Davenport and your efforts for what you're doing as well. Stuart?

ST: Well, I wanted to start by asking you if you wouldn't mind painting a little bit of a picture of the city of Davenport for our listeners. And then, maybe, a little bit of the history, because I know that like many agricultural-based cities with some manufacturing, there was a period of decline and disinvestment. And really, it needed some radical thinking, some bravery on the part of the city and the planners to turn things around.

BG: Well Stuart, first of all, Davenport is one of the oldest cities in the upper Midwest. We go way back. The first settlers are around 1818 or there abouts. The city was incorporated in 1836. Ten years before Iowa became a state. So, we were here before the state of Iowa was. In about 1848 there was a huge immigration of German emigrants. And they brought with them a lot of patents, ideas. Very bright, articulate, innovative people quite frankly. And so, we grew leaps and bounds. Then there was a big influx of Irish-Americans the same way, Latinos, African-Americans. But we pride ourselves on having a tradition of innovation. Sliced bread was developed here in Davenport, the machine that makes that actually. And from that sliced bread analogy, you know, we've been cutting-edge ever since. The city really went through huge growth during the industrial revolution. We grew from a handful of settlers to today, we have about 100,000 people. We're the third largest city in Iowa. Part of the Quad-City metropolitan area. About 400,000 people. One of the largest metropolitan areas between Minneapolis, and St. Louis, Chicago and Omaha. With that, I think a lot of innovation came with the early pioneers, and so we're sorta getting back to some of that. Back to the inventions, back to nature. We're the largest city in the country who didn't wall up our Mississippi riverfront. And we're now being acclaimed as having done it right. We try to work with the natural state of the river. The natural flow of the river. The river comes up it floods some of our parkways. It goes down we clean up the parkways and go on to have our festivals. Where some cities have put up dams and levees. And of course now we're seeing what happens with dams and levees. They either get overrun by the water or they break, and then there's a bigger mess. So we're very proud in the fact that we've tried to work with mother nature, not work against mother nature. And then we went through some difficult times, of course, like in the early 1980's when the economy dropped out of the farm. When trade got cut back. We lost somewhere around 25,000 manufacturing jobs. 'Cause we were at one time, and still are quite frankly,  the agricultural implement manufacturing sector of the world. John Deer, second largest employer of the Quad-Cities, is of course industrial giant, largest in the world today. And we had Cast and International Harvester and Farm-all. Lot of those closed now because there's too much product in the sector. So, we went through some very difficult times in the early 80's, but we've learned from that. We've diversified our economy. Today, our largest employer is Department of Defense. With almost 9,900 people at the Rockdown Arsenal, both military and civilian. We've got John Deer with about 7,600 people. Genesis Healthcare. We've got one of the most progressive, best health-care outfits in the country in Genesis Healthcare.  Alco Aluminum. Kraft Foods. So, we're pretty healthy now. We've diversified our economy, and that's made a big difference.

ST: That's an impressive list, actually. I know that you have brought about quite a turn around, but how did the whole idea of bringing this turnaround and incorporating ideas of energy efficiency and sustainability, how did that all get going?

BG: Well Stuart, I think most of it came from grassroots, quite frankly. We've got really great local environmentalists.  I mean, I don't want to name the whole list, 'cause I would miss somebody. But this Radish publication, Rachel Griffith, Jeff out in Pleasant Valley, just a whole lot of other people at the colleges and universities. So, everybody's on board.  But I think it was mostly, in this area, grassroots  environmentalists committed to saving the planet and saving the earth.  Starting in little ways and working up to bigger and bigger things, and it goes on. While you're in Davenport you'll see so many projects, I hope you'll ask the same question. It wasn't necessarily the city leading the way. We just got out of the way and maybe provided some help, and the locals really got it rolling. And it's good business. Everything we do saves the city money in the long run. I mean, that's what some people don't understand; good environmental practices, good sustainability practices save taxpayers money. We do that in cutting back on our fuel costs by using more hybrid vehicles. Almost, I think, better than half our fleet today. We just purchased four more Fusion hybrid vehicles for our aging fleet of older cars, so as they wear out we're putting new ones in. We make money off our composting. You'll see that while you're here today. We have a geothermal, for example, at the new Davenport Police Department which you'll see. The police building, $20 million state of the art, LEED certified, highest recognized, first major public works building in Iowa, public building, completely done with environmentally friendly approaches. It saves us $95,000 a year in utility costs, 95,000. Same way with our library. So, good environmental practices is good business.

JM: I just want to ask, in terms of a city of this magnitude, obviously this is the third largest city in Iowa, we're talking about 400,000 people in Quad-Cities, have you noticed some spill-over to the other cities around you?

BG: Absolutely. For example, a few years ago we created what we call River Vision. To look at our riverfront, we own in Davenport 9 miles of riverfront.  Our goal is to make our Mississippi riverfront the most spectacular and magnificent between New Orleans and Minneapolis/St. Paul. Why? Because it's the right thing to do.  We're here because of the river.  That's how Davenport got established. Logging interest and way back when the rapids were here.  And the first bridge across the Mississippi river, railroad bridge or any bridge, was built here in Davenport.  So, we're building upon our tradition, that earlier tradition, of the old Germans doing a lot of innovation and cutting-edge things. And so, the Quad-Cities for example on River Vision, we teamed up with Rock Island across the river and created this vision. They're doing things on their riverfront now that they weren't doing years ago, both in the field of sustainability and better flood control management, and parks.  And we were named in 2007 by the United States Conference of Mayors, both cities, as the most livable small cities in America. Small being around 100,000 or less. And I see the other cities doing the same thing, Betondorf, Moline, East Moline in their own ways are all on board. We all do better when we all do better. And we're part of a metropolitan complex here of four cities or five, and we're all trying to improve the lot. As they say we all do better when we all do better. So yes, it does rub off, and it is kind of infectious.  It's a good analogy about grassroots growing up environmentally friendly. I think it says it very well.

ST:  I think it's tremendous to hear mayors talking about working with nature. I mean, I can remember a time it’s not that long ago, where if you had public servants and mayors talking about working with nature there would certainly be commenting on the side, 'Well, maybe the mayor is dancing with the fairies.' Whereas it's just not like that anymore. It's amazing the transformation that has taken place. And one of the things that I think is really good in terms of being ahead of the game, as indeed you are, is that in this current economic context, you have already seen the benefit of these policies on the bottom line. And therefore, you can continue with them. Whereas, kicking off in this time can be a little bit more challenging getting into the game. You know, if you can comment on that transformation it would be interesting.

BG:  Well, this day in age, you know, the big thing is the importance of creating more jobs, right, and economic development, and progress. And promoting a green community means a lot more jobs when you get right down to it. Both just in the environment, and companies wanting to locate in an area where costs are held down by doing things right rather than inexpensively. Being able to offer incentives to companies to come in if they do green things, and most of them today want to. Those sophisticated ones. I go to the National Conference of Mayors meetings all the time, and these major companies are pushing the cities to be more environmentally friendly and encourage local codes that require this because it's really in their enlightened self-interest to try and do geothermal heating and save on gas and electricity.  To use solar where possible.  And we're working on some ideas there. I think a cutting-edge concept is trying to develop more wind energy, and maybe have our Public Works building, which is a new building, built about 8 or 9 years ago, become completely self-sufficient in terms of electricity being generated through a wind energy effort there. Also, up and down the Mississippi river we've got a lot of natural wind. And we're looking now at the feasibility of creating wind energy and then converting it into, basically, energy for charging stations for automobiles. This will be a cutting-edge idea if we can put it together. We did away with all our parking meters. Parking meters, people hate them, they're an inconvenience. Nobody ever has change.  So, we took them all out, but we have to pay for two parking buildings, about $600,000 in bonds per year. So, what I'm thinking now, what we're trying to do, is if we as a city can be the ones to implement charging stations where a lot of the old parking meters were, and put them in the parking building, then when people come down and park their car all day they can get it charged. Now, we'll make some money off that and we'll use that money to pay off the bonds of the parking buildings. So, cities have got to be more innovative and creative, and you have got to think outside the box. Especially, there’s so many opportunities. I mean, we're just scratching the surface, and I certainly don't understand it all, especially in the area of environmental friendliness and sustainability. There's just, you know, it's just incredible the ideas out there. And people say 'You know, you shouldn't do that', well you should do that. That's good business. And we're showing the public it's not only good for the environment, good for the pocketbook, it's good for the bottom line. It saves cities and counties money to do these things right in the first place.

ST: What strikes me about another key aspect about this, I mean, looking down the list of how comprehensive your sustainability strategy is for the city, is that it's an improvement in the quality of life as well. And I think you know, that is an aspect that is extremely beneficial in the long run because a lot of these cities, you need to work against population loss and about attracting people to think about the city as a very great place to live. And quality of life, obviously, comes into that. Perhaps you can talk about how important the aspect of quality of life improvement is?

BG:  Now Stuart, you're absolutely right when it comes to a lot of cities are losing population. The rust-belt Midwest; most major cities have lost people. We, in fact, have gained.  And as a realtor, and I don't practice much anymore because I don't have time, I've put my license up, I know what it takes to draw people to a community. They want the amenities. They want a clean environment, they want great schools, they want parks and recreation. That's the kind of amenities. And especially young people, they are moving into the older part of Davenport now. They're moving into these loft apartments, old buildings that have been converted. We've got 100% occupancy downtown. You can't find an apartment downtown. And it's mostly renovated, existing buildings. I mean, I could go on and on the number of ones that were doing historic buildings, historic tax credits. That enhances a community. That's helping us grow. And I can't say enough good things about our entire staff. Our city staff, from the top city administrator right down to the bottom, they're all kind of in-tuned and committed to this because they know it's enlightened self-interest. So, we've got a fantastic staff of people. And I certainly don't want to take credit for all this, because in addition to all the citizens that really have lead the charge, quite frankly, the city staff is right on board. They know the importance of this and it's paying off. I constantly say, 'Davenport is a great place to live, learn, work, worship, raise a family, play, and retire.' And it's because of these kinds of initiatives, and amenities and parks. We have 53 parks. Three golf courses. The most spectacular riverfront. Tourists come from all over the world, all over the world, to our Mississippi riverfront.  And this sustainability, these things we're talking about, having the beautiful parks and open spaces, that's what draws people.

ST:  I just wanted to talk to you about Iowa values. I'm a Brit, I'm from outside, I'm new to Iowa relatively. So, when someone says 'Iowa values' I say, 'well, what's that? the price of corn, or what?' You know, but as we've been doing these series, and as we've been going around and talking to people, I'm starting to get a sense of what that is. What interests me about it is that I think its core values of honesty, can-do attitude, an inventiveness, and a certain, you know, very strong baseline practicality in terms of approach and so on. Now, that's my brief summary. I'm sure there's a lot more to it, but I do see that's tying in also to the idea of sustainable communities' better use of resources. I wonder if you could talk about that.

BG:  You nailed it. That is Iowa. Iowa is the green state. Think about it, you drive across all you see is green, right? And Iowans practice good common sense. Basically, they're environmentally friendly people. They're very conservative in many respects but progressive in others. And I think they realize we're all part of the world, citizens of the world. We've got our responsibility to help do our part, but we can look around and see the beautiful state we have. I mean, it's one the state mottoes, a beautiful state. And it goes back. So, I think you're right on target. Your evaluation of Iowans is right on mark, and that's one of the reasons I'm so proud to be a citizen of Iowa and part of this effort statewide. And in our small way in Davenport, to do our bit to address the whole issue of environmental and sustainability. And I think a lot of other cities are too, and I'm very proud of that fact.

JM: We see the unemployment rate at the moment that we're speaking with you going at the wrong direction nationally. Iowa's somehow beating that by a pretty significant amount. Thoughts on that?

BG: Well, again, I think it's because Iowa's been innovative. We understand the importance of public education, knowing the last few years has slipped unfortunately, but communities such as Davenport and Dubuque. My gosh! They just got IBM up there. 1,500 jobs. I think Sioux City brought in a big outfit. Google. Des Moines is growing. Davenport's got companies coming in. The public is discovering finally, or rediscovering, the beauty of the Midwest and the beauty of Iowa.

ST: One thing I wanted to ask you is about what's happening at the state level, because politics is changing there. And whether you think that's going to act as a break a little bit on the greening of Iowa and sustainability, or whether the momentum is so strong and the grassroots realities are very good, and it's going to charge ahead anyway.

BG:  Most progressive things start with the grassroots. This whole effort in sustainability and addressing environment, that's here to stay. Anyone that fights that is just working against themselves and against the inevitable. The key is to get ahead of it and don't look at it as a threat. Look at it as a plus. Look at it as an opportunity as we do. And that's why we think we're on the cutting-edge, and it's starting to pay off. Davenport, we've got challenges. We certainly need more jobs. But compared to a whole lot of different parts of the country we're beating the system. We've got more jobs. We're not losing people, we're gaining. I guarantee a lot of it's due to this whole question of working with the environment. Promoting sustainability. This is here to stay, and it's not going away. You know, I wish they would be more aggressive in supporting rail passenger. That's a little disappointment. The big issue is, will Iowa show the leadership to let it have rail passenger from Moline to Des Moines, or Iowa City to Des Moines, and probably Omaha? And at this point it's up in the air, but I think it’s penny-wise and dollar-foolish because we've been told $25 million in economic growth, benefit immediately to this area. People someday will live in Davenport and work in Chicago and take a high-speed train back and forth to work. And it will be the same way in Des Moines and Davenport. So, these high-speed trains are the wave of the future. Are taking place, as I said, part of the global initiative around the world. China's way ahead of us. Europe. The United States have got to get with it, and we are.  I'm very proud of the fact that the Obama Administration is pouring money into high-speed rail. And I'm a little disappointed that Iowa's balking at it. I mean they're foolish not to. We've got it to Moline, so we're kind of covered, but we know a lot of students live in Chicago, commute to St. Ambrose and Augustina College here, and Palmer. And many of them further go on to Iowa City and Drake. And so it's enlightened self-interest. But, you know, sometimes certain people aren't as enlightened as others.

JM: Well said. And we've run out of time. We have a short window with you. We have so much appreciated spending a few minutes learning about more great stuff going on in the state of Iowa. It's just amazing to learn about the great work that's being done.

ST: Congratulations, and heartfelt support to what's going on in Davenport. It's completely transformational. I think you can use the slogan 'The future is here.' Everything that is being done is the way to go, just as you were saying. And those who stand in the way, or resist, or don't get on board will miss the high-speed train.

BG: Again, thank you gentlemen for coming in. And I commend you for this. I mean, this is what the country needs and the world needs is what, I'm serious, is what you're trying to do and get the word out. We can provide a little direction and help from our experience, we're glad to do so. But thank you for coming to Davenport, as I say, love to have you consider making your home in our great community and telling our story to the world and the people of Iowa. There's so much going on across the state. I don't need to tell you that. And I can't say enough good things about the volunteers. The volunteers, the grassroots people, there are so many of them out there that are making it happen in spite of some cases, in spite of government. But here we know working with them is in everybody's enlightened self-interest.

JM: Well said. And we'll be back in just a moment. Keep it tuned right here to the Dream Green Series. This is James Moore with co-host Stuart Tanner. We've been visiting with the mayor of Davenport, Bill Gluba. And we'll be back. Remember, you can catch us at our journey of discovery across this great state of Iowa at greeniowa.org. We're broadcasting on solar-powered KRUU FM and we'll be back in just a moment.


JM: We are here at the waste water plant. We are going to be speaking with Dennis Ryan. He's going to be giving us a bit of a walking tour, because for radio it's fun. Gives us a little bit of a 3-D action, but it also gives us an understanding of what's going on here at the facility. Dennis, so great for you to join us today. How you doing?

Dennis Ryan: Pretty good, yup.

JM: Well, thank you so much. Let's start basic. Give us a little break down of what the facility does, and then we'll get to the green aspects in just a moment.

DR: OK. This is a regional waste water treatment facility. It treats the waste water from four cities; Davenport, Betondorf, Panorama Park and Riverdale, which includes commercial and industrial establishments also.

JM: I know you've got some special things going on. We're standing in the entranceway here, actually some beautiful windows. This is quite a nice facility. I feel like I'm in a museum almost. Give us a little bit of the special part of what's going on here in terms of sustainability. And I understand you're going to take us to the engine room in a moment.

DR: Yeah, well, this treatment facility started operation in January 1977, and it was really before a lot of the energy issues were going along throughout the country. We were burning diesel fuel in an incinerator and some boilers. We've focused throughout the years on energy improvements and efficiency. In the early 1980's we went to natural gas instead of diesel fuel. And then we've replaced other high energy use treatment technologies with more efficient ones. In particular, our anaerobic digestors in the early/mid 1990's. Where instead of pressure cooking solids at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, 300PSI, we use a natural bacteria in the waste water to decompose the material. And it produces methane gas, which is like natural gas, and we now burn it in engines and produce electricity which powers over 80% of our electric load here.

JM: Wow. Let's do the math again. Whenever I get math stuff I like it repeated, because that sounds pretty impressive to a layman.

DR: More than 80% of our electric load is supplied by our own generators here. We only get a little less than 20% by the power company.

JM: Wow. Impressive. Stuart?

ST: How does that compare with what used to happen before, when you were buying diesel in and so on?

DR: Well, we used to have a utility bill of over $1million a year. Gas and electricity. To go into more complicated things, the power company is actually buying our electricity at a higher rate than we buy from them. We just finished out a fiscal year in the actual credit category for natural gas and electricity where we didn't spend money we got paid for what we were doing here.

JM: Stuart, I like this man.

ST: What a transformation. OK, let's repeat that. You were paying $1million a year before, and instead now you're actually earning some money from generating electricity.

DR: That's correct.

JM: Well, how can every other place do this? I don't mean to jump to the obvious question.

DR: Well, unfortunately, they can't do it as good as we did. We were very lucky when we started our engine generator project that the state of Iowa was doing this alternate energy producer program where power companies were required to have a small amount that they had to buy from alternate facilities. And we qualified under that. But still, other facilities can generate their own electricity and have some cost savings.

ST: You know, has that program stopped for other facilities? I mean, if someone built a facility that was as good as this one, would the energy companies buy energy from them?

DR: Probably not. There's other new things out now, like wind power and some of the other incentive type of things.

JM: In other words, what you're saying is that you got into this game when the incentive was right at the time and that window has passed, but possibly incorporating new incentives and making something work like this is doable.

ST: Well, presumably though you could still get a situation where you were generating your own electricity, and therefore saving whatever you were spending on buying in electricity before.

DR: Definitely. And through EPA and Nationwide they're trying to do this zero type of bringing in from power companies, where facilities are self-sufficient. And this is one component, the methane gas.

JM: We're with Dennis Ryan here, at the Davenport Waste Water Facility. Looking at some of the other aspects of- oh, we're going to have to get hardhats to do that. So, we'll be back in just a moment. Hopefully I can do earphones and hardhat.

ST: What kind of hat are you wearing James?

JM: I'm not sure what color, but I know it'll be hard.

ST: No. I mean now on your head.

JM: Oh, I'm wearing one of those taxi cab kind of hats backwards with-

ST: Yeah, yeah, OK Can you do the Mocknie accent to go with it, mate?

JM: Well, I can't mate. 'Cause every time I do wif British they make fun of me, mate.

ST: That was terrible. That was like a Looney Toons character.

JM: See what I mean? I've been scarred for life.

ST: You've got to take a leaf out of Brad Pitt from 'Snatch'. There you go. That was Irish actually, but he did an incredibly good job.

JM: OK, our hardhats have arrived we'll be back with you in just a moment.


JM: With the hardhats on, down a stairway out to the outside, you can hear us getting a little bit quieter. I see a few vehicles here. We'll have this explained in just a minute. Yep, we're walking down. And just for again the layman, what are we doing with the water exactly? Obviously that's what's powering it, but just give us a break down.

DR: Well, the waste water comes in, we have some settling tanks that captures some real heavy material, and then the finer dissolves suspended has other tanks where biological organisms gobble it up. It's food for them. They clean it up, and then we discharge the water back to the river.

JM: Fantastic. A sustainable life-cycle.

ST: Well, let the bacteria do the work, I always say.

JM: Yeah, put the bums to work.

DR: Right out here are four secondary clarifier tanks each of them 125 foot diameter and 14 foot sidewall depth. It's capturing our biological mass that cleaned up the water. All the little bacteria in that, that we produce in the water to clean up the waste water. We capture it in these tanks and put it back into the other tanks to go back to work again.

JM: Great. And are these bacteria in the Union?

DR: Ha, no.

JM: They're not unionized.

JM: They're a right-to-work state. Thank you for clarifying.

ST: Do they ever get a holiday. No, seriously. But do bacteria, how long do they live? I mean, presumably they reproduce amongst themselves and you get new generations all the time. Or do you have to refresh them? Bring in some new guys?

DR: We don't add anything here. We are cultured so that it's right amount of bacteria for the waste that is coming in. Bacteria have a short life cycle, about 20 minutes or so. And you do have to waste away some of the bacteria which goes into those anaerobic digester tanks that makes electricity.

JM: It's amazing when you think about it. That means each work shift is 24 generations of bacteria.

DR: Yep, yep the bacteria have a short life cycle.

ST: But they come to a happy place where they have a nice job for their 20 minutes.

JM: And some of them end up in the Mississippi.

DR: Inside that engine room, we have two Caterpillar engines that burn the methane gas and generate electricity.

JM: Fantastic. So this is where you're getting all your savings from. Isn't it?

DR: Yep, yep. These two engines can power our entire facility, and they have done it sometime during thunderstorms where the utility drops out. We run on natural gas at that point and can go extended periods of time powering the whole facility. But otherwise, normally we're burning the methane gas and making money.

JM: Anything else you want to highlight?

DR: Not really. It's just that, waste water plants do use a lot of energy, but there are methods available to make them more efficient.

JM: Critical. Any final thoughts Stuart?

ST: What's the quality of the water in the river like these days? Has it improved, you know, through better treatment of waste water and other initiatives?

DR: Oh, it's definitely improved through the years. If you remember when the Clean Water Act was established in 1972, there were rivers that were catching on fire even. But it's definitely gotten better. In particular, by point source discharges. Like waste water plants. Any type of pipe that discharges, there's been a lot more regulations on it. The science is developing the standards are being lowered meaning we expect cleaner water.

ST: Well that's something we'll have a look at another time. But it's good that the water quality is improving. I like my water wet rather than fiery. How about you James?

JM: I prefer the wet variety. It's always a little bit disconcerting when you're swimming and the water's on fire. But you know, you get used to things over time. But at any rate, all facetiousness aside, Dennis, we really appreciate you giving us this tour. Taking a few minutes out of your busy day, and really, the work that you've been doing for many decades. Really inspiring. And I realize you took advantage at a certain time, an incentivized program. You know incentives are out there. You have to adapt. But the fact that something like this is possible, and you're doing it right here in Davenport. Really impressive. Keep up the good work.

DR: Well, thanks a lot for your input.

JM: Keep it tuned right here to solar powered KRUU FM for the Dream Green Series. We're coming from Davenport today, and having a good time.


JM: And here we go. We have made it to a very special facility. I'd say there's a little bit of pungency in the air here.

{background} 'scuse me? It’s the smell of money!

JM: It's the smell of money. We're with Scott Plett who's going to take us on a brief walking tour around a very special area. A great program that the city of Davenport is doing. We're with Stuart as well. We're going to hear all the sound effects of, right now, people pulling up, dropping off compost. Well, let’s just start with a take on what you've got going here Scott. Good to see you.

Scott Plett: Hi, nice to see you too. This facility came about in the early 90's because of the ban on the yard waste materials to the landfill. And also, the bio-solids generated at the waste water plant were going to be banned as well. And after a number of years of looking at various alternatives, this is what we came up with. It's called a high technology aerate static pile composting facility where we take in all the yard waste from Scott county; private residence, curbside programs for local communities, and other commercial people. The waste water plant is located right next door, so we get all the bio-solids that have been generated there. As you can see right here in front of the building, we have a drive-up window where people come in and they pay a tipping fee for the various materials that we're accepting
grass, leaves, garden waste. Trees and tree-trimming right now we're taking for free because we use this material in our process. Where we used to charge, other people have started taking for free to use it as landscaping mulch as well. So, we have to kind of compete the local markets to get the wood materials here. We grind that material, the log material gets ground up and we actually create a landscaping mulch that we sell back to the community. The yard waste material, the garden and that type of material is ground up with the large grinder as well. And then what that does, is reduce the particle size to a much smaller particle that's easier to compost.

JM: Great. This is quite an operation. Give us for the listener, this is radio, so give us just a picture of the lay of the land here. I guess we're sort of near the railroad tracks, and obviously it seems like quite an operation. How many folks are involved with all this?

SP: We have a fifteen person equivalent operating staff. We're open year 'round, seven days a week, from April through November. And so we have to have staff here on hand every day.

JM: Let me ask this. I understand some of this is sold back. How does it break down in terms of the end product here?

SP: Well, everything that we take for the composting process is converted into sellable product of one form or another. For example, I said the wood products are ground up into materials converted into landscaping mulch. Some of the yard waste materials we process that separately, and actually create an organic compost.

JM: How successful have you been with the operation here, would you say?

SP: Supply is not keeping up with the demand. So, and it took us a long time to get to that point. It doesn't happen overnight. It takes a concerted effort marketing-wise to get that out there to the public. And finally, you know, finally we're there.

ST: Can we walk over there and have a little look?

SP: Yep. Just so far.

JM: OK, we're walking over. Obviously we're not going to compete with the big machinery here. For our listeners, we see different piles of stuff, and by the way, these are not your backyard piles. I'm not going to say industrial strength because it's all good organic stuff it looks like mostly. There must be a bagging process down here somewhere.

SP: Yes, we do have a small bagging system in a room off-side of the building here. We basically bag our compost and our organic potting soils with.

JM: Wow, mountains of compost in here. Hopefully, yeah, and we're right by the big case of Caterpillars doing their job. This is what we were looking at from the outside before. But Stuart, interesting, not quite, I mean for being in the middle of it, the odor level is what do you say?

ST: I didn't hear a word of that, but what I did see was some mushrooms growing on top of the piles. Quite interesting. I suppose they love it in here.

JM: I was just asking about the odor level. Not too bad really, for being right in the middle of it.

ST: Yeah, the air's very thick, but yeah the odor's not too bad.

JM: So that's an amazing thing. Obviously, a big investment upfront somewhere for all this, right? So that was what you were talking about getting this all kicked off. And has it paid back? I mean you've been around how long? And just give us a little break down there.

SP: The revenues that we generate offset the cost of this operation substantially. Now it's not a break-even proposition, but since the waste water plant and the compost facility operate from the same fund we don't charge them a tipping fee. So, basically, whatever we're short on revenues we say, 'Well, that was just the tipping fee for the year.' The alternative for us not to be here would be to spend millions of dollars a year for disposal of just the bio-solids itself. Let alone the yard waste material that the county would have to take care of.

JM: So again, another critical factor in this.

ST: Yeah, so, I mean if you really did do the numbers, then you are in a sense saving money, which is another way of making money.

JM: This goes on for the foreseeable future?

SP: No end in sight.

JM: Just like compost itself I think. From, well, that's a sustainable thing isn't it Stuart?

ST: Are you trying to say 'from end to end' or something like that, clever?

JM: I was trying not to be clever. I always hurt myself. But anyway, Scott Plett, thank you so much. Anything we've left out you'd like to add?

SP: Keep composting.


JM: And this is James Moore. We are continuing our Dream Green Series of features in Davenport. And we are standing right now in the Police Chiefs office here, Frank Donchez for Davenport. We're standing up on the second floor I believe. We're also with Mike Venema. We're going to talk with them about what they're doing with their building. We've been hearing about LEED building all the way through from the beginning of the series. This is mighty impressive. I have to say this Stuart, I think you would agree with me, every time we go into a building like this, whether it’s in Dubuque at the IBM, that special building they did, or the HY-VEE that we covered in Fairfield, or even the very first building we went up to at UNI, C triple E, there's something that feels good about the air in these places. We're really delighted to talk with both you gentlemen. I'll throw the first question to you, Stuart.

ST: Well, as you were saying James, when you walk in you immediately feel a difference. Perhaps you could give us a slight overview of where you were before and what it felt like to come into this new building, LEED certified, and the difference between the two?

JM: And we'll ask Mike Venema about that. We'll talk with the police chief in just a second.

Mike Venema: Yeah, our old building was about 26,000 sq feet. It was a converted car dealership. There were no windows in the building. The entryway forced our customers to walk, basically, through an alley to get to our front door. And the only glass in the building was the front doors. When we were able to move to this building, it's a huge change. It's 96,000 square feet here, and we've used a lot of green technologies, passive solar lighting. We use geothermal heating and air conditioning here. Occupancy sensors in all the lights, high efficiency light fixtures. Automatically dimming light fixtures, so when we've got a lot of sunlight in the rooms the light fixtures will dim down for us, and a few minutes after you leave the room the lights will turn off. Being a 24/7 building, it's kind of important for us.

JM: And when did this building get built?

MV: We first moved in here in 2007, and the rest of the building, the garage portion, was completed in 2008.

JM: Well, great. And we stand in the chief's office. We're looking out over a little bit of a, I don't know what we want to call this, a garden? And we're not seeing any weeds, we've already promised that since we're radio. There's almost none there. It looks gorgeous. It's one of these living kinds of things. Let me just ask the police chief, Frank Donchez. First of all, how are you doing today, sir? And I'm assuming that you're enjoying the building.

Frank Donchez: I am. I came here a little over three years ago. Took the chief's job about 6 months after the building opened, and I came from Pennsylvania. Our police station back home was in the basement of city hall. About thirty five years old, half of it underground. There were very few windows looking out. When I got here, and got a tour of the station before I was even offered the job, I was just blown away with the progressive nature of things here. And so, yes, the building is great. I have a great view, there's no doubt about it. I'd like if they could tear down the building across the street. I'd actually be able to see the Mississippi from my desk, but I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon. Besides that, it is a great view. I can tell, you know, when I got here that everybody was very proud of the building, as they should be. We're saving energy in the process, and saving money for the taxpayer's of Davenport. Who could argue with that? This is a great concept.

JM: Kudos for that. I'm wondering, you've had enough years going now to get a sense of what type of energy savings you know LEED, leadership in energy and environmental design, that's what that stands for, so it's LEEDership and leadership here. What kind of sense do we have for that Mike?

MV: We try to model it, what it would save over code. And the estimate is a $115,000 a year savings in energy consumption over if we were to build this same building just to code. We put in a lot of features that bumped it up and made our savings about 56% of what it normally would be for this same building by just normal building code.

JM: Pretty sizable.

ST: And, of course, what one has to remember is that's 56% every year. That is hugely significant. And there is probably only one way that the energy prices are going to go for a while, and that's up. So there's significant money being saved. What about the build costs? Was it more expensive to build than building to code?

MV: Yes, it is very much more expensive to build for energy savings, but we were fortunate enough to get a grant and assistance from MidAmerican Energy Company. And they sat down with us, and they hired a group called the White Group out of Minnesota, and they helped us to look at different energy saving bundles. And they were able to tell us an estimated payback on each energy saving option that we could choose. I mean, you could choose the most high efficiency lighting out there, but it may not payback for fifteen or more years because of the initial costs in that investment. So we wanted to be good stewards for the taxpayers' money. We want a green building, but we don't want to just spend to be green for green's sake. We want to pay back those costs. In that study they were able to tell us how long many of these features would take to payback. For example, the geothermal heating and cooling system paid back very quickly. They said within five years, the extra investment that we put in that over code would pay us back that amount in five years. And after that five year investment, then we're saving money forever.

JM: What about hybrid cars and all that? Anything here with the fleet yet, Police Chief?

FD: Yes. The city has purchased several hybrid vehicles. I actually used one of them a couple times to go up to Des Moines for some meetings. The Hybrid Fusion, great car, excellent on gas mileage. So yes, again getting back to the progressive nature of the city of Davenport, the city leaders are always looking at those types of things.

ST: I have to say it's a beautiful looking building. You know you can talk about energy efficiency and all the other things, but actually the building is great to look at, and the interiors are absolutely lovely as well. What about the change as a work environment? I mean, people say that because the air feels fresher, because of the extra light, that actually means people stay healthier and actually enjoy their work more.

FD: Well, I can't speak for everybody else, but I can speak for myself. Coming from my old city hall basement police station, it's a positive environment. Like you say, it's light, it's airy, it has to reflect it in your mood when your environment is a good environment. You have to be a little bit happier. I know I am.

JM: Well great. And the most important question has crime rate gone down since you've moved into this building.

FD: Not only since we've moved into this building, but I have to count the fact that crime rate in Davenport has gone down 37 and 1/2% over the last five years. That's just incredible. And it's kudos to the men and women who work for the davenport police department and the work that they do. But we're very proud of that fact and continue to try to reduce crime further.

JM: That's an amazing statistic. I was actually being a bit kidding, I'll ask more funny questions I guess. Do we want to take a bit of a tour? Walk somewhere? Have we missed any points? Otherwise we can probably catch them along the way. We're going to move with Mike Venema and Police Chief Frank Donchez here. They're going to show us some more of the building, just a few of the other features we'll highlight. So stay with us right here on the Dream Green Series on solar powered KRUU FM. We'll be back here in just a moment.


JM: And now we're walking through the building. This entranceway is not only beautiful outside it's just nice and open.

MV: Our old building you basically walked through an alley to get to the front lobby. And it was very closed in, no windows. We wanted something that would welcome the public in. We're a secure facility. We need to keep our employees safe when people come to see us, but we don't want them to feel like they're walking into a prison. This lobby is three stories tall. The top two stories are all louvered windows to allow the light in, but not let the sun pound its way in. It's very open, very durable finishes because it is a 24/7 operation. And all kinds of people come in here, from nice people such as yourself, and we also have some people who are very angry and upset that come in here. So we have to be ready to serve all kinds of people and make everybody feel a little bit welcome.

JM: Going through another doorway here. We'll follow through here.

FD: We're going to be heading out onto the green roof. This is the largest of the three green roofs we have. And this one actually, employees can go out on and enjoy the nice weather. And we even have picnic tables and such. So, we'll let you have a look at it.

JM: Ah, we should have brought our lunch. We didn't know, we ah, look at this. Oh my gosh.

FD: This area, while it’s a great courtyard, if in the future we continue to grow and we need more space, there's an additional 8,000 square feet of space that we can build. And as you can see, three areas are already walled so it would just be a matter of putting the building here. So again, a little bit of foresight goes a long way to saving the taxpayers money down the road.

JM: It's great. And this area back here, sizable. I feel the air conditioning off now. Or maybe it’s on. Its real air, isn't it?

MV: You've got the real air conditioning out here. You can see we've got a lot of different sorts of plants out here, they're kind of built up into mounds. And we've got an interesting little walkway through here for people to stroll through, an area with a few picnic tables if we want to have lunch out here. We have a lot of variety of plants a lot of them are sedum. You might also see we've got cactus mixed in here, and some flowering plants as well. Even the cactus flower a little bit with a purple flower for us once in a while. And it makes it look pleasant. I mean, this is built to catch rainwater and hold it and not shoot it right into the storm sewers. The whole property here is set up to hold the storm water on site.

JM: I'm just kind of blown away. Davenport has got a lot of things going for it from pillar to post. And here we are at the police station, getting a wonderful earful of great possibilities. These are my kind of plants by the way. I do good with Mother-in-law. If you forget to water them, they get better. The only way you can kill them is if you do too much. But these guys can even take a lot of water. I may find some of this cactus. Police Chief, I want to thank you so much for giving us an opportunity to take a few minutes of your day. And I wonder if you have any final thoughts for us here?

FD: Well, thanks for coming, and I'd like to extend the invitation to anybody who's interested in finding out more. Come down take a look at our police station. And for those municipalities or businesses that are thinking they want to go this route with a new building, we're certainly always wanting to help, and you know give them our two cents as to how things went for us. So I'd just like to extend the invitation to everybody. Stop down.

JM: Keep up the good work. Thanks again for the visit. What an inspiration for the state and beyond. If we ever do get arrested, we hope it's here.


JM: I guess I should be careful what I wish for, but thank you very much gentlemen. Good to meet with you.

FD: OK, thank you.

MV: Good to meet with you too. Take care.


Brian Ritter: Hello, I'm Brian Ritter.

ST: Stuart. Hi.

BR: Nice to meet you.

JM: James Moore. We're with the Dream Green Series here. I don't know if you're able to talk to us now.

BR:  Yeah, I've got a little bit of coverage, so I can split away for a second.

JM: Well, before we split away for a second, we're at the marsh. And obviously you've got a bunch of beautiful kids here that you're doing something with. Why don't you explain that before we take off?

BR: This is a group from Muscatine, Iowa that came up today to do some environmental education stuff. So, we've got one group that's getting ready to go on a hike around the preserve. We've got one group that's building solar-powered boats out of recycled materials. And then we've got another group that is learning all about what lives in the marsh. So we're sending them down there with nets and they're going to catch stuff out of the marsh and figure out what that means about water quality and all those other things.

ST: What a beautiful place. We're looking out across an area of water. It is a marsh. You can see there are thick banks of reeds all around the place. Obviously that's fantastic for wildlife to have those reed beds on an area of water like this. So, I love wildlife, and I'm looking forward to see some of the things that are out here.

JM: What do we have out here, Brian?

BR: Well, what I'm hearing and seeing are the katydids and they just kind of started singing the last couple weeks. We haven't heard the cicadas yet, but I'm pretty sure they're coming soon. It's a hot dry day out here, and we were hearing a lot of birds earlier, but I think they're kind of hunkering down right now, so.

JM: I think they saw us coming. But just give us a little sense of what this place is, your relation to it, and then we'll take a walking tour.

BR: Well, Nahant Marsh is a 262 acre nature reserve and it's the largest urban wetland on the upper Mississippi river, which is pretty phenomenal if you look around us. We are surrounded by industry, we're surrounded by interstates, and highways, and rail yards, and houses and agriculture. And despite all that, nature is able to survive and seemingly thrive in this place. So, we've documented at least 370 different types of plants here. Some of them are quite rare for the state of Iowa. We've documented over 150 species of birds here, which is pretty amazing as well. Once again, some of those are rare. We've got Sandhill cranes nesting here for the first time that we've ever recorded. And it's probably the first time in over a hundred years, so we're very excited about that. And just a whole lot of other stuff. Lots of reptiles and mammals.  My relation, I'm the facilitator here at Nahant Marsh. I'm actually employed by Eastern Iowa Community College district. That's who's in charge of education out here. I've been here for four years, and it never ceases to amaze me. It's a great place. It gets me up in the morning. I'm excited to come here because I never know what I'm going to see, or what I'm going to encounter out here.

ST: What is the purpose of the marshes? Why were they created? Where's the sustainability aspect?

BR: Well, this marsh has been here long before we have. This was created this is a side channel of the Mississippi river. We set this aside as a preserve. The city and other groups worked to do that for a couple reasons. For one, marshes are just places that are full of biological diversity. I mean, this is really the tropical rain forest of the north here. So much life here. So, to support life for one. The other reason this was created was really, flood control. I mean we're right next to the mighty Mississippi River here. This is like a release valve for the river when it gets high. Water has a place to back up and it means less severe flooding for people downstream from us. The problem is, we don't have enough of these places along the river, and as you can see in the last few years, we've had some pretty severe flooding as a result.

JM: OK. There's some birds as we're speaking here. Do you get people from the city just coming out and hanging out?

BR: It's an incredible place to kind of get away. It is sort of like a wild oasis right here at the edge of Davenport. And so we do get people of all sorts that come out here just to enjoy the wildflowers, enjoy the birds, the sights and the sounds. It's a fantastic getaway. Visit a natural area near you. I mean, they're wonderful places. They're here for people to enjoy and to learn, and so we encourage people to get out and enjoy what we have to offer.

JM: Well said. Is there a website here?

BR: Yes, it's nahantmarsh, all one word, nahantmarsh.org. So check us out on the web.

JM: Fantastic. And check us out too. Greeniowa, we'll have a link. And we've had a great time. What a great spot. I almost feel like I've been on vacation. What about you, Stuart?

ST: It feels like I want to stay here. Actually, if we had a picnic and we sit down by the water, that would be truly splendid.

JM: We'll worry about lunch and more in just a moment. Keep it tuned right here, we are Dream Green Series on solar powered KRUU FM. Also greeniowa.org.


Voiceover: Produced by Stuart Tanner and James Moore, at solar powered KRUU 100.1 FM in Fairfield, Iowa. Online at kruufm.com. This series in funded in part by a grant from the Iowa Office of Energy Independence, and nearly seventy individuals, companies and organizations. For a list of sponsors, visit our website at greeniowa.org. Archives available for download under a valid license. Music from Brazila.


JM: And what a great visit to Davenport. We certainly appreciate Mayor Bill Gluba taking the time, and the visit to all those different areas. A lot of fun. And just a quick reminder, next week we're heading to Access Energy in Mount Pleasant to speak with the CEO there, Bob Swindell. About Access Energy and this non-profit cooperative to learn what they do. Keep it tuned right here to the Dream Green series on solar-powered KRUU FM.