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A weekly public affairs program in which Tri States Public Radio interviews newsmakers from around the region.

Emphasis - July 13

Mike Norris is Executive Director of the Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission.

Jason Parrott's guest is Mike Norris, who is the Executive Director for the Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission.  They talk about the work of the commission and several ongoing projects.

The SEIRPC serves governmental bodies in Lee, Des Moines, Henry and Louisa Counties.  The voluntary membership organization does contract work, performs property management and oversees state and federal funding for cities, counties and school districts.

Norris says the Flint River Trail is progressing well on the Burlington and Des Moines County side.  The roughly 20 mile route will eventually stretch from downtown Burlington to Big Hollow Recreation Area.

Norris says the county is close to finishing Phases 2 & 3, which runs from Flint Bottom Road to Big Hollow Recreation Area.  He says a path has been identified that fits state preservation requirements, which will allow the two phases to be completed by the end of the year.

Norris says Burlington and Des Moines County are doing a good job securing property for the trail and raising money.  He says at this point, $3.5-million has been secured in grant funding.

"We hope this will start a trend," says Norris.  "Other places in Iowa, in the Midwest and in the country have amenities like this.  It is obviously for the benefit of the residents, but it can also help in attraction and retention of economic development."

Norris says there is still a portion of the county's responsibility, from Mill Dam Road to Highway 61, that has yet to go through the engineering process.  He says a specific route has yet to be defined.

Norris says SEIRPC is also working on a wellness campaign in Burlington.  An aspect of that is to study the existing trail systems in Burlington and West Burlington and identify opportunities for the addition of pedestrian and bicycle trails.

SEIBUS is another of the planning commission's services that appears to be going well.  The transportation service is operational in the four counties SEIRPC serves.

Norris says the growth of the service is linked to partnerships made in the last eight years.

SEIBUS has been serving Des Moines, Henry and Louisa Counties along with Keokuk and Fort Madison since the start of the transportation service. 

Lee County has hired SEIBUS to handle transportation for its residents with mental health and other developmental disabilities.  Norris says that should allow for improved coordination and services through the cohesion of the four counties.

Some of the other key services of the SEIRPC are recovery from the Flood of 2008, specifically the buying out of properties damaged during the natural disaster, and a revolving loan fund to provide gap financing for small businesses.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.