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How Rain Forest Spends Its Money
Almost $1.5 million Spent on Coralville Project in 2004;
Grant Supplied Bulk of Money

Zack Kucharski

The Gazette

November 15, 2005

[Note: This material is copyright by The Gazette, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of The Gazette.]

    CORALVILLE — The Environmental Project spent $320,977 last year on the architect it fired from its artificial rain forest project in Coralville, financial disclosures revealed Monday.

    The beleaguered $180 million rain forest project paid Executive Director David Oman a $189,500 salary and $5,310 worth of benefits, and a California environmental consulting firm $171,742, other expenditures show.

    Those expenditures were part of nearly $1.5 million The Environmental Project spent in 2004.

The $48.3 million in federal grant money the U.S. Department of Energy gave the project in September 2004 provided almost all the project’s revenue. It received $27,000 in other unspecified revenue, said the Federal Form 990 report the Internal Revenue Service requires of tax-exempt non-profit agencies.

    The grant covered all but about $384,000 of the project’s 2004 expenditures.

    ‘‘A lot of work occurred in 2004. The receipt of the federal grant, in the eyes of many people, made the project real,’’ Oman said.

    ‘‘The grant allowed us to significantly ramp up our work, both with an additional round of outreach and the next level of planning.’’

    The rain forest is planned south of Interstate 80 and east of First Avenue.

    Most expenses were for design and programming consultants, architect work and marketing, the 990 showed.

    Oman defended the money spent on the project’s highestpaid consultant for 2004, Boston-based architecture firm CSP, even though CSP no longer is with the project. He said CSP’s work on efficient design and renewable energy technology remains valuable for the project’s redesign.

    Officials have hired Grimshaw Architects of London to redesign the project.

    Other spending included $131,521 for other staff salaries, $39,699 on travel, $69,618 on legal fees, $79,000 on legislative lobbyists and $9,421 for phone service.

    Des Moines businessman Ted Townsend, who has provided most of the non-federal money in the project’s history, gave the project $250,000 in no-interest loans, due upon demand, the report shows.

    Spending so far in 2005 already exceeds that in 2004. Project officials have spent more than $1.84 million of the federal grant money this year, U.S. Department of Energy reports show.

    The remainder of the federal money would be frozen under a legislative move led by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. Grassley, who helped secure the grant, set a December 2007 deadline on a $50 million non-federal match or the group loses the appropriation.

    The funding freeze is awaiting Senate approval.

    Meanwhile, Coralville City Administrator Kelly Hayworth said Monday the city hasn’t received a project counterproposal in negotiations for the transfer of 22 acres the city is offering for the rain forest. The city wants a timetable and other assurances about the project.