As Gov. Bruce Rauner and lawmakers grapple with a budget deficit of up to $4 billion, state agencies have suspended more than 1,000 grants, including $1.2 million in four grants promised to Belleville.
Belleville officials had planned to use part of that grant money to repair Prairie Avenue, but that project and scores of others across the metro-east and the state are on hold.
“It’s disappointing,” Mayor Mark Eckert said of the grant suspensions.
“We’d like to get some of these projects accomplished,” Eckert said. “Some of these folks have been very patient with us for a long time to find the dollars to fix some of these streets.”
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“It’s a challenge right now. We’re not the only city by any means that’s in this boat. Basically, we’re all in this together.”
Here’s a rundown of the four state grants on hold in Belleville:
▪ $500,000 from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, or DCEO. The city planned to use this money to resurface six blocks of Prairie Avenue from Wabash Avenue to Garden Boulevard, install new storm water drainage at Prairie and Portland Avenue, fix sidewalks at 23rd and West Main streets and fix sidewalks along South Second, Garfield and Harrison streets. Eckert said Prairie Avenue is not in a tax increment financing district so TIF funds are not available for fixing the street. City Engineer Tim Gregowicz said TIF funds were drawn to work on the sidewalks in the South Second, Garfield and Harrison neighborhood.
▪ $335,000 from the Department of Natural Resources, or DNR, for several improvements at South Side Park. The total cost of this project was estimated to be $700,000, with the city covering the costs not met by the state grant. Some of this work, including new playground equipment, has been completed.
▪ $298,600 from DNR for improvements at Bicentennial Park. Also, the state suspension is holding up a $150,000 grant the city received for this project from the Metro East Park and Recreation District.
▪ $100,000 from DCEO. The city intended to use these funds for road and sidewalk improvements on North Virginia Avenue.
City Administrator Tim Harr said DNR has suspended a $400,000 grant that Edwardsville intended to use for the planned spray and play park at the site of the former shelter care home. Harr said the city is still moving forward with the park plans and it is conducting a fundraising campaign.
Lisa Powers, village administrator for Swansea, said the state suspended two grants that were designated for the village for a total of $130,000.
A $100,000 grant from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity was designated for engineering costs and land acquisition on the Smelting Works Road project, which is designed to make the road safer by widening and resurfacing it.
Powers said the village has not spent any money on this project.
However, Swansea is still awaiting on a $30,000 grant promised in 2007. This grant was intended to fund two welcome to Swansea signs the village already paid to have erected.
East St. Louis
The East St. Louis Park District had plans to renovate the tennis courts at Lincoln Park with the help of a $237,000 DNR grant that has been suspended.
Catherine Kelly, spokeswoman for Rauner, said, “$4.5 billion in capital grants and other capital spending has been suspended because of the out-of-balance budget passed by the General Assembly, which includes more than 1,000 grants.”
“Gov. Rauner has repeatedly proposed compromises to legislative leaders, but they are uninterested in reform and only want to hike taxes on working families,” Kelly said in a statement for the Republican governor. “The administration’s compromises will reform state government to free up resources and grow the economy to protect the most vulnerable and the middle class.”
Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, recently told reporters: “The governor spent his time in office prioritizing a corporate agenda that will satisfy his corporate friends. While some of these ideas are worthy of debate, the governor has been unable to provide one shred of evidence that his agenda adds one cent to the ledger for our budget crisis in the short term or to elevate our credit rankings in the long term.”