EUREKA - Woodford County has been awarded nearly $1.6 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to make a variety of improvements to improve accessibility in public places. Grant funds will be used to remove architectural barriers such as narrow entrances and inaccessible restrooms in several public buildings and improve sidewalks and similar infrastructure across the county.
The grant awards are the end of a two-year process that stemmed from the end of the county’s state-funded Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) program. In 2018, the State of Illinois informed counties that CDBG loan programs would be ending and outlined a process for counties to utilize loan fund balances to meet other eligible needs in their communities.
“My thanks to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for recognizing the critical needs of counties across the state and creating a process that allowed RLF funds to be put to productive use in Woodford County,” said county board chair John Krug.
Woodford County’s RLF, previously administered by Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, had been used for more than 30 years to assist with low interest, gap financing to over 100 business development projects in the county. The first loans were given to Parsons Company, rural Roanoke, and DMI (presently Case New Holland) in Goodfield in the 1980s. Both companies started as small to midsize businesses and have now grown into major employers within the county.
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The last RLF loan was given to Zimmerman Enterprises in Goodfield in 2016, another small company that has already grown and diversified. “Local RLFs have been a very useful economic development tool used to assist businesses grow,” stated Chris Setti, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Greater Peoria EDC.
“We are glad to see those same dollars now assisting Woodford County and its citizens in another way," Krug added. "Our sincere thanks to the Greater Peoria EDC for walking the county board through this sometimes complicated process from the very beginning. They were able to quickly understand the new rules, clearly communicate them to the board and keep the process on track for a successful outcome."
A loan fund balance of approximately $1.6 million was available to the county for CDBG eligible projects that needed to be obligated by Dec. 31, 2020. Among the potential projects, the county decided to petition the state to use the funds to address the many deficiencies that prevent access to buildings that provide essential goods and services by persons with mobility disabilities.
Chuck Nagel, chair of the county's Economic Development and finance committee, noted, “We did not want to limit this opportunity to county-owned facilities alone and extended the program to our local villages, townships and libraries. We also wanted to help our community address infrastructure issues such as sidewalks.”
Woodford was provided two grants to address these issues. A total of $329,500 will be used to solve accessibility concerns at the courthouse, health department and public buildings in Bay View Gardens, Spring Bay, Germantown Hills, Metamora, Washburn, Spring Bay and Roanoke Townships. The modifications include entrances, internal access and restrooms. A total of $1,231.328.24 will be used to replace and improve sidewalks, curbs, entrance ramps and parking in Eureka, Bay View Gardens, Congerville, El Paso, Metamora, Minonk, Spring Bay, Roanoke (both village and township) and Washburn.