BLOOMINGTON — The city of Bloomington will receive $325,000 of a controversial $750,000 grant sponsored by state Sen. Bill Brady.
The Bloomington Republican last month formed a committee, chaired by former Bloomington Mayor Jesse Smart, to evaluate proposals after the Bloomington City Council rejected in November the grant's original purpose. Brady had arranged the state money to buy 4 acres for a McGraw Park expansion that would be leased to Central Catholic High School, Brady's alma mater, for a football practice field.
The recommendations of the advisory committee included $200,000 for Bloomington's Sunnyside Park and $125,000 for the Miller Park Pavilion.
"At least the city received some of what they wanted," Brady said.
The committee also recommended funding for three other community projects in Brady's 44th District. They are: $100,000 to build a seawall at Easter Seals' Timber Pointe Outdoor Center at Lake Bloomington; $75,000 for the the city of Delavan to demolish a dilapidated downtown building; and $250,000 for the village of McLean to construct a water tower.
"I asked them to look at (the projects submitted) thoughtfully and I believe they did," said Brady. "I embrace their recommendations. I am pleased with the work of the committee and I am grateful for their efforts."
He said he would work to ensure the recommendations are included in the state's fiscal year 2016 budget.
"When the city turned down the grant it meant I had to go back to the drawing board," Brady said. "The money was reserved for the district, but I need to make sure there is appropriate legislation enacted that will allow this money to come back to the district and be used for these projects."
Despite being told the grant was off the table, the council moved forward to select alternative projects for the $750,000 grant that Mayor Tari Renner contended was designated by law for Bloomington parks and trails.
"I am glad to see that two really worthy projects in Bloomington received funding," Renner said Tuesday. "Before I comment any further I want to talk with Senator Brady. I'm still playing phone tag with him."
On Dec. 8, the council decided on $300,000 to improve and expand Constitution Trail, $250,000 for Miller Park pavilion infrastructure repairs and upgrades, and $200,000 to renovate Sunnyside Park. The council's priorities for the money were submitted to Brady's committee for consideration.
McGraw Park and CCHS were in Brady's district when the grant was originally secured in 2009, but that changed with redistricting in 2011. Brady still represents most of Bloomington.
Brady and Bloomington Ward 9 Alderman Jim Fruin championed the original proposition, which the council initially approved on Nov. 10.
The aldermen did so with the understanding that Central Illinois Regional Airport land being used by CCHS for a football practice field would no longer be available after 2015. That turned out not to be the case, and that lease later was extended.
Aldermen learned soon after the vote that Fruin did not disclose that he serves on the school's board of trustees. While Fruin denies any conflict of interest, the council rescinded its approval but sought to retain the grant for other park-related projects.