Saturday, May 24, 2008
sponsored by Lee's Home Furnishings Outlet

Infrastructure meeting pairs state resources with community needs

Major state agency representatives connect with community leaders

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[May 24, 2008]  Communities all across Illinois, including Logan County, are facing double hardships. The challenge is to maintain, upgrade or replace aging infrastructure, and in many cases, afford new expansion to grow.

Auto RepairJoel Smiley, new director of the Lincoln & Logan County Development Partnership, arranged the opportunity for local officials to meet with key state agency representatives at the Logan County Courthouse on Wednesday evening. The goal was to give the state agencies an opportunity to see Logan County infrastructure and growth needs as a whole and to help communities find funding.

The meeting opened with a welcome from Lincoln Mayor Beth Davis-Kavelman and Logan County Board Chairman Dick Logan. They each thanked everyone for coming. Davis-Kavelman recognized the value of getting assistance and observed that it can be a lengthy, but worthwhile process. She recalled that it was more than eight years ago, as county board members, that she and Logan made a request to U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Peter Fitzgerald and U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood for funds for the Fifth Street Road project. LaHood has secured $800,000 toward that project.

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During the first hour of the meeting, agency representatives introduced themselves and identified the core of what each of their offices do and what they might have to offer.

Also, community representatives were asked to describe their sewer and water infrastructure needs. As the needs were explained, various agency representatives jumped in with what program they might have to offer.

When the formal presentations ended, the next hour was spent with face-to-face networking. It was during this time that some of the more direct, detailed discussions took place. During the relaxed interactions some broader applications were discovered that might meet other local development needs.


(State agency, representative present and short summary)

USDA, Jim Vanetta

We are the lending arm for rural America, Vanetta said. The USDA has 40 different programs we administer. The agency does facilitate some grants, but mostly has guaranteed loans. If you have a desire or need and can pay for it, we can probably help you, he said.

Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Patrick Davis

As a population of 50,000 or less with low to moderate income, Logan County communities qualify for the Community Development Assistance Program, known as CDAP. Grants are available to communities for economic development projects, such as bringing in business or expanding a business, and may be used for construction or infrastructure; also for public facilities, with priority on water, sanitary and storm sewer; for housing rehabilitation, including retrofitting for handicapped; and for engineering for large projects.


Illinois Finance Authority, Kristi Conrad

"We are the capital arm of economic development," Conrad said.

Their department's primary focus is on health, life and safety needs. Conrad said that 60 percent of their projects are water or sewer projects.

They also offer capital for a diversity of both public and private projects that create jobs, improve quality of life or provide return on investment in Illinois.

They provide nonconventional, low-cost financing by way of bonds, loans, guaranteed programs, leasing and interim financing.

Illinois State Treasurer's Office, Erick Nickerson

The treasurer's office offers below-market, low-interest loans through the Opportunity Illinois program. Communities can get loans for infrastructure and for public buildings.

The office also offers three "quality of life" consumer loan programs that are available to individuals such as storm victims for repairs, to citizen soldiers to make ends meet, and to those with disabilities for construction or equipment.

At the community development level, loans are available to Illinois organizations for facility and equipment financing.

We have more than 300 banks, some local, that participate, Nickerson said. He plans to come back to the area to continue to secure more banks for assistance at the local level.


Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Elmo Dowd

Dowd said that the regulating agency has a sewer and water loan program.

They also have grants available.

One of the current goals of the agency is to reduce non-pollution into watersheds, such as rain that runs off a parking lot or buildings.

Of particular interest, he said that few people are aware that study funds are available.

Also, many communities are unaware that the IEPA has design engineers available to help with preliminary infrastructure costs.

Carol Merna, district deputy chief of staff for congressman Ray LaHood

Merna addressed the group and urged community leaders to keep in touch with our state and federal legislators. She said that it is important to let them know our needs. They just don't know the value of the development programs for rural America. She said that their office has had to fight tooth and nail to keep some of these financing programs that are the livelihood to rural development, which affects 80 percent of the state.


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Infrastructure needs

Communities were asked to share information on their water and sewer needs.


Mark Mathon, engineer for the city of Lincoln, said that the city is looking at sewer and water extensions out Fifth Street Road, extending sanitation to the end of Westminster Road, slip-lining old sewer lines on Union Street, replacing several more lift stations that are 20 years old and pushing their life span, and the extension of Fifth Street Road

Mount Pulaski

Mike Patridge, public works director for Mount Pulaski, said that they are working with an aging sewer system installed in 1958. It has four pump stations that all needed replacing at $300,000 each. One was replaced four years ago. Three more still need replacing. The sewer rate is an issue in the community; citizens feel they are paying too much, but it isn't enough to keep up with the expenses now, and they will be seeing another hike in November.

Approximately $900,000, if costs remain the same, is needed for the other three pump stations.

An agency rep responded that this would be a place that CDAP kicks in. The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity could do the analysis for you.



Mayor Bill Martin said that the Atlanta community is in need of a new, good well for their main water supply. The town sits on a dome of bedrock, but is surrounded by the Mahomet Aquifer.

Drawdown over the years has lowered the water table. They'd like to be able to implement a new source in five years. This will probably mean piping water in from outside town.


Population 400, Latham is facing two major projects. First, a secondary well is needed.

The water main was installed in the 1930s. There are breaks and sediment buildup in the sewer lines. They are in dire need to replace this system within five to eight years.

Emden and San Jose

Mike Burris from Crawford, Murphy and Tilly Inc., Springfield, has been working with the communities of Emden and San Jose for several years.

"At San Jose, the first phase of water system improvements were upgraded with the assistance of a CDAP grant. Additional water distribution system improvements are planned," he said.

On the wastewater side, the village needs to replace or upgrade two existing pump stations.

At Emden, the village has submitted a facility plan to the IEPA for a wastewater treatment facility and sewer system. There are also several water mains that need to be replaced and some dead-end water mains that need to be looped.



Steve Anderson, village president, said that at Elkhart the emphasis is on water. The water tower is 75 years old, with a 50,000-gallon capacity. It needs replacement with a capacity of 100,000 to 125,000 gallons. The water plant was last updated in the 1970s. Half the lines in town have been replaced, and half need replacing.

Sewer work is needed, but the water needs to come first.


The agency representatives said that the state recognizes that it is important to help our communities with quality-of-life needs, as well as to assist in opportunities for economic growth. What is good for our communities is good for the state, and we are here to help, was the attitude conveyed by all.

Conrad emphasized that the agencies work together. We see each other at our offices and talk almost daily, she said. We share information with one another about a community's needs and look for the best mix of loans and grants "so that you get the best bang for the buck," she said. "It is in the state's best interest as well."

She added that it is important when planning a project to make early contact with the agencies. And, keep frequent contact with your state legislators, who can advocate on your behalf, she said.


In conclusion to the evening, the group broke up to allow direct networking with agency staff. Specific and some more diverse discussions took place during the one-on-one interaction time.

Wanda Lee Rohlfs, present at the meeting as both a city alderman and as director for Main Street Lincoln, was able to find more possible resources for Main Street projects. She discussed the possibilities of funding for the restoration of one particular major historic building in need of upgrades.

At the close, the lingering crowd of both community and agency representatives all seemed pleased with the exchanges and left with the promises of further contact.


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