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Three cities meet to join forces

Sterling, Fulton, Morrison seek to improve properties

MORRISON – The Sterling, Morrison and Fulton councils are used to meeting separately. Tuesday, they met together.

The purpose: To join forces in seeking money from an attorney generals’ settlement to improve housing.

All three councils unanimously signed off on the pact.

Rock Island Economic Development Corp., which represents the city of Rock Island, already has worked with Moline and Sterling on housing issues. But it wanted to expand its area. Officials say it’s easier to get grants on a regional basis.

The Rock Island group is requesting $23.9 million. Of that, Sterling would get $2 million, while Fulton and Morrison would receive $3 million and $750,000 respectively.

More than $100 million is available for Illinois, according to the Rock Island group.

The meeting of the councils, held at Morrison’s Odell Public Library, was historic. Morrison Mayor Roger Drey ran the 45-minute session, gaveling it to order.

The sought-after funds are from a mortgage foreclosure settlement obtained by the nation’s attorneys general.

The area towns hope to use the money to acquire and improve abandoned properties.

Sterling officials praised the Rock Island group’s efforts.

“This is truly one of those programs that really work well,” Sterling Mayor Skip Lee told the councils. “It has had a big impact on the blight in Sterling.”

Rock Falls decided against joining the regional effort, officials said.

Rock Falls has its own program that channels Illinois Housing Development Authority money to renovate homes. The funds go to single-family, owner-occupied homes and small rental properties, Rock Falls Administrator Robbin Blackert said. 

With its neighborhood stabilization program, the city of Sterling has been buying foreclosed homes and improving them, or tearing them down and rebuilding, as part of the program. The homes are sold to qualified low- and moderate-income buyers, with incentives such as down payments.

The money for the program came from $18.5 million in federal stimulus funds that the Rock Island group got in 2010 for its community, Moline and Sterling.

Asked about the amounts each city would get under the settlement, Brian Hollenback, president of the Rock Island group, said they were based on the communities’ needs. For instance, he said, Fulton would need more workforce housing with the expected opening of the nearby Thomson federal prison.

Morrison would receive less because this was its first foray into such a program, he said.

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