From time to time, I read through the comments on Sauk Valley Media’s Facebook page. I did it after I covered Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s recent visit to Sterling.
Quinn was in town to announce a round a Illinois Environmental Protection Agency grants. The grants, part of the Illinois Green Infrastructure Grants program, were awarded to 13 Illinois communities to help reduce pollution running into Illinois waterways.
Sterling received $1.3 million – the largest allotment from the more than $5 million the Illinois EPA awarded. The city also received a second grant for $900,000.
Among the Facebook comments the day of Quinn’s visit, and a few days after, were some questioning where Illinois was getting the money from, and others suggesting better uses for the money in Sterling.
Those are two topics I won’t dig into here, for two reasons: The money is available and it usually comes with requirements on how it can be used.
The debate over the state and federal government using taxpayers’ dollars for grants is one that belongs in the state and U.S. capitals, but grants are vital to cities like Sterling and Rock Falls, especially for infrastructure and environmental projects.
Rock Falls has received approximately $5 million for projects along the riverfront, said City Administrator Robin Blackert, adding that if her city doesn’t get the money, somebody else will.
“That is our taxpayers’ money,” she said. “And we have to make sure to get every dime of that back.”
Blackert is working on a $200,000 grant to help with the asbestos abatement involved with an eventual demolition of the Limestone Building.
It’s a competitive grant, so Rock Falls is working with a company that is charging the city $6,000, which Blackert said she viewed as a worthy investment.
Both Rock Falls and Sterling work with firms to help them write grants. Different firms are used, depending on their specialty.
Earlier success with writing, receiving and implementing grant money into projects helps a municipality’s chances of getting future grant money, said Sterling City Manager Scott Shumard.
“I am convinced that partnering with the right firms to guide and assist in the application process is crucial to improving the rate of success for award application and implementation,” Shumard said in an email. “We’ve used different firms to address different specialties over the years, depending on the nature of the grant.”
You may not like the notion of the state using tax dollars for grants, but you should be grateful the local municipalities are trying to bring the money back home.
Sauk Valley Media reporter Matt Mencarini covers government and happenings in Sterling and Rock Falls. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 815-625-3600, ext. 529. Follow him on twitter: @MattMencarini.
ROCK FALLS – Sauk Valley Media reporter Matt Mencarini will have "office hours" from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at Lamb's Tap, 215 W. Second St.
Feel free to stop by and let him know what's on your mind. Is there a story in Sterling or Rock Falls you think should be reported? Stop by to share or just to say hi.