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City gets grant from new state program

Money to help with costs of abandoned properties

Published: Monday, May 5, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

ROCK FALLS – Rock Falls and Moline have been chosen from the Quad Cities region to receive funds from a new state grant program.

Rock Falls will receive $26,774, while Moline was awarded $58,909 from the Abandoned Property Program, which was signed into law last year to help municipalities stabilize neighborhoods.

More than $7 million will be awarded statewide through the program this year. It is funded through foreclosure filing fees paid by banks. The fees are paid on a sliding scale, based on how many foreclosures are filed each year.

For example, a financial institution that files more than 175 foreclosures must pay $500 for each filing; those filing between 50 and 175 must pay $250 for each filing; those with fewer than 50 must pay $50 for each filing.

Eligible uses for the money include maintaining weeds and grass, trimming trees and shrubs, installing fences, and repairing or demolishing abandoned properties.

Rock Falls City Administrator Robbin Blackert said a variety of costs were incurred in dealing with foreclosed and abandoned properties, and that don't even include demolitions.

"We spend about $10,000 a year just mowing abandoned properties," Blackert said. "Most years we also spend several thousands in attorneys fees."

Cities place liens on the properties to recoup lawn care expenses, but those expenses are on the books until a property is sold. Rock Falls has money budgeted for demolitions within its general fund. Only one structure was demolished last year, at a cost of $15,000, Blackert said.

These types of projects will bring much-needed investment to areas that have been slow to experience any of the state's economic recovery, state Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, said in a news release.

"This investment will improve our communities' ability to reclaim areas of blight and underutilization following the wave of foreclosures in recent years," Smiddy said.

Rock Falls received $250,000 earlier this year from the federally funded Single-Family Owner-Occupied Rehabilitation program, administered by the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

Since the city started applying for that grant in 2006, $1.6 million has been made available to rehab city homes. Rock Falls now has about $400,000 on hand through the SFOOR program, Blackert said.

The ongoing program helps low-income homeowners to make necessary but costly repairs, such as roofing, furnaces, windows and wiring. It targets potential health and safety problems, and building code violations.

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