$3.5 million to Rockford on hold after Rauner suspends grants for parks projects
ROCKFORD (WREX) -
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner puts a hold on all state grants for park district construction. The city was supposed to get nearly $3.5 million from state grant money. But with a $1.6 billion budget deficit, Rauner's office says "it's taking actions necessary to address the fiscal crisis that the governor inherited."
The biggest project that takes a hit in Rockford, is the Reclaiming First Sportscore Two expansion. Former Governor Pat Quinn promised $2.5 million in state grant money for the project.
"The Sports Core Two Project alone will be responsible for over $16 million in tourism dollars," Rockford Park District Executive Director Tim Dimke said. "Two million dollars to local taxing districts and nearly $800,000 to the state, every year in revenues."
It isn't the only major project put on stand-by. Thousands of dollars from the state was also promised to Sabrooke Park Playground for renovations.
Tamya Stevenson and her friends come to Sabrooke Park Playground all the time. When they heard it was going to be redone, they were disappointed to hear it's not happening as planned.
"That means they don't care for us you know? About how we feel about our playground," said Stevenson. "Why would they hold it? We want to play and stuff, you know?"
"The park, it's kind of dangerous because the swirly thing [slide], the little kids can actually fall and hurt themselves, like seriously hurt themselves," adds Stevenson's friend Hazel Packer.
Last year the Rockford Park District partnered with the Housing Authority to come up with big plans for the playground. They planned to spend $482,730 to renovate it. Rockford Housing Authority committed $100,000 for the completion of the project, the state grant money was going to pay $241,300 and the rest was going to come from the park district.
"I'm not quite sure if others would have been willing to invest in the neighborhood or even the state itself, wouldn't have approved the original grant requested if they didn't feel there was momentum and there was investment," said Rockford Housing Authority CEO Ron Clewer.
The playground equipment was installed back in 1999. The grant money would have allowed for the demolition of the existing playground, construction for a new one with synthetic turf, a new basketball court, storm water drainage installation, new drinking fountains, new spray pad, new asphalt pathways, new picnic shelter, new community garden plots and landscape plantings.
The Rockford Park District plans to speak with local legislators about a way to still get the project done. While Tamya Stevenson and her friends hope to see the new playground soon.
"The park is kind of like somewhere where you can have fun somewhere that you can see your friends," adds Packer.
Another project at Sinnissippi Park already started renovations, but after Thursday's announcement the June 2015 completion date, doesn't seem likely.