Gov. Blagojevich releases funding

By Richard Snowden

Last week Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich released $195 million in state funding for construction and infrastructural projects and some of it is bound for DeKalb County.

Of the 570 projects throughout the state, money for a pair of projects at NIU and projects in three other DeKalb County municipalities are slated.

“The funding is destined for various kinds of infrastructure projects, such as schools, education facilities and a variety of other kinds of projects,” said Andrew Ross, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

The money allocated to NIU will be used to pay for a $3.9 million air-conditioning project for residence halls across campus and a $2.4-million renovation and rehabilitation project for Altgeld Hall.

“Our projects had already been established several years ago,” said Eddie Williams, NIU’s Executive Vice President of Financing and Facilities and Chief of Operations. “We’ve just been waiting for the state to allocate the money so we could finish paying for projects that are already pretty much completed.”

DeKalb County Treasurer Christine Johnson said the money destined for DeKalb County would be used to fund projects in Waterman, Rochelle and Sandwich.

“There are not any monies coming specifically to the county, but the money was allocated for projects within the county,” Johnson said.

Waterman received just more than $13,000 to construct a new village water well, while Rochelle will use $200,000 to make improvements to its water and storm control systems. Sandwich will spend its $50,000 outlay on a new civic sewer system.

Ross said the funding was related to projects initiated during the administration of Blagojevich’s predecessor, George Ryan.

“The money was for projects that preceded this administration, and now, the state government is in the financial position to finish paying for them,” Ross said.

State Rep. Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley) said the timing of the funds’ release did not come as a surprise.

“It doesn’t seem strange to me,” Pritchard said. “When you get into an election cycle, people tend to do things that will help them with their constituents.”

Pritchard said many General Assembly members had been trying to get the projects completed for some time.

“The legislature has been very firm in trying to ensure that outstanding projects be paid for and completed prior to the awarding of new projects,” Pritchard said. “I’ve looked at the projects and I think they’re good projects that will benefit our communities.”

Blagojevich had frozen the funding shortly after taking office, saying the money would only be spent for projects related to public safety, education, economic development and health care.