City to apply for grant to enhance public areas around downtown square
By PAUL LORENZ
Thu May 24, 2012, 12:16 AM CDT
McLEANSBORO — As a plan to seek funding for a “streetscape beautification project” here continues, one official emphasizes that planners will work to accommodate the many events that take place annually on the downtown square.
Earlier this month, the City Council and Hamilton County Board each approved resolutions in support of the city’s application for federal funds through an Illinois Transportation Enhancement Grant. The city will submit the grant application, the target date for which is May 29.
Kevin Phillips, county engineer for Hamilton County, initiated the effort to apply for the ITEP funds. Besides city and county officials, he’s also working with Josh Gidcumb, a Champaign-based real estate broker, on the project.
Gidcumb has acquired property on the northwest quadrant of the Illinois Route 142/242 intersection and has plans “to tear it all down and build a park there this summer,” Phillips said.
“On behalf of the city and county boards, we are extremely excited and blessed to have such an unprecedented opportunity arise for the residents of McLeansboro and Hamilton County,” Gidcumb said about the streetscape project in an e-mail last week.
The streetscape project already has an OK from the Illinois Department of Transportation to work within the downtown square’s sidewalk and parking lanes, “but we can’t work in any of the traffic lanes until (an IDOT) traffic study has been done,” Phillips said. “So there will be no changes in the traffic patterns.”
The project’s budget is approximately $1.22 million, Phillips said. The ITEP grant would cover 80 percent of that amount, and he said he expects the local share of about $243,000 to be covered by “anonymous private donors.”
Initial public comment on the proposed project, Phillips said, has included concerns that changes in the downtown square’s design would effectively eliminate events such as the Kiwanis Car Fest and Fall Festival.
But Phillips said that will not be the case.
“We are going to be working with the community,” he said. “Our plan is to enhance the events and not take away from them.” If the city receives the ITEP grant, Phillips’ Mt. Vernon engineering firm, Round Table Design, will be working with a New York firm, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, on the project.
A review committee, made up of members appointed by the City Council and County Board and other interested parties, will make decisions “regarding the design and construction of the project,” the resolution passed by the County Board said.
Mayor Dick Deitz said the project would benefit the downtown area in several ways, and it would be “a great thing if we can get the money.”
“We have no guarantee of the money, but if we sit around and do nothing, nothing’s going to happen,” Deitz said.
About one of every five applicants for this grant receive it, Phillips said.
The successful applicants would probably be announced in September, he added.
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