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Forby: Rauner’s latest move fires construction workers

Published: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 01:00 AM

concreteGovernor Rauner recently pulled the plug on the construction of Splash Park, a Carbondale outdoor aquatic recreation center. His latest move forces layoffs and extends an already decades-old effort to build a water park in Carbondale.

“Someone needs to tell the governor it’s ‘Splash Park’ not ‘Slash Park.’” Forby said. “Governor Rauner just fired construction workers who were almost done building a project the park district has been working 40 years to bring to Carbondale.”

In 2011, the Carbondale Park District invested nearly $1 million to match funds from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to qualify for the Park and Recreation Facility Construction (PARC) grant. The grant is for park districts throughout the state to expand or construct new recreational facilities.

The new pool is less than three months away from completion.

“I want to work with this governor to bring good jobs to Southern Illinois. But this obviously is not a good start for his administration,” said Forby. “I urge the governor to undo the harm he’s caused and get these people back on the job immediately.”

Manar: Litchfield rail improvements will ease congestion on Route 16

Published: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 01:00 AM

rrcrossingSPRINGFIELD – About 15 times a day, east-west traffic in Litchfield shuts down. Two parallel rail lines carry thousands of tons of freight through the city every day and if one of those trains has to stop, it cuts the city in half.

A series of BNSF upgrades in the area will cut down on the number of trains that have to stop in Litchfield and will reduce rail traffic through the city. State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) and Mayor Steven Dougherty worked with rail companies to address the problems caused by rail traffic.

“There’s a huge difference between the disruption caused by a train passing through and a train that stops. These improvements will cut down on the daily frustration caused by train stoppages,” Manar said.

“This has been an on-going problem for many years in Litchfield. Attempts to address it include the previous administration’s efforts to obtain grants for automated switching , as well as studies on the feasibility of construction of an overpass/underpass. Realizing our responsibility to our industrial and commercial properties to the west, as well as the need to service I-55, we maintain a satellite fire and rescue facility on that side of the rail lines. This results in the need to support two facilities,” Dougherty said.

BNSF is installing centralized traffic control to regulate rail traffic in the region. Currently, train crews need to stop and manually switch tracks. The CTC system will allow trains to switch tracks without stopping.

A new rail interchange in Smithboro opened this January and another is planned to open this summer. Both interchanges will route rail traffic around Litchfield.

BNSF is also working on reconfiguring a low-speed crossing just south of Litchfield. This will allow trains to pass through the city quicker and cut down on drivers’ wait time at rail crossings.

“Senator Manar’s attention to this situation has been instrumental in helping our community solve this problem of trains slowing to a crawl or stopping during the switching process. With the increase in the number of trains and volatile cargo, it is critical that access is available to all of our citizens in time of need,” Dougherty said.

Koehler joins Ardis to support economic development measure

Published: Wednesday, March 11, 2015 04:31 PM

koehler-ardisSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) joined Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis at a Senate committee hearing to support extending a successful economic development program that has benefited the Peoria community.

At issue is the River Edge Historic Tax Credit, which was created in 2012 to help riverfront communities restore historically significant waterfront properties. The program is scheduled to end next year, so river’s edge communities throughout Illinois are trying to convince the General Assembly of its value.

“Illinois’ cities grew up along rivers,” Koehler said. “That means waterfront properties are often historically significant. It also means that they often need a lot of work. This economic development program has helped us create jobs in our local communities, protect landmarks and revitalize waterfront neighborhoods.”

In order to qualify for the tax credit, the building must be owned by a business. It can be a store, rental property, warehouse or production facility, but it has to generate economic activity. It must also be on the National Register of Historic Places. If the building qualifies, the owner will receive an income tax credit worth 25 percent of the cost of repairs and upgrades.

The program has already been very successful. A University of Illinois study found that it returned $10 in economic activity for every $1 invested. It also encourages investment in vacant buildings, reducing urban sprawl and generating tax revenue for local governments. Because restoring historic buildings is more labor-intensive than new construction, the program also results in more construction jobs.

“Peoria has already benefited from this program. Buildings like the Madison Theatre – which might otherwise have sat empty – have already been restored,” Ardis said. “Keeping this tax credit on the books could help us continue to promote economic development in areas like the Warehouse District.”

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