An Arts Alley in a reimagined downtown Rock Island and a unique Moline riverfront redevelopment are among the improvements those cities’ leaders plan to do with a combined $47.2 million in pandemic rescue funds. But those are just a few of the local projects and plans for spending the Illinois Quad Cities’ federal COVID-19 American […]
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An Arts Alley in a reimagined downtown Rock Island and a unique Moline riverfront redevelopment are among the improvements those cities’ leaders plan to do with a combined $47.2 million in pandemic rescue funds.
But those are just a few of the local projects and plans for spending the Illinois Quad Cities’ federal COVID-19 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Much more was shared by Moline City Administrator Bob Vitas and Rock Island Mayor Mike Thoms on Friday, Feb. 25, at the Quad Cities Chamber’s legislative forum, held at the TaxSlayer Center in Moline.
The forum also featured a video message from Jonathan McGee, new deputy director of regional economic development for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). In addition to outlining guidelines for ARPA funds, Mr. McGee also preached regional cooperation to “make these federal funds go as far as we can.”
Both Mr. Thoms and Mr. Vitas highlighted one such regional project – the multijurisdictional land bank being created in the Illinois Quad Cities to deal with blighted and vacant properties and encourage their reuse and redevelopment.
For Moline, its $20.7 million in ARPA funds represents “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Mr. Vitas said. The process to determine how to spend those dollars was an inclusive one.
The city’s plans were built on three pillars residents had identified as the foundation of the city’s three-year community-driven strategic plan, Moline’s city administrator said. They are: Infrastructure, Quality of Place and Economy.
Using that public input and based on the city’s needs and restrictions for spending some of the funds, Moline created a list of projects that includes:
- Ensuring all residents and businesses in the city have access to at least 1 gigabyte fiber optic service.
- Road, water and sewer repairs.
- $3 million to lay the groundwork for creating a quiet zone that would eliminate train whistles from blasting in downtown Moline.
- Investing in AMTRAK passenger service to downtown Moline.
- Reducing flooding on Illinois 92.
- $2.1 million to improve the economy through such tools as forgivable loans to increase child-care options, especially second and third shifts and weekend hours; forgivable small business loans; and new business awards.
Mr. Thoms reports that Rock Island has committed some of its ARPA funds to a few projects, notably the downtown revitalization and beautification efforts.
For Arron Sutherland, president and CEO of downtown anchor Illinois Casualty Co., and chairman of the city’s downtown steering committee, investing in the rebirth of Rock Island’s downtown is critical. “Downtown Rock Island is not the same as it was when I came down there in 2006,” he told the crowd at the chamber forum.
His company believes in investing in the historic downtown so much it is providing a $100,000 match to create a state-of-the-art dog park downtown. Illinois Casualty had previously shown its support for downtown Rock Island by building its new headquarters at 225 20th St. in 2003.
As for the rest of the $26.5 million in ARPA funds Rock Island will receive, Mr. Thoms said City Clerk Samantha Gange will lead the effort to evaluate how to spend those dollars. The city is expected to engage the community, for example, through such efforts as town hall meetings, and electronic and mail-in surveys.
City departments also will be asked for suggestions. Among the projects that could be included, Mr. Thoms said, are the use of ARPA dollars to leverage the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds needed to repair flood damage at Rock Island’s Sunset Marina as well as upgrading an aging city computer system. The hope is to have a plan in place later this spring.
In East Moline, whose leaders were unable to attend the forum, City Administrator Douglas K. Maxeiner shared with the QCBJ a rundown of how his city will spend its $2.8 million ARPA funds.
East Moline’s share is much less than Moline’s $22.5 million and Rock Island’s $26.5 million because it is classified by the federal government as “non-entitlement unit,” i.e., a non-metropolitan city with a population of under 50,000.
“While we are appreciative of the (ARPA) funds,” Mr. Maxeiner said, “it is difficult to implement transformational projects with $2.8 million. As such, we took the approach to carefully invest these funds in a multitude of projects having ongoing community involvement.”
They include spending $675,000 for resurfacing the Great River Trail and completion of a storm sewer improvement to enable the Grand Illinois Trail connection. “Bike and pedestrian infrastructure not only enhance tourism and recreational opportunities for the community but also helps meet the transportation needs of lower income segments of the population throughout the year,” Mr. Maxeiner said.
East Moline also hopes to leverage $100,000 for a multi-million dollar stormwater improvement project in a lower income area of the community; $150,000 will update security systems protecting critical city infrastructure; $14,000 will update the city’s audio-visual capabilities to encourage better remote participation in public meetings, and $150,000 will update aging equipment increasing the reliability of the water system.