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Ottawa's waterfront project could get boost from state

Other projects may need the money sooner

A proposed rendering of park space and facilities along Ottawa's riverfront. The waterfront development project could receive assistance through the state's capital bill.
A proposed rendering of park space and facilities along Ottawa's riverfront. The waterfront development project could receive assistance through the state's capital bill.

The city of Ottawa’s Waterfront Project could be getting an initial boost from the state, but will they be able to use it this fiscal year?

The state’s capital bill has set aside $750,000 from the Build Illinois Bond Fund to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for a grant to the city of Ottawa for costs associated with capital improvements for downtown waterfront projects.

Mayor Dan Aussem said he was aware funding may be coming in from the state, but hasn’t yet been officially told they’ll be receiving it or whether it’s restricted to waterfront projects.

“I was under the impression we could use it for projects as we see fit,” Aussem said in a phone call. “Because we’ve got a glitch on the downtown waterfront development.”

Aussem said utilities, including Nicor and ComEd, still need to begin their year-long project of cleaning up deposited coal tar from the former Central School site, the likely byproduct of a coal gasification plant decades ago. The city has yet to receive a signed agreement but has spoken with the companies with work expected to begin in September.

Additionally, it’s been discovered that a portion of land CL Real Estate has been eyeing, Woodward Memorial and the nearby parking lot, have a deed restriction on them. The restriction notes the land can’t be sold and must be available for public use, but the city is attempting to have the restriction lifted to continue the waterfront development plan.

Aussem said if the money has to be spent this fiscal year there are a few other projects on his “wish list” that might need the money sooner.

Some of the projects include the $500,000 match for the pedestrian bridge over Interstate 80, raising Green Street, maxing out the funding for the rewatering of the canal and, a much larger endeavor, a regional lift station.

The current sewer system is maxed out and a previously planned life station pump going directly to the sewer plant, at an estimated cost of around $8 million, would allow for future commercial or industrial expansion in the city.

The capital bill has been approved by the House and Senate yet requires a signature from Gov. JB Pritzker.

House Bill 62 calls for $33.2 billion, or about 74 percent of the $45 billion set aside for capital improvements, to be spent on roads and bridges, what lawmakers refer to as “horizontal” infrastructure.

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