ROCHELLE — The Creston Village Board decided Tuesday to authorize Village Engineer Kevin Bunge to work on an application for a Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Rebuild Illinois Main Street & Downtown grant for Creston’s downtown area.
The grant has a $250,000 minimum and $3 million maximum and can be used for sidewalks, streets, lighting and utility work in downtown areas. Bunge said the deadline is early January and work on an application needs to start soon. Trustees expressed interest in starting a full reconstruction of the area if Creston received the grant.
“You have to start from the bottom up,” Trustee Curt Ward said. “There's no sense in doing the street if you're going to leave an 80-year-old water main under it. And you still have storm sewer issues. The utility work spurs you into doing the street, which spurs you into doing the sidewalk. If you're going to do anything, you're pretty much reconstructing the whole street.”
Bunge said no matching funds are required for the grant, but the village would likely need to put some money forward to get enough points to receive it. The cost of pursuing it would be on the lower end of $3,000-5,000, Bunge said. The grant requires applications to outline how COVID-19 has hurt municipalities’ downtown areas.
“I need some assistance with outlining how COVID-19 has hurt the community for the application,” Bunge said. “I've read through the grant documents a few times. It is written for communities like Creston.”
Bunge said there may not be enough money in a potential grant to do everything the village would like to reconstruct its downtown infrastructure.
“But would there be enough to get the bones built? I think there is,” Bunge said.
Trustee Mike Kerns was in favor of pursuing the grant.
“I say let him move forward,” Kerns said. “And maybe next month we'll have better ideas on some of the questions Kevin has. If we don’t try this, in 10-15 years we may have to do it all and come up with the money ourselves.
The village board discussed what to do with the $89,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds it was awarded. Village President Tom Byro said Creston has three years to spend the money and will receive half this year and half in the spring.
The funds need to be spent on capital improvements and not maintenance work.
“We've talked about getting some fire hydrants,” Byro said. “If we're going to order these three hydrants, we better do it this fall sometime so we can get them in the spring. Let's get together and figure out how we want to use this money.”
Byro said the village has received its most recent census numbers and the Creston population has decreased by 35 people. Creston’s population is reported to be 627 people. In 2010, it had 662 people. That could cause village tax revenues, which are based on population, to go down in the future.
Byro said a farm lease with Eric Petry has officially been signed. Petry will farm 144.6 acres of farmland the village owns in a one-year contract at $310 per acre.
The term is from March 1, 2022 until Feb. 2023. It gives Petry the right to renew for one year at the same price, terms and conditions. Byro said at a recent meeting that the village wanted a short-term agreement because of “other things” going on in the future that may change the course of future leases.