May 19, 2024
Local News | The Times

Local News

$150,000 from state will help Utica with canal project

Bicycle rentals coming to canal towpath

Former lawmaker Jerry Long received a tour of the Illinois & Michigan Canal in Utica in this file photo.

Without giving many details, Utica Mayor David Stewart announced Thursday the village has been awarded a $150,000 state grant to provide a "starting point" for major renovations of the Illinois and Michigan Canal and Towpath that runs through the heart of the village.

Admitting the canal rehabilitation has long been a personal goal of his, Stewart said the grant would be used to dredge the long-stagnate canal and help begin the re-watering process.

"I think they (state officials) saw what we have been doing with working (on our portion of) the canal and towpath recently which helped us win this grant," Stewart said. "This has been a priority for us for years and the grant is great news."

He promised to release more details about the project's possible starting date in the near future.

Representatives from two municipal electric aggregation companies — Diane Elkins, of Buy Commercial Energy, Inc. and Arnie Shramel, of Progressive Energy Group — gave the board short presentations on their programs and rates each designed to save residents on their electrical bills.

Elkins said her company would provide "a fresh outlook" for village customers to save off Ameren Illinois rates. She told trustees about her company's "civic contribution" program that could generate $5,000 for the village through small surcharges on customer's monthly bill.

Shramel reminded the board his company has been providing the electric aggregation since 2010 with little problem and notable savings. He said, should the board continue with Progressive, the annual savings for Utica customers were projected to be $51.10.

The current aggregation contract for the village expires in September.

Both representatives told the board any resident or business could opt-out of the program at any time.

The board decided to study the proposals and make a decision at a later date.

Stewart informed the board he had been in recent discussions with a Canal Corridor Association official about potential locations to place five rental bikes for use on the I and M towpath or village streets. Stewart said the bikes would be rented out on a hourly basis through an online app with no cost or obligation from the village. No exact location has yet to be decided upon, but Stewart said it would most likely be close to Carey Park and/or the towpath.

Village Engineer Kevin Heitz told trustees he was currently working with Illinois Department of Transportation officials about the installation of the county's first roundabout intersection at U.S. 6 and Route 178. Heitz said the village would be responsible for some minor utility adjustments needed to complete the project.

Director of Village Affairs Jamie Turczyn said preparations are underway for a Block Party event on Saturday, June 29, in the downtown area and the annual Independence Day fireworks celebration set for Friday, July 5. She is seeking volunteers to assist during both events.

The board also agreed to allow Starved Rock Pedicab, LLC to begin a bike transportation business which will provide scenic trips between Utica and La Salle beginning next month.