Almost $200,000 in ARPA-funded economic development grants OK’d by Ogle County Board since June

OREGON — Ogle County Board members have allocated $197,705 worth of American Rescue Plan Act funds in the form of economic development grants in the past three months.

Ogle County received $9,836,809 in ARPA funds, which was delivered in two tranches; the second tranche was delivered in June.

The county set aside 5% of the second tranche — $250,000 — for community development grants or other not-for-profit entities, Ogle County Board member Greg Sparrow said previously. He also is the Finance Committee chairperson.

Out of the first tranche, the county set aside $500,000 of it for the economic development operations and grants to assist communities on economic development, Sparrow said.

There is an application which must be completed in order to be eligible for the economic development grant. Applications are considered by the Ogle County Economic Development Department, the county Finance and Insurance Committee and the Executive Committee before being sent to the full county board for final approval.

All but one of the eight approved economic development grant applications were from municipal governments within Ogle County.

Approved grants

The Mt. Morris Fire Protection District sought, and received, $42,500 for engineering, site and building planning for a new fire station.

Summary: The existing fire station is 98 years old and various elements of its construction have become safety concerns, including low ceilings, narrow overhead doors, the use of porous brick and no space for outdoor work. The building originally served as a car dealership and farm implement service station. The estimated cost of a new building is between $4 million and $4.5 million. Fire District trustees and staff are seeking to secure about half of the cost through local-, state- and federal grants and private foundation funding opportunities.

The city of Polo sought, and received, $15,000 to update its 10-year comprehensive plan.

Summary: Polo’s current comprehensive plan expires in 2024. A complete update is expected to take 12 to 18 months. Some of the reasons for updating the plan include: creating a strong document to reference when applying for grants; considering ways to retain businesses and workers, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic; a push for broadband and fiber in Polo; ensuring all community members have input in the city’s future direction; assessing housing availability and needs; and to be forward-thinking on water and sewer projects.

The city of Oregon requested $38,000 to update their comprehensive plan. They received $17,250, and have 90 days to provide $17,250 in matching funds or forfeit the grant.

Summary: City officials are looking to completely update Oregon’s 2016 comprehensive plan. A community survey to ensure a focus on “the areas that our citizens feel most important for economic development and quality of life improvements” is planned. Areas officials want to review and reanalyze are: housing; population; current and potential land use and public assets, etc.; and community priorities for economic and community development.

The city of Polo requested $31,420 for architect fees, plat survey and excavation costs for a new city hall. They received $15,000.

Summary: The city of Polo purchased land and will be working with Buffalo Township to build a new city/township hall at the location. City officials sought the grant to assist with architect fees and plat survey and excavation costs. The Ogle County Economic Development Department administrator noted in their recommendation for a $15,000 grant that they considered the application an extension of Polo’s request for grant funds to update the city’s comprehensive plan.

The village of Leaf River requested $100,000 to purchase a jetter to clean sewer lines. They received $50,000.

Summary: Village officials want to purchase a 747-FR2000 Classic Trailer Jetter which village employees will run as part of sewer line maintenance. The low bid for a jetter was $98,059, made by Brown Equipment Company, of Evansville, Indiana. Ogle County Board members also awarded the village $25,000 in community development ARPA funds for this project; the village must provide $25,000 in matching funds within six months or forfeit all funds.

The village of Leaf River requested $96,750 to remove an ag shop building and for asbestos abatement. They received $9,200.

Summary: Ogle County Board members approved $8,450 to demolish the ag shop, located on Garfield Street behind Leaf River Village Hall, and $750 for asbestos remediation. Village officials sought, but were denied, funds to cover the removal of the building; hauling away debris; installation of a pole barn to store maintenance vehicles and equipment; and instillation of electricity in the pole barn.

The village of Stillman Valley requested $50,000 to purchase a property for a water drainage improvement project. They received $25,000 and must provide an equal amount in matching funds or forfeit the grant.

Summary: Stillman Valley has a “historically significant” drainage problem. A recently completed drainage study showed green space for a dry drainage ditch is needed to remedy the problem. Village officials sought the grant to help cover the cost of purchasing 116 W. Main St., which they plan to demolish and turn into the needed ditch. The total cost of 116 W. Main St. is $105,000.

The village of Stillman Valley requested $23,755 for asbestos abatement and building demolition for a water drainage improvement project. They conditionally received the full amount; if a second asbestos remediation bid is not secured, the village will receive $22,000 instead.

Summary: Stillman Valley has a “historically significant” drainage problem. A recently completed drainage study showed green space for a dry drainage ditch is needed to remedy the problem. Village officials sought the grant to pay for removal of asbestos at 221 S. Pine St. and to help cover the cost of demolishing the home, which they plan to turn into the needed ditch. The low bid for asbestos remediation is $9,950 and the low bid to demolish the house is $13,805.

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner covers Ogle County for the Oregon Republican Reporter, Forreston Journal, Mt. Morris Times and Polo Tri-County Press. She has six-plus years of experience in journalism and has won numerous awards.