Sterling OKs ARPA money for Sauk Impact Program, historic plaques, kiosks, truancy program

The city of Sterling pledged more that $58,000 in ARPA funds for four projects, one of which is installing bronze historic plaques in the downtown. Once such plaque may be installed at City Hall, as city administrative assistant Deb Dillow illustrates here.

STERLING – The City Council agreed to provide $58,250 in ARPA funds for programs and projects: for Sauk’s Impact Program, to install historic plaques and informational kiosks in the downtown, and to fight truancy.

The earned-tuition Impact Program is a workforce training program that gives eligible students, who graduate within the Sauk Valley Community College district, the chance to earn tuition and fees for up to three years or until they earn their certificate or degree, whichever comes first.

The city will give Sauk $25,000 to continue those efforts, from which it already has benefited.

Brittany Whitman (left) working with the Impact Program at Sauk Valley College volunteers Monday, July 24, 2023 at the Rotary Club’s Corn Boil and BBQ Pork Chop sale.

Data from communities with an earned tuition program show an increase in wages, economic mobility, population and business retention and attraction, Sauk said in a news release Thursday.

So far, more than 140 Sterling students have volunteered more than 3,200 hours in Sterling, working for the city and for its nonprofit organizations, according to the release.

“With this contribution, we will enhance our community by providing volunteer opportunities and fostering a sense of belonging,” Mayor Diana Merdian said in the release. “These efforts will have an immediate positive impact on our community.”

Dixon and Rock Falls also committed $25,000 each to the program.

Go to or email or contact Lori Cortez, dean of institutional advancement, at for more information or to donate to the program.

At its July 17 meeting, the council also agreed to give $12,250 for two informational kiosks.

The kiosks will have maps of the downtown and bulletin boards where events or other Sauk Valley Area Chamber of Commerce or Sterling Main Street information will be posted.

They tentatively are planned for the Farmers Market and Shoppes at Grandon areas, and will be built by Whiteside Area Career Center students.

In addition, $11,000 will be used for historical signs in the downtown. The bronze plaques, in the works for several years, will be installed on “on select downtown buildings to commemorate their significance and enhance pride in the history of the structures,” city staff said in the agenda presentation.

Finally, the Whiteside County Healthier Communities Partnership is getting $10,000 for its Sterling Truancy Program.

Nicole Oberg, the Sterling truancy caseworker, has said the truancy caseload for the 2022-23 school year was 130 students from about 115 families, and she estimated she also worked unofficially with 130 siblings she.

The Sterling Truancy Program originally was funded by a $30,000 grant from the Sterling City Council.

About $1,067,400 of the original $2 million remains in the city’s American Rescue Plan Act fund. The remainder must be obligated by Dec. 31, 2024, and spent by Dec. 31, 2026.

Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.