Work stops at South Elgin playground due to suspended state grants
South Elgin scrambles to fund park project with state grants halted
South Elgin is working on a plan to address drainage issues after work on a playground accessible to kids with disabilities was halted following a decision by Gov. Bruce Rauner.
The $1.3 million project at SEBA Park along the Fox River south of State Street was partially funded by a $400,000 grant from the state's department of natural resources, which informed the village this week it was suspending the grant, South Elgin Parks and Recreation Superintendent Kim Wascher said Friday.
Work was halted Thursday for the all-inclusive playground, which was expected to open in midsummer. Rauner suspended grants for park district construction projects across Illinois as part of an attempt to address the state's fiscal crisis.
"Right now we are concerned about stormwater management because we have changed the topography of this site," Wascher said. "With the rain season coming, we need to take care of it."
Contractor Sigalos & Associates of Itasca was 90 percent done with earthwork and underground work, including stormwater management and draining, she said. "We have open ground," Wascher said. "This is not a pretty site to look at right now."
The stoppage of the project was devastating, said Karen Cluchey, playground committee chairwoman for the FUNdation of South Elgin.
"To see the groundbreaking (in May) was very emotional for a lot of us," she said. "Then construction began in the fall, and to all of a sudden hear everything is suspended was quite a blow."
The FUNdation is matching the state's grant to finance $800,000 for the first phase of the project, which includes a large "tree house" sensory play area for 5- to 12-year-olds, Cluchey said.
That and a "tree trunk tunnels" area, funded by grants from Kane County and the Mary E. Gardner Foundation, were on schedule for completion for a grand opening in the summer, she said.
The FUNdation had started planning educational programming at the park, such as monthly outings for families and special education programs in partnership with Elgin Area School District U-46 and St. Charles School District 303, Cluchey said.
Efforts will continue to raise the remaining $400,000 for the grass-roots project 3½ years in the making, Cluchey said.
"This is a unique project that will serve so many families," not just in South Elgin but across the region, she said.
The village is required to submit a financial expense report by March 26, according to the letter from the state.
"There's concern, but we're in the process of doing what we need to do to still get the funds reinstated," Wascher said. "We know there's a process that's happening in Springfield right now, so we're hoping the governor and the legislators look (favorably) at the 2014 projects that are fully funded."