Buffalo Grove park upgrades on hold after state suspends grants
Construction on a Buffalo Grove park renovation project scheduled to wrap up by May has been halted with the suspension of a state park grant that was earmarked for the project.
The redevelopment of Willow Stream Park is one of 72 projects statewide that was awarded money from the Department of Natural Resources Managed Open Space Land Acquisition and Development program as recently as January.
Those grants, totaling $26 million, were suspended by Gov. Bruce Rauner in an effort to address the "fiscal crisis that the governor inherited," his office said.
While many of the projects awarded grants by former Gov. Pat Quinn were in the planning and design stages, Willow Stream Park is one of the few with shovels in the ground.
Rauner's office also suspended a $1.7 million grant for redevelopment of the park district's Community Arts Center and $51,000 grant for a new gas station exhibit at the Raupp Museum, the latter of which is under contract and was scheduled to begin last Monday.
"While I'm not happy about it, I can somewhat understand the governor putting projects that have yet to begin on hold. However, to say we cannot finish a project that we were awarded in 2013 and began construction on last year is extremely detrimental to our community," said Ryan Risinger, the park district's executive director, in a news release.
As it stands today, the Buffalo Grove park at 651 Old Checker Road has a number of construction materials on site and fencing around projects in progress.
Foundation and underground work is largely complete, but still to be done is construction of a shelter with a performance stage, a warming house near an ice-skating rink, improvements to pathways and landscaping, according to Mike Terson, the park district's spokesman.
Construction began late last summer, was on hiatus during the winter, and was set to restart this month, until parks officials received a letter from the Department of Natural Resources to "immediately cease incurring additional obligations, costs or spending for which grant reimbursement would be sought until further notice."
Quinn's administration awarded the $400,000 grant in May 2013. The park district is paying the remaining $418,000 project costs with its capital funds.
Terson said the district wouldn't be able to cover the state portion since those funds weren't budgeted.
"We're absolutely dependent on grant money. Like any other governmental entity, we have to budget our money. We can't spend money we don't have," Terson said. "While we grow a lot of trees, none of them grow money."
The park renovations were to wrap up in time for summer concerts and other park programming, which likely will be canceled, officials said.
Terson said district officials are also concerned that the district could be sued by the construction firm hired to do the work for breech of contract.
Parks officials have contacted Rauner's office to oppose the cuts, and they're also consulting with the Illinois Association of Park Districts and a risk management agency about possible next steps.