Friday, August 18, 2017

Vienna approves grant proposal requests for infrastructure upgrades

The Vienna City Council conducted two public hearings recently regarding Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity grant applications, which will help fund upgrades to a wastewater distribution infrastructure project and provide qualifying homeowners with home improvement needs.

The two grant application proposals were approved by the city and discussed in two separate hearings held at city hall Friday, Feb. 8.

Crystal Davenport, regional planner for Southern Five Regional Planning District and Development Commission, said the outlook for Vienna to receive an Illinois Community Development Assistance Program grant is good and the city should have its answer by October.

“The grant provides up to 75 percent of the project cost,” said Davenport.  “And, the state has set aside $7 million to fund grants such as this, so if we are awarded the money, it is there.”

The council members approved a resolution of support and commitment of funds in the amount of $137,000 as required by the state to accept the application.  If awarded, as much as $450,000 would be made available for the project that is estimated to cost $570,650.

Council members discussed other possible future projects the city is in need of while commenting on the wastewater distribution project.  Water line replacements were at the top of the list for future projects as one member said, “it was a miracle some lines are even holding.”  Upgrades to Vienna City Park were proposed as well and Davenport said Southern Five’s goal is to help the city receive monies available to bring these projects to fruition.

“We’ve helped them before on grants,” said Davenport, adding that outside of the areas with populations of 50 thousand or more, there is statewide competition for the grants. “It’s geared to the smaller municipalities and counties to help with infrastructure repairs and upgrades.”

Vienna recently completed a new sewer lagoon project and city engineer Brian Ziegler said upgrading the collection system is a natural next step.

“They have a lot of inflow, basically infiltration of storm water that does not need to be treated,” said Ziegler.  “We will be replacing or repairing the system to prevent that storm water from entering the lagoon which will save us money on both pumping and treating wastewater.”

Ziegler said Vienna is not alone in dealing with water collection and sewer issues as many cities in Southern Illinois have sewer infrastructures more than 30 years old.

“It’s something that a lot of towns have struggled with to actually set money aside for while trying to meet their daily needs of operating and maintaining a system,” said Ziegler.  “Then when [the system] reaches 30 or 40 years old, and they need to be replaced or relined, it’s hard to fund.  Obviously this grant money is ideal for it.”

The city council members reconvened for its second public hearing of the day meeting to discuss another Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity grant application in which qualifying homeowners within the corporate limits of Vienna could receive as much as $40,000 in home improvements.

Tammy Campbell, project manager for Shawnee Survey and Consulting, led the discussion and answered questions from the handful of Vienna residents present at the meeting.  Campbell said that the state has up to $5 million in funds for home improvement projects this year and Vienna is applying for $400,000 of it.

“We have a pretty good chance here,” said Campbell, adding that it has been approximately 14 years since the last home-improvement grant was awarded to Vienna.  “There’s a good chance because there is need here, and that is what we include in our application to the state.”

Campbell said she had crew members out in the targeted area conducting surveys that are required by the state and will be submitted along with the application, which Vienna should have its answer to by this summer.

The grant will allow for homes in need to receive repairs and upgrades such as new roofs, new windows and doors, energy efficient appliances, plumbing repairs and even rewiring.

“If we are awarded the grant, everyone in the targeted area will receive an application in the mail and I would encourage each and everyone to fill it out and return it because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Campbell, adding that there is no repayment or “strings” attached to the money.  “It’s completely free.”

Campbell said that if managed correctly, the grant could fund repairs for up to 15 homes in Vienna.

“We should know by June or July if we have the grant and could possibly start work as early as September,” said Campbell.  “We would have two years to complete the work but it is likely we would finish within a year.”

Campbell said the materials used in the home repairs are not the most expensive, but they are not the cheapest either and that the work comes with a one-year warranty.  Campbell said homeowners would play a direct role in such decisions as colors and particular product choices such as types of doors, carpet or appliances.

“Our goal is to improve the home and not just make it look better, but make it safer and more energy efficient for the long haul,” said Campbell.  “We always start with high-dollar items like new roofs, heaters, windows and insulation.”

If granted, Shawnee Survey and Consulting would administer the funds and the projects and Campbell said local contractors should contact Vienna City Hall to ensure they are on the list of available construction crews.

“If we do not get the grant this year, we will apply again next year,” said Campbell, adding that the work to conduct the surveys and putting the grant application together now would only help speed up the process the next time around.

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