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Local

State budget mess shouldn't impact Sterling schools trail project

Park district says work on track to be finished by end of month

STERLING – The Sterling Park District should wrap up work on its grant-funded school trails project before the state's budget situation can throw up a roadblock.

Although most of the project is funded by federal grants, the Safe Routes to School program is administered by the Illinois Department of Transportation. Two grants were received for the project, in 2009 and 2012, totaling $578,000.

Parks Executive Director Larry Schuldt received notification from IDOT Wednesday that, without a state budget by the end of the month, the agency would be unable to reimburse state or federal funds for the trail project for any work done after June 30.

"We've been reimbursed for most of the grants we've received in the past, but for this one, the construction company bills the state," Schuldt said.

IDOT awards construction and engineering contracts for the federal trails grant program, and the agency has stopped awarding them until an appropriations bill is approved. If the budget gridlock continues into July, IDOT warns that it could result in a stoppage of work on projects that have already started.

Luckily, the park district should dodge those potentially dire situations.

The trail will extend from the corner of Sixth Avenue and Lynn Boulevard to Franklin Elementary School, and then from Lynn to Challand Middle School. The first phase was completed last fall, and the second phase started when the school year closed.

"I'm assuming the rest of the work can be done in 2 weeks, so we shouldn't have anything to worry about," Schuldt said. "The sidewalks are up at the school, we're starting to pour concrete, and the asphalt is pretty much done."

Project delays led to the decision to split the project into two parts, so the workers wouldn't be in the way while school was in session.

Thanks to the delays, inflation took a toll on the project budget, and the park district had considering writing another grant. To keep the project moving, the park board passed a resolution allowing the park district to make up the difference on any cost overruns. After adding the engineering costs, the park district will have to pick up about $35,500.

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