Federal officials have authorized a $2.4 million grant for demolition of Gurnee Grade School in a flood-prone area near the Des Plaines River.
As part of the project, wetlands will be created with the idea of sopping up flood water once the school is gone, officials said. Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin announced the Federal Emergency Management Agency flood-protection grant award for the village Tuesday.
"Gurnee's almost 25-year effort at increasing the floodplain has yielded positive results," Durbin said in a statement. "This additional assistance from FEMA will help Gurnee continue that effort and protect the community from future flood damage and the repair costs that come with it."
Last November, voters gave District 56 an overwhelming ballot-box victory by allowing $28.5 million to be borrowed, mostly for construction of the new building that'll replace flood-prone Gurnee Grade School. The new school and administration offices are projected to open in Wadsworth in fall 2012.
Gurnee leaders such as Mayor Kristina Kovarik have said the time has come to remove the 61-year-old school from the flood zone. Major flood-protection efforts most recently occurred in 2007 and 2004 at the school near the Des Plaines River. District 56 Superintendent John Hutton said he was elated to hear the village was awarded the FEMA grant to remove Gurnee Grade after the 2011-12 academic year.
"It's something we've expected for a while," Hutton said.
Hutton said the federal grant will help reduce the bite on District 56 taxpayers. He said proponents of the borrowing plan for the new Wadsworth school encountered skepticism from critics about whether the grant would become reality.
Gurnee village government has been operating a program to remove homes from the Des Plaines River's flood zone, generally north of Route 132 and Kilbourne Road. More than 20 structures have been eliminated over the years, officials said.