Elgin picked 10 nonprofit agencies plus the Ride-in-Kane transportation program as this year's recipients of Riverboat grant money during a discussion that verged on becoming heated Wednesday night.
Councilman John Prigge was the lone dissenter in a 6-1 vote at the city council's committee of the whole meeting regarding the disbursement of $250,000 in grants to local nonprofit agencies.
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The nonprofits are: Oak Crest senior residences, Golden Diners program, Ecker Center for Mental Health, Food For Greater Elgin, Boys & Girls Club, Neighborhood Housing Services, YWCA Elgin, Literacy Connection, United Way and Centro de Informacion. A total of 35 agencies applied for the money.
The Ride-in-Kane program for senior and disabled residents will get nearly $118,000 in contingency money from the city's Riverboat fund.
Prigge said the nonprofits do "truly outstanding work," but in a tough economy, they shouldn't remain untouched while taxpayers suffer. "We have made the taxpayers pay while the organizations don't see reductions," he said.
Prigge suggested using half the grant money to replace aging police and fire vehicles, but the idea didn't gain any traction.
"If you don't think that any of these people have felt the pain, you are totally clueless as to what goes on," Mayor David Kaptain said.
Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said the police department is replacing 23 of its nearly 100 vehicles, while Fire Chief John Fahey said his department has five ambulances, and is getting four new ones soon.
With the exception of the Ride-in-Kane program, the grant money that will be allocated is less than each agency requested, councilman John Steffen pointed out.
The total grant dollars requested this year totaled $802,217, including the Ride-in-Kane program, compared to 21 requests totaling $339,105 in 2012.
As of this year, the grant program requires all agencies to apply for the money in a competitive process, councilwoman Anna Moeller said. Decreasing the grant funding amount would be "devastating" to the nonprofits' mission, she added.
Councilman Richard Dunne agreed.
"I feel that this is our responsibility to help these citizens that are challenged mobilty-wise to be able to get out to work, to the doctor, to the store," he said, referring to the Ride-in-Kane program.
Councilwoman Tish Powell pointed out that this year, seniors are not getting property tax rebates from the city.
Kaptain called the nonprofits' services "a lifeline" for those who need it.
"I agree," councilman Robert Gilliam said. "I think it's sad if we didn't support this."
Grants: Dissenting voter suggested giving money to police, fire departments