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posted: 6/4/2013 5:13 PM

Kane riverboat grant committee to dole out $1.18 million

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So many worthy organizations, so many worthy projects, and only $1 million in riverboat casino funds to dole out.

The Kane County Board's riverboat fund committee narrowed $2.8 million worth of requests to $1.18 million, then decided it would rather dip farther into the riverboat fund reserve than find another $118,000 to which to say "no."

County board member Melisa Taylor, who is not on the committee, suggested cutting a certain percentage across the board from the 41 requests that had survived the first round of elimination. But committee member Kurt Kojzarek said a blanket cut would hurt some recipients worse than others.

Sixty-seven municipal, school, health and charitable entities applied for grants. The money comes from the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, under a 1997 agreement with the county; the fund receives 7.5 percent of net casino income annually.

"A compelling argument could be made to do more (than the $1 million)," said committee chairman John Hoscheit. "We would not be violating our mission."

The grants are supposed to be used for projects that improve the environment, education or economy for Kane County residents, with an emphasis on capital spending over ongoing operational expenses.

Some years, Hoscheit said, the committee seems to have a theme. such as helping food banks or literacy organizations.

The only theme that seemed to emerge this year was if you were a government body, you were less likely to get money. The committee reasoned that many of the projects were things the governments should be paying for out of their budgets. So Sugar Grove will likely get nothing for replacing trees lost to emerald ash borer infestation, for engineering for a traffic light, or for creating a unified development code. Maple Park should be paying for its own skid-steer loader, said committee member Deborah Allan. Geneva won't get anything for its "wayfaring sign program" in the downtown, nor the Geneva school district money for its community intervention program.

The committee initially was inclined to give Kane County $75,000 for its Fit for Kids program, then pulled it back. Hoscheit said it should be considered an internal riverboat-fund grant, which are considered at another time.

"We made this commitment to be external" with the $1 million, he said.

The recommendations now go to the county board's executive committee, which will then make a recommendation to the full county board.

Among the grants recommended was $50,000 to the Geneva Chamber of Commerce for the development of a visitor's center; $50,000 for renovation of the Batavia Riverwalk; $50,000 for repair of a failing foundation at the Joseph Corp. office in Aurora; $100,000 for the Fox River Study Group; $75,000 for expanding the Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry in Aurora; $98,000 for the 4-H program run by the University of Illinois Extension's Kane office; and $50,000 for Court-Appointed Child Advocates.

The Maple Park Library could get $15,000 for accessibility updates, flooring and an outside drop box, and St. Charles could get $65,000 for rehabilitating the main Municipal Center riverside parking lot in a "green" way, as well as beautifying it.

The executive committee meets tomorrow, but these grants are not on the agenda.

The riverboat fund had $16.9 million in it as of Tuesday morning, including this year's revenue of $4.4 million. If the county board approves the recommended internal and external grants, the total amount encumbered would be nearly $7.2 million. That includes previous grants that have not yet been paid out. Recipients may not end up using a grant, for example, if they can't get enough other money to do a project. The grants are paid out when the project is finished.

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