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updated: 1/9/2014 6:03 PM

Batavia seeks money for study of riverside

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  • Batavia is seeking federal money to help study the needs of the Fox River, particularly its banks, as it flows through the downtown.

       Batavia is seeking federal money to help study the needs of the Fox River, particularly its banks, as it flows through the downtown.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer, July 2013

 
 

Batavia is asking Kane County again for money to study the shoreline of the Fox River through its downtown.

This time, it is asking for federal money, as the county gets ready to dole out Community Development Block Grant funds in April.

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Last year the city unsuccessfully sought county riverboat casino fund money for the project.

The council approved the CDBG application Monday.

The grant money is supposed to help towns improve the lives of moderate- and low-income residents. It can be used for items including emergency shelter, improving public infrastructure, improving public facilities such as parks and community centers and planning. The county Community Development Commission will review applications in March, and the county board usually votes on its recommendation in April. The county expects to have $1.1 million available.

Batavia, working with the Batavia Park District, intends to study how it can improve the riverbanks, including fighting erosion and extending recreational trails. The city estimates the study could cost $130,000. It is asking the county for $50,000, will supply $30,000 of in-house engineering, and will ask the park district to share the remainder of the cost. The city could use property taxes from its tax-increment financing district fund to pay for it.

Alderman Nick Cerone had a few questions, including whether the city would be able to do any work, given that much of the land is privately owned.

City Administrator Bill McGrath said stabilization of the riverbanks would likely benefit the owners of private property, particularly when they try to sell or redevelop their land. He also noted that a sanitary sewer in a riverbank in back of a strip mall is in danger of being exposed by erosion.

"It's (the riverside) not visibly crying for help, but it is going to become an issue someday," McGrath said.

A 2010 committee report about improving the downtown said the river was underused as an attraction, and that in spots it is hard to see the river. Mayor Jeff Schielke has been on a campaign to remove invasive nonnative vegetation, including at one spot down by the city's sewage treatment plant.

There's still the issue of what to do with the crumbling north dam, but McGrath said the study would not address that. Voters said "no" to tearing out the dam in a 2003 advisory referendum.

Alderman Michael O'Brien favored applying for the grant, and improving the riverfront. "We've got to think bigger and think future," he said.

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