Springfield State Journal Register

November 23, 2004

Federal funds to benefit local agencies
Community center, hospitals, schools, museum included


WASHINGTON - A proposed new community center on Springfield's east side will get $750,000 in federal funds as part of a massive spending bill approved by Congress this past weekend.

"That is exceedingly good news," Ernie Slottag, Springfield's communications director, said Monday. "Now that we know this is solid, this will help the rest of it move forward."

The community center is estimated to cost $6 million, but is still in the early planning stages. City officials are seeking other funding sources.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield will receive $5 million for ongoing construction, and the state will get another $1 million to improve access to the library and museum site.

Local hospitals and a Springfield school also are among projects that receive federal funding in the bill, which is to be sent to the White House later this week for President Bush's signature.

Memorial Medical Center will receive $450,000 for a communications system for a nursing program, while Southern Illinois University's School of Medicine Cancer Institute in Springfield will get $100,000 for lab renovations. In addition, St. John's Hospital will receive $75,000.

The Lincoln Magnet School will receive $95,000 for an educational program called "Looking for Lincoln," which is part of plans for celebrating the bicentennial of Lincoln's birthday.

The local funding is contained in a $388 billion spending bill that rolls nine unfinished appropriation bills into one. Congress is behind in funding federal programs for fiscal 2005, which started Oct. 1.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, who are members of the Senate and House appropriations committees, worked together to get many of the Illinois projects included.

But Durbin was one of just two Illinois lawmakers who voted against the bill. The other was Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville.

Durbin's "concern was the process and the way this bill was done," said spokesman Joe Shoemaker.

Durbin and other Democrats were outraged to discover a provision in the huge bill that would allow top congressional appropriators and their staffs to view individual income tax returns. Republican leaders have promised not to send the funding bill to the White House until the House repeals the offending provision later this week. Durbin also objected that Democrats were kept out of the negotiating process, Shoemaker said.

Meanwhile, some taxpayer advocacy groups protested the huge bill as political pork and complained that lawmakers were ignoring the rising deficit.

"Taxpayers have little to be thankful for as members of Congress have helped themselves to the whole hog this Thanksgiving," said Tom Schatz, president of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste.

Other local projects and their funding levels include:

# $320,000 for security improvements at the Paul H. Findley Federal Building in Springfield and $630,000 for other improvements to the federal building.

# $150,000 for the Boys and Girls Clubs to continue educational programs for at-risk youth in partnership with the Springfield public schools.

# $500,000 for a University of Illinois-led consortium to combat West Nile virus.

# $13.86 million for the ongoing Army Corps of Engineers' feasibility study, as well as engineering and design work, on the proposed lock-and-dam expansion plan on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers.

# $250,000 for the city of Lincoln to repair the Pulaski Street sewer line.

# $250,000 for Pathway Services, Jacksonville, for construction of a new respite care facility.

# $250,000 for Illinois College, Jacksonville, for the renovation of Whipple Hall.

# $500,000 for Morgan County for police technology.

# $500,000 for the village of Arenzville for construction of an elevated water tank.

# $250,000 for the city of Virginia construction of a new water treatment facility.

# $350,000 for Beardstown for police technology.

# $32,000 for studies aimed at controlling sediment and restoring harbor access at Beardstown.