DANVILLE — More residents will be able to benefit from an additional $181,616 in COVID-19 funding the City of Danville has received that will help with rental, mortgage and vehicle payments.
The Danville City Council Tuesday night, via teleconference, approved Community Development Block Grant program amendments for $161,616 to help residents and $20,000 for administration costs.
Danville Grants and Planning Manager Logan Cronk said the city also still has about $190,000 in $200,000 in COVID funds for small business assistance grants. The United Way also is continuing to help families.
The area’s COVID-19 numbers also prompted Danville Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. to ask the public to “be safe when out and about as much as possible.”
He said the pandemic has “skyrocketed” in this area with the highest number of hospitalizations seen and more than 10 times as many cases as July.
According to the Vermilion County Health Department, the county has had eight hospitalized and 914 positive cases. There were 79 new cases Oct. 6.
The city council also received a public comment about local banks not having lobbies open due to COVID and long waits and issues at drive-ups.
In other COVID-related action items, the council voted 10-2, with aldermen Aaron Troglia and Rick Strebing voting against it and aldermen Dan Duncheon and R.J. Davis absent, to increase overtime for the fire department by $270,000 from general fund reserves due to COVID cases, injuries and new hire training. Last year, fire department overtime was almost $400,000.
“I hope to God we do not spend that much,” said Fire Chief Don McMasters, adding that they’ve had about five firefighters with COVID.
Williams said there have been expenses out of the city’s control; but aldermen also brought up how the city pays overtime firefighters to burn down houses and have other firefighters ready to go out on calls at those times.
Williams said this saves the city in demolition costs. He also said about $150,000 in COVID funding reimbursements will help with fire department expenses.
“We need to reduce minimum manning,” said Ward 6 Alderman Troglia, also saying 70 percent of the firefighters live outside the city, including one in Indianapolis. “There should be a more efficient way to do this.”
Troglia also voiced concern about three aldermen who have relatives on the fire department who don’t abstain from voting on fire department issues.
In other business, the city council approved appropriating $400,000 in motor fuel tax funds for improvements in the new planned medical campus area that are not being completed by Carle.
The preliminary engineering services agreement is with Hutchison Engineering for the proposed roadway improvements on sections of Madison, Logan, North, Robinson and Lafayette streets.
Williams said Carle now plans a spring 2021 construction start, around April or May, and spring/early summer 2022 opening of Carle at the Riverfront.
City Engineer Sam Cole said this work is to start the engineering phase to improve the city streets remaining in and around the Carle project, with many aged and deteriorated.
Cole said they want to take a logical approach so the “whole neighborhood feels like it works together,” and improvements would be constructed in phases.
“We really want this area to look like something the city and citizens can be proud of,” Cole said about the roadway, sidewalks, street lighting and tree plantings. “We think a prudent and coordinated effort is worthwhile.”
The Illinois Department of Transportation approved removal of the traffic light at Logan Avenue and Main Street, but it won’t be taken out until Logan Avenue is closed off. Traffic on Logan will be rerouted down Madison which will be designed as an urban collector street.
The Madison Street improvements would occur initially, with it taking years for the others, Cole added, saying the city isn’t sure of the damages that could occur on the streets with the construction process.
Also Tuesday, the council approved submitting a grant application seeking up to $2 million through the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program for pedestrian accommodations along North Bowman Avenue and East Voorhees Street. A city funding match for the project is estimated at $400,000.
Cole said they will be 8-foot wide sidewalks, not exactly like a shared-use path due to set backs.
Cole said the grant funds are to asset with widening sidewalks from around Crestview Avenue to Voorhees along Bowman Avenue and filing in a gap along the north side of Voorhees by Heavenly Square and the south side of Voorhees from Griffin Street to Michigan Avenue.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” said Ward 1 Alderman Robert Williams.
“We’ve had accidents and near accidents there on a regular basis,” Mayor Williams said, about keeping people safe and increasingly connected in the city and people to jobs.
Cole also said there’s not really good connectivity to parks to the north and from Holiday Hills to jobs on the east side.
“It starts to create a larger loop of sidewalk access...,” he said.