City officials announced Thursday they had been awarded an Environmental Protection Agency grant.

The city will receive $750,000 from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to assist with the construction of an environmentally-friendly parking lot at Danville High School. The city submitted the grant application in December.

The city also applied for a grant, up to $750,000, for Koehn Creek drainage improvements, but it did not receive that grant.

City engineer David Schnelle said the high school project was identified as a Midtown Tax Increment Financing improvement project.

“We identified some areas — hot spots,” Schnelle said about gateways to the community to improve infrastructure and aesthetics.

The grant for the DHS project is to assist with the costs of storm water/water quality improvements around DHS.

“We’ve been working with the school district for a couple of years now (after the Midtown TIF District was created in 2005) to implement (improvements) in stages as funding is available,” Schnelle said.

The funds from the TIF District can be used to help improve the appearance and infrastructure in the midtown area to encourage economic investment and re-development.

The DHS campus was targeted in the TIF plan as a high priority improvement since it is one of the major community attractions.

The grant was prepared by city storm water expert, professional engineer Sam Cole.

Cole is in charge of the city’s federally-mandated National Pollution Discharge Elimination System program, which deals with water quality issues.

Cole was the recipient of the 2010 Illinois American Public Works Association Engineer of the Year award for his work on the Voorhees and Hazel streets projects.

According to Cole, “We felt the project had a strong possibility of being funded because it partnered two public agencies and has strong educational opportunities with the high school science programs.”

The grant will be used to help with the re-construction of the southern high school parking lot.

The most recent concept plans for the lot include a green overflow parking area along Hazel, that can be used as a practice field for marching band or other activities when not needed for parking.

Other items include using environmentally-friendly pavements and landscaping to allow water to pass through them into a granular filter below that cleans the water before releasing it back to the storm sewer system.

Design will begin in the fall with construction starting as early as the summer of 2012. Grant goals include both improving water quality and reducing erosion by slowing the rate at which water is released during rain events.

The 20 percent city funding match will come from the Midtown TIF funds and in-kind services, including engineering design and construction.

The grant award comes after a traffic study funded through the Danville Area Transportation Study.

The traffic study came up with alternatives to separate buses, cars and pedestrians at the high school campus. The recommendations from that study will be incorporated into the final design of the parking areas.

“I am extremely excited about this project and this most recent grant,” said Mayor Scott Eisenhauer in a press release.

The engineering department has successfully solicited $4 million in grants in the last year alone including $3 million for the Fairchild Subway project, $1.2 million for the Lincoln Park Shared-Use Path, and now this EPA grant.

“This shows the impact quality people can have for our community, and I am proud to say that four of the engineers working on these projects are Danville High School graduates (who) have returned to Danville to make it a better place to live and work,” Eisenhauer said.

Danville School District 118 Superintendent Mark Denman also said in the press release, “We are very pleased to hear that the city’s grant application to construct an environmentally-friendly parking lot at (DHS) has been approved.”

He said the city has been working proactively with the school district to improve the pedestrian/vehicular safety, aesthetics and functionality of the DHS campus in conjunction with traffic studies and grant applications.

Besides providing a better site for the marching band to practice, the additional parking will be a big plus for all school patrons as will the revitalized landscape, Denman said.

Concept plans and more information can be found on the city’s public works website at http://www.danvillepublicworks.org.

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