OAKWOOD – Oakwood residents might see an empty lot at the corner of Scott and Main Streets where the Oakwood IGA once stood, but plans are in the works to build a multi-use community center and village hall there.
The Village Board already has hired Champaign architect firm, Reifsteck Reid of Champaign, to draw up the plans for the new facility.
“We’re still in the planning stages,” Mayor Clay Woodard said.
Woodard, however, envisions one facility that would house the village’s offices and boardroom, but that also could be used by community members when not in use by village officials.
“It would be just one facility with a boardroom and a kitchenette,” he said. “It could be used for baby showers and anniversary parties, or they could play euchre and have a cup of coffee.”
Security measures also are being considered as part of the new construction.
“We want security for the village staff. Safety is our priority,” he said.
Initial plans for the community center/village hall were modified last year after the architect estimates for the project came in too high.
The preliminary cost estimate for the new facility was $750,000, so the plans were downsized and areas inside the building were made smaller.
“Right now, it’s a 2,400-square-foot facility, but that could change,” Woodard said.
“We’ve been going back and forth with the plans and making revisions,” he said. “The office staff will be instrumental in this because we want them to be comfortable there.
“We’re trying to hit the $500,000 mark,” Woodard said of the project cost. “It’s a lot of money, but we look at it as a resource in the community and we’re looking at ways to fund it.”
One of the funding sources the village was banking on to help offset the cost of the project hasn’t come through yet.
Woodard said his village expects to receive $50,000 from the state’s Rebuild Illinois program that would be used as a down payment on the community center/village hall project.
In June, the state legislature passed the $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital bill — which is being partly funded by Illinois’ gas tax increase that went into effect July 1 — to support improvement projects across the state.
“We haven’t realized that funding yet,” Woodard said.
“We have the money to make a down payment on it — like 50 percent — and then pay the rest with a loan,” he said. “It certainly would not be a long-term loan.”
Revenue from video gaming is being considered to pay down any short-term loan the village might need for the project.
“We receive $70,000 to $80,000 a year in video gaming revenue,” Woodard said.
Several establishments in Oakwood have video gaming machines including Speedway, Pilot Travel Center, Love’s Travel Stop, the Pit Stop and the Liquor Box.
Once the new community center/village hall is built, the current village hall will become available for another use.
“We haven’t figured it out yet, but I would like to see the (Oakwood) historical society move in there or maybe a barber shop,” he said.
One thing is certain, though. Woodard is eager for Oakwood to have a community center and new village hall. The shuttered IGA grocery store was demolished in April 2018.
“My goal is to break ground in the late spring or very early summer,” he said. “We’re not going to slow down. We’re going to be deliberate and focused on this being built, and we’re going to move this forward.
“We are investing in our community,” he added. “A lot of communities have a community center and we don’t.
“That’s the last thing I want to see through as mayor,” he said of the project.
Woodard doesn’t plan to seek re-election when his mayoral term expires in May 2021 because he would like to spend more time with his family.
“My son Sam is involved in a lot of stuff, and I’ve felt like I’ve done quite a bit for Oakwood,” he said. “We’ve moved things forward, and I want to leave on a positive note.”