Criticism being raised for use of grant money in South Jacksonville

By Gary Scott on September 9, 2015 at 1:20pm

A $250,000 grant from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to the village in 2010 was designated for the Hardin Avenue improvement project, but included in the “scope of work” section was “sidewalk restoration.”

Sidewalks were never put up, and acting Village President Steve Waltrip says they’re not likely to go up in the future.

“In any sort of grant, you always have a list of items that fall within that grant, and the sidewalk was one of the issues, among other things that were done. One of the situations on the sidewalk is, we were concerned if you put a sidewalk in, then you gotta get a boulevard, then you have to turn around and put a 36-inch-wide sidewalk, which would possibly take away from the value or the look of the home, because those homes sit so close to the road, you’d walk out your door, and there’s a sidewalk,” says Waltrip.

“So, it was a committee consensus, I think, that it probably wouldn’t be prudent to do.”|

Waltrip added there would be the need for an engineering survey and easements, which would cost time and money.

The Hardin project was complete in April 2014, but there was still $25-thousand left. Included in a 2013 grant modification request from the village to DCEO are requests for work on a gazebo and a water main fix.

You’ll recall at a committee meeting in August, village trustee Stacy Pinkerton questioned why village employees were spending time on the gazebo, which was suggested as an Eagle Scout project and is going up in Godfrey Park.

Code enforcement officer Wilbur German said the village needs to get work done before the deadline to use the grant money, which is at the end of September.

“I was informed that it’s possible that we could get a month or two extension, should that be the case, and we can go to the trustees and see if we have any other wish list items that would fall within this DCEO grant, and see if we can’t use the funds,” he says.

“We’re hoping that there will be an extension, but a lot of that is based on the heels of the budget and the state, and I think everybody’s pretty well aware of that situation.”

Returning to the issue of sidewalks, the Morgan County Watchdogs organization criticized the use of the funding, saying “it’s a shame there isn’t a safe way to walk to get to the park.”

A total of $16,500 was requested by the village for the gazebo.