Local officials outline capital project needs at Peoria legislative hearing

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PEORIA — Central Illinois’ infrastructure needs amount to far more than roads, a Senate panel heard Monday during a Peoria hearing about local needs in a potential capital construction bill.

And those asking for the investment heard a good deal in return from lawmakers about the importance of identifying ways to pay for the spending — and of employing minority contractors, subcontractors and suppliers.

Requests from local leaders ran the gamut. Peoria Public Schools Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat bragged on the business-savvy nature of AppsCo students in the district who have worked on a project to bring revenue-producing digital signage to Peoria Stadium, a facility the district is hoping to renovate at a cost of $10 million, with half of that coming from the state.

Bradley University’s $106 million business-engineering convergence complex could use $10 million in state funds to fulfill project costs in the second phase that begins this summer, University President Gary Roberts said.

And while Illinois Central College President Sheila Quirk-Bailey pointed to $23 million in potential construction projects and $13 million in deferred maintenance at the school’s three campuses, she also emphasized the importance of building out programs that help improve workforce development.

"I would hope the priority could go to initiatives that could turn around and provide the best rate of return for the state," she said, pledging that with such career-pathway programs, "I can help you grow businesses, I can help you make families self-sustaining."

Curt Oldfield at Spoon River College likewise pushed programs there that he’d like to locate in a $21 million workforce development center.

Meanwhile, though the city of Peoria has increased taxes and fees that go directly to road maintenance, "we’re barely treading water with the $10 million we’re putting into our roads annually," Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich told committee members.

He cited among top city projects a reconstruction of Main Street from Farmington Road to Washington Street, which would "bookend" the new OSF HealthCare headquarters Downtown and Bradley’s convergence facility.

Committee co-chairman Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, repeatedly pressed panelists on what their institutions and governments were doing to ensure they had adequate participation from minority businesses in their existing operations and ongoing projects.

In some instances, those testifying could not provide estimates on those participation levels, or were unfamiliar with voluntary state programs to report that data.

Sandoval suggested he’d be interested in a component in a capital bill that had stricter requirements for achieving set participation levels.

Others, including Quirk-Bailey and Desmoulin-Kherat, suggested other state assistance on that front would be beneficial as well. Quirk-Bailey said aid developing a pool of businesses from whom bids could come was important, while Desmoulin-Kherat said more work is needed in helping minority students break into sometimes-insular trades.

Peoria City Councilwoman Denise Moore pushed lawmakers to include $1.5 million for centralizing workforce training programs under a "one-stop services" facility that would specifically focus on targeting building soft and hard skills and providing career education and training for African-American and other minority workers.

"If we bring folks off the government rolls by having them (pay taxes), that would more than pay for itself," she said.

The hearing was the fourth of eight set for around the state, and the only one planned locally. Future hearings are scheduled in Chicago and the suburbs.

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via East Peoria Times-Courier – East Peoria, IL

April 8, 2019 at 07:46PM

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