Friday, September 5th, 2008
By Janie Southard
Rockford plans how to spend $2 million in grants
  ROCKFORD - It's been a good year for grant money in this county village with the total bumped to around $2 million by the recent $400,000 award in state money.
"This opens up a lot of projects for us," said Village Administrator Jeff Long of the new combo grant including $300,000 in neighborhood revitalization state funds and another $100,000 from the village share of the county's Community Development Block Grant.
Long, who has devoted a lot of time to grant applications, talked with the newspaper in his village office this week and named a list of village objectives beginning with various improvements to the Rockford Community Center, which was built in 2002 by 101 volunteer workers, companies and donations.
Arriving at the center northwest of downtown, he pointed out one of the first project series to get underway next spring: a landscaped retaining wall to dress up the center as well as a sidewalk around the center reaching out to U.S. 33.
"The center can accommodate about 500 people and it's booked almost every weekend with wedding receptions, anniversaries, fundraisers and so forth. I think the improvements we have in mind will really enhance its appearance," he said as a small group buzzed around with roses and lattice screens getting the center ready for a Saturday wedding reception.
Also on the list is the new water treatment plant, which has been on the drawing board for several years. The plant is slated for the old school site and will be bid out by the end of the year. Maximum capacity of 420,000 gallons per day is a significant increase over the current capacity of 280,000 daily gallons.
Some grant money will go toward the $2 million plant.
Another project to benefit from grant money will likely be the new swimming pool, plans for which are currently being studied by the Rockford Area Development Corporation, a volunteer group of about 50 residents Long organized a few years ago.
The pool was not even opened this past summer for a number of reasons. "It just wasn't viable to open. It leaks for one thing. A liner would have been about $120,000 and it's still not deep enough for kids to dive," Long said of the almost 40-year-old swimming pool, which will be demolished in the spring.
Volunteers are a big part of what makes Rockford tick, he added. They've made tremendous improvements and continue to do so. "We couldn't do half the things we do without them," he said.
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