When the Illinois General Assembly earlier this month passed a $45 billion infrastructure plan, lawmakers included hundreds of thousands of dollars to help pay for special projects in both Brookfield and Riverside.

Both villages will be receiving $200,000 from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) to put toward road improvements, but even larger grants will help fund other projects identified by local officials as deserving state aid.

The state has pledged $250,000 through DCEO to help pay for costs associated with replacing the fountain at Veterans Memorial Circle at Eight Corners in Brookfield.

Just last month, village officials publicly discussed options for either repairing or replacing the existing fountain at Veterans Memorial Circle, and it now appears the village plans to replace the fountain but relocate nine stone memorials from the circle to Veterans Park two blocks south on Grand Boulevard.

Brookfield Village Manager Timothy Wiberg said that there’s general agreement that the circle wasn’t an appropriate location for a memorial that would attract visitors.

“We shouldn’t be incentivizing people to walk out there,” said Wiberg, referring to the circle’s original use as a traffic control device at a location where four streets intersect. Motorists have a difficult enough time navigating the circle without the presence of pedestrians.

Last month, officials estimated it would cost about $250,000 to replace the fountain at the memorial circle with a larger, more impressive fountain, which would include a more powerful, taller spray that would be lit at night.

The cost would cover not only a new fountain but also protection for it. One of the reasons the present fountain is so unimpressive is that it’s suffered damage after being struck by vehicles whose often-impaired drivers failed to navigate the circle.

At this time there’s no particular design or timetable for the fountain’s replacement, and Wiberg said that it’s unlikely any work on the fountain would be completed in 2019.

“We’re changing the whole thrust and focus, so I’m guessing it will not happen this year, but maybe next spring,” Wiberg said.

With respect to the $200,000 grant for street improvements, Wiberg said he would like to get some clarity on just what the village’s options are for using the money. Wiberg said the village had requested $200,000 to replace tennis courts at Ehlert Park, but it’s unclear whether that project would qualify for those funds.

The village submitted other projects for consideration, according to Village President Kit Ketchmark, including sewer repairs, repairing the roof at the public works building and the 31st Street bike route study. Those were not included in the capital bill signed by the governor.

Riverside nets grant for river path

In addition to giving Riverside a $200,000 grant for road improvements, the state has earmarked $350,000 through DCEO for the construction of a new permeable walking path along the Des Plaines River in Swan Pond Park. 

While there’s no particular solution on the drawing board at the moment, said Village President Ben Sells, the long-range goal is to remove and replace the too-narrow asphalt path that was installed in 2012 as part of a regrading of the park by the Army Corps of Engineers after the removal of the Hofmann and Fairbank dams.

“It’s falling apart,” Sells said. “It never should’ve been asphalt because the erosion just eats away at it from underneath.”

Almost from the moment the path was laid, it has suffered repeated damage in flood events, most recently in early May. Sells said any path along the river should be wide enough to accommodate emergency vehicles and should be made from a material that is permeable.

Just how much such a path would cost isn’t clear; officials have not publicly discussed what they feel should replace the existing path.

“We have no idea what the cost to fix it is or how extensive a restoration we’re going to do,” said Sells.

While $350,000 won’t cover the cost for replacing the path, that money could be used as a match for additional grants from other agencies, Sells said. Right now, there’s no timetable for replacing the path.

“None of this money will be spent this year,” Sells said. “It will all be part of the capital discussions we have in August [as part of the 2020 budget planning],” Sells said.

The General Assembly also earmarked $100,000 in its capital bill for “costs associated with improvements to green spaces” in Riverside. There is no specific plan for using that money at this time, Sells said.

“We’re thrilled,” Sells said of the windfall from the state for Riverside. “They really did right by us.”