Gifford hoping for share of state tornado relief fund

Gifford hoping for share of state tornado relief fund

GIFFORD — Officials in Gifford are hoping to get a share of the $45 million relief fund for tornado-ravaged communities that has been assembled by Gov. Pat Quinn's administration.

Village board members Thursday night reviewed a list of $2.6 million in projects and costs facing the northeast Champaign County community in the aftermath of a Nov. 17 tornado. The same outbreak affected several other communities in the state, including Washington and East Peoria, as well as rural parts of Vermilion and Douglas counties.

Also Thursday, board members decided to test the village's two remaining emergency sirens at 10 a.m. next Tuesday, March 11. Earlier this week the emergency sirens in Gifford failed during the statewide spring tornado drill.

Dave Bletscher, the village's emergency management director, told board members that technicians believe the problem has been fixed and that the sirens will operate when tested.

Meanwhile, board members looked over a long list of bills and costs facing the village after the tornado, including expenses related to debris removal, emergency protection, street and sidewalk replacement, culvert repairs, roadside ditch rehabilitation and replacement of the village hall and maintenance shed.

Even if the village gets some state aid for infrastructure replacement, some of the projects could be several months or years away from completion, board members said.

"We haven't really opened it for much discussion but I think most people agree that the last thing we're going to do is build a maintenance shed and a new town hall," said village boar member Dustin Ehler. "That's going to be on the back burner until everything else is taken care of."

Since the tornado, village board meetings have been held at a conference room at the Gifford State Bank, and village shops and offices scattered around the town in temporary locations.

The board also learned that work on the village's replacement water treatment plant, which was nearly destroyed in the tornado, will begin around April 1. Ideally, they were told, it will be completed in mid-June. The $587,000 project will be covered almost entirely with proceeds from insurance.

"I think the thing that most people are concerned about now," said board member Angie Jones, "is their water. They don't really care where we're holding our board meetings and where we're housing our offices."

In a separate project the village is still waiting to hear whether it will qualify for a federal grant to replace its old water tower, also heavily damaged in the storm.

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