Grants for water plant, tower 'big step' for Gifford recovery

Grants for water plant, tower 'big step' for Gifford recovery

GIFFORD — Two federal grants totaling $650,000 will "be a big step for us toward getting our water system back on line," Gifford Mayor Derald Ackerman said Monday as the village received grants to repair its water treatment plant and rebuild its water tower.

The grants came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's rural development program, and will help the northeastern Champaign County village rehabilitate a faulty water system damaged in the Nov. 17 tornado that struck parts of Illinois.

"There's no way we could afford to replace all of this. For a small village this is just unbelievable," Ackerman said as he accepted a replica $650,000 check.

The largest grant, for $500,000, will help restore the water plant on the east side of town that was heavily damaged in the storm.

The grant "means a great deal to the health and safety of this community. It means eventually no more boiling of water," noted Colleen Callahan, the USDA rural development director in Illinois.

Village officials hope to begin rebuilding the water plant in the next few weeks and to complete the project later this summer.

The water tower project will take longer. It involves replacing a 50,000-gallon tank with one almost three times larger. That project won't be completed until sometime next year.

Callahan said the grant award to Gifford, which arrived more than four months after the tornado, was expedited.

"Gifford is the first entity in the nation to utilize rural development's simplified grant process, enabling the city and the residents the ability to recover more quickly," she said.

"Abraham Lincoln once said that the legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people what they need to have done but cannot do so well individually or at all on their own in their separate and individual capacities," she said. "We'd like to think that at USDA rural development we continue to live up to that mission of USDA as the people's agency."

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin issued a statement saying that he was glad Gifford "is receiving some help from the federal government in its recovery," after the Federal Emergency Management Agency turned down Illinois' application for public assistance grants.

"I'll continue working to amend FEMA's formula to make sure communities that suffer severe disasters in the future can access the assistance they need and deserve," Durbin said.

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