Rantoul Drone

A look from above at downtown Rantoul, whose development could get a boost from federal coronavirus relief money.

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RANTOUL — Decisions on where to spend more than $8 million awarded to the village of Rantoul from the coronavirus relief bill Congress passed in March will take some planning, Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer said.

He said he will wait until completion of a village audit in November that will show how the pandemic has affected village programs and services.

“I want to go through and take off the top any lost revenue and make sure they’re made whole first,” Eisenhauer said.

Two areas are likely to include the hotel-motel tax and the recreation department. Another is lost revenue from video gambling when businesses were on lockdown.

The village lost recreation dollars from fewer memberships and lower participation fees and concessions.

Traditional income will be examined from entities such as the Forum Fitness Center, Rantoul Youth Center and rec programs, compared to the amount lost during the pandemic.

“Then we will have internal discussions on where we believe those dollars can be spent and have public discussions about where the public believes those should be spent,” Eisenhauer said.

A spending plan will then be brought before the village board.

Another possible target for some of the federal relief money is a downtown renovation project.

Eric Thompson, owner-operator of the popular ET’s restaurant, has been active in a downtown steering committee that has met for the past several months.

“We’re getting to the point already where we’re looking at actual designs as far as conceptual designs, something real to get building,” Thompson said.

He said the meetings have been well attended, with about 80 percent of members participating.

The committee and village officials were impressed by the turnout at an initial meeting that saw about 75 people show up.

“At the first meeting, the comments were, I think, outstanding, and it really gave some of us who have been thinking about this and working on it in small groups a lot ... to think about,” Thompson said.

While it is “early in the process,” he said he hopes to have the downtown design phase finished around the first of the year and shovels in the ground next spring.

But much of that depends on funding. Grant money will be sought for the project. Federal funds could supplement that.

Eisenhauer said another potential target for relief money is the area surrounding the new sports complex, where economic development has been slowed.

“Had it not been for COVID, I’m very convinced we would be further along in economic development than where we are today,” Eisenhauer said. “We recognize some of that growth has been slowed due to COVID.”

Local governments have until the end of 2024 to budget the federal funding.

Our County Editor

Dave Hinton is editor of The News-Gazette's Our County section and former editor of the Rantoul Press. He can be reached at dhinton@news-gazette.com.

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