(Chicago) – Insider: It doesn’t happen often. So, when it does, it’s news.
Southern Illinois political leaders heaped praised on Governor Pat Quinn on Sunday.
Quinn visited areas of Downstate Harrisburg that were devastated by a February 29, 2012 tornado to view the reconstruction that was aided by $8.8 million in state assistance following the disaster.
“We appreciate the governor’s attention to the region and the residents of Harrisburg, especially after his request for federal disaster relief was denied,” State Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) said. “State resources were deployed on the ground to respond to the damage and helped assist the many residents who were without power or homes.
Quinn ordered the state assistance to address the widespread destruction caused by the storms in late after the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied his request for federal disaster aid. Despite the Governor’s state disaster declaration, the southern Illinois storms did not qualify for federal disaster aid based on existing guidelines.
“Governor Quinn told me that he had not forgotten southern Illinois and Harrisburg, and that he would continue to get help for us,” Harrisburg Mayor Ron Crank said. “He kept his word, and thanks to Governor Quinn and his staff, Harrisburg has been put back together.”
Harrisburg’s ex-mayor, Eric Gregg, who held the post during the tornado, also gushed over Quinn.
“We are honored to have Governor Quinn back in Harrisburg,” Gregg said.
“He has been a true friend to our community and area, and we want to personally thank him for helping us put this community back together and moving us forward. Without Governor Quinn’s leadership and commitment to Harrisburg and southern Illinois in the aftermath of the 2012 Leap Day Tornado, we would still be picking up the pieces. We are back, thanks to Governor Quinn and his great staff.”
State assistance helped individuals, businesses and local governments in Gallatin, Randolph, Saline, Union and Williamson Counties recover from the deadly series of tornadoes. This assistance included:
- The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity awarded $5,529,438 in grants to the city of Harrisburg to reconstruct 10 homes, rehabilitate 32 homes, reconstruct water and sewer lines, make street repairs, repair a senior citizens center and firefighting equipment and start the planning process to improve the city’s sewage treatment plant.
- The Illinois Department of Transportation reimbursed several local governments a total of $1,752,662 for costs incurred in debris removal, infrastructure work or traffic control issues. The amounts included $1,587,686 for the City of Harrisburg, $84,518 for Williamson County, $36,235 for Saline County, $30,000 for the Village of Ridgway, $10,000 for Union County, $2,723 for Gallatin County and $1,500 for Carrier Mills.
- Illinois Department of Transportation employees performed debris removal, repair work, supply delivery and other services in the affected areas. The value of the 3,259 hours of equipment use and 3,072 hours of employee labor has been placed at $286,506.
- The Illinois Housing Development Authority committed $1 million in low-interest loans to renovate or replace 24 damaged homes.
- The Illinois Emergency Management Agency awarded local governments $250,361 to reimburse them for 75 percent of eligible cleanup and recovery costs. This included $151,593 to the City of Harrisburg, $47,332 to Williamson County, $27,845 to Saline County, $19,955 to the Village of Ridgway, and $3,635 to the Egyptian Health Department.
Not all Southern Illinois politicians in the region, however, could bring themselves to offer thanks to the governor. State Senator Gary Forby (D-Benton), a Quinn critic who is routinely targeted for defeat by Illinois Republicans, pointedly ignored the governor in his comments.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Southern Illinois is home to some of the most kind-hearted folks in the state, and that kindness was on full display after the tornado struck,” Forby said. “Friends, neighbors and volunteers from all over the region came together to help clean-up and rebuild.”
Still, Quinn snagged enough praise during his Harrisburg visit from key Southern Illinois politicians about his commitment to the region to power a swirl of TV ads to bolster the governor’s reelection campaign.
It was $8.8 million well spent.
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