Senator Dick Durbin allocates money to Western Illinois University
MACOMB, Ill. (WGEM) – Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin visited Western Illinois University on Friday after earmarking money for the school.
Durbin got $2 million to help create a permanent emergency operations facility. This will allow them to replace their temporary at Tanner Hall.
“They will have the tools at their disposal to teach the next generation to improve what we do,” Durbin said. “So it’s an investment in education, it’s an investment in those communities.”
McDonough County Emergency Services Director Edgar Rodriguez said the new Currens Hall facility will be a backup for the state’s emergency operations center. The university can train students in emergency management with state-of-the-art equipment.
Rodriguez said the new center will also provide security and information to residents in the event of an emergency.
“We’ve had a few tornadoes already in the season here in McDonough, so it’s important to have those forecasts, so if we have those affected communities, what cost is that going to be in the rebuilding part?” Rodríguez said.
Rodriguez said it will also bring more jobs to the area.
“It drives the economy up,” Rodriguez said. “We’re going to have people here for training and we need to move the community forward.”
Rodriguez said the total project would cost around $8 million, so they’re still looking for additional funding. He said construction could take three or four years.
Durbin has earmarked an additional $200,000 to tackle local food deserts. A food desert is an area where fresh food is not accessible or affordable.
Sean Park of the Western Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs said many grocery stores that sell fresh foods no longer exist in smaller communities.
He said the Durbin posting will have many benefits in ending food insecurity.
“Helping these small businesses advertise so they can be sustainable, maybe even helping with some desperately needed equipment in this area, and hiring outside consultants who can handle things like fees legal things that we couldn’t do ourselves,” Park said.
Park said Nauvoo and Winchester, Illinois are two local food deserts.
Durbin said the $2.2 million was needed to improve west-central Illinois.
“It’s money that we sent to Washington that comes back home, and it comes back to Western Illinois University to help with the quality of life in our communities,” Durbin said.
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