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DECATUR – The Decatur Park District is waiting to hear whether changes in Springfield could derail plans for a new amphitheater in Nelson Park.

Park district Executive Director Bill Clevenger said the district is awaiting confirmation that it will still receive a $2 million grant from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

The funding, announced in September by then-Gov. Pat Quinn, was to be paired with a $1.5 million donation from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

Clevenger said the park district submitted paperwork related to receiving the grant. However, even though Quinn personally visited Decatur to announce the award, it didn't receive the necessary approval before Gov. Bruce Rauner took office Jan. 12.

“For some reason, it didn't get signed off on right at the end of his administration, so now it's waiting on a signature from the new administration,” Clevenger said.

Clevenger said the district will continue to move forward with early phases of the project, on which construction was expected to begin this summer.

“We're really at a point where we can still do some of the pre-planning, have the conversations with the designers and that kind of thing,” he said. “But as we move forward we're going to need commitment so we can move forward with actual design and begin the bidding process, and then the time line begins to fall in place.”

He said district officials have been in contact with representatives for the department, as well as state Sens. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, and Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet.

“We've had such a good relationship with the state for decades, and I think we have a great history of grant completion in a timely manner that we would anticipate that we would continue to move forward in the same manner that we always have with the state,” Clevenger said.

A more recently awarded grant does appear to be safe. The district received word earlier this month of a $400,000 Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development grant to pay for other additions to the park, including batting cages, a playground and a ropes course near the new miniature golf course, as well as restrooms and a pavilion near the dog park.

That funding, Clevenger said, is confirmed.

“It was a little ahead of the normal planning process, but that's an annual grant cycle that usually takes place this time of the year,” he said. “We feel like that one will be moving ahead.”

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Regional Editor

Regional editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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