Rauner announces $6 million well for Quincy; purchase of nearby nursing home close

QUINCY, Illinois (Illinois News Network) -- More than three years after the start of a Legionnaires' disease outbreak that killed 13, the city of Quincy is getting a $3 million grant from the state that the governor says will help residents of the city and the Quincy Veterans Home get cleaner water.

Gov. Bruce Rauner announced the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency grant to Quincy from the Build Illinois Bond Fund, which officials said is meant for water projects.

The new water supply the state grant will help pay for will be a groundwater well, not water directly from the Mississippi river. Rauner said that has its advantages.

The city of Quincy is poised to spend an additional $3 million on the project for a total cost of $6 million. Rauner said the project will be done this summer.

State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit heard the news while in Springfield. A veteran, Kifowit, D-Oswego, said she was pleased to hear there's a plan and that the project is moving forward, but questioned why it took so long.

“I think any and all help we can give to Quincy is needed and necessary,” she said. “I just question that it’s now three-and-a-half years after the fact. Where has all this initiative been?”

Jordan Abudayyeh, a spokesman for Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker in the November election,  called the steps Rauner is taking "too little, too late."

“While Bruce Rauner unveils his too little too late ‘next steps,’ questions remain about his fatal mismanagement in Quincy,” said Abudayyeh. “Whether it’s his administration admitting their own failure to notify employees or a cynical attempt to shift blame on a combat Veteran U.S. Senator, Bruce Rauner must answer for his fatal mismanagement and years-long cover up.”

Rauner, who faces Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker in the November general election, said political finger-pointing distracts from ensuring proper care for the state’s veterans.

In announcing the state grant, Rauner adviser Mike Hoffman said state lawmakers now have a plan filed at the legislature to go even further.

“[Senate Bill 3611] is a standalone capital appropriations bill for up to $230 million to support the building of the new world class facility,” Hoffman said.

The bill was filed Wednesday afternoon.

Hoffman said he couldn’t go into details about the negotiations, but said his team should be closing on the Sycamore nursing home as a temporary facility for the Quincy veterans to move to while they await the new construction.

Kifowit said the focus on Quincy is good, but said the state can’t neglect other veterans facilities around the state.

“We need to make sure that we’re properly taking care of our veterans, making sure that this scenario doesn’t happen in any other facility,” Kifowit said.

Rauner urged lawmakers to approve the design-build process, a procurement process that combines the design and building phases of construction as a way to speed up construction and reduce costs.

The governor said he planned to stay overnight Wednesday in Quincy to visit and celebrate with the veterans. Rauner stayed at the Quincy home earlier this year in an effort to better understand how things work there.