ANNAWAN -- State and local officials celebrated the groundbreaking for a new $750,000 community center Sunday at Howes Park.
Construction on the 5,000-square-foot building, which has been in the works more than five years, will begin within two weeks, and it should be open by next spring, Mayor Kennard Franks said.
The village of about 900 residents has pledged $200,000 to the project, Patriot Renewable Fuels is giving $50,000 and the state of Illinois is granting $70,000 from a 2009 capital bill. A public fundraising campaign recently began.
The state-of-the-art building will replace a deteriorating downtown community center that has a leaking roof and other structural problems, the mayor said.
"If it wasn't a community-owned building, it would be condemned," Mayor Franks said.
Building committee member Maralyn Guthrie said the restrooms "are a disgrace," and there's very little parking. It's used by several groups and for family reunions and other community activities. A shelter, small playground and war memorial also are on the grounds.
State Sen. Darin LaHood (R-Dunlap) and State Rep. Don Moffitt (R-Gilson) attended Sunday's groundbreaking.
"Things like this don't happen overnight. It takes planning, work and foresight," Sen. LaHood said.
Rep. Moffitt said the new center will improve Annawan's quality of life, and praised Mayor Franks for his "patience and persistence."
"One thing I'll say about Kennard, at least he has a vision, and he's doing something," said Henry County tourism director Cathy Foes, a resident of Annawan. "Quality of life is very important, for current residents and to attract future residents."
The new center will boost 20-acre Howes Park as a regional destination and make the whole complex more attractive, she said. The building will include 1,690 square feet of gathering space for receptions and other events; a 556-square-foot fitness/workout area, with treadmills and other equipment; a meeting room, kitchen and storage.
The park will get $500,000 in other improvements, partially funded with a $267,700 state grant from the Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development program, to expand outdoor recreation opportunities across Illinois.
Park improvements will include a 0.6-mile paved walking trail with fitness stations, a ball diamond (the park's third), new fences and lighting, plus other outdoor facilities.
Mayor Franks said Annawan has spent about $12 million during the past decade in capital projects, such as road, sewer and water improvements.
"One thing about the Quad-Cities (major cities), they understand about reinvesting in their communities," Ms. Foes said. "We're rural, but we also have to invest in our community."
Donations to the Annawan community center project are tax deductible and can be mailed to Howes Park Community Center (HPCC), P.O. Box 282, Annawan, IL 61234.
Today is Monday, July 28, the 209th day of 2014. There are 156 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: Port Byron passengers and mails will be transported by the Sterling and Rock Island railroad. 1889 -- 125 years ago: The congregation of the First Methodist church worshiped in Harper's theater, where construction work is being done at the church site. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Three-eye baseball for Moline was assured the Danville Franchise will be transferred to the Plow city. 1939 -- 75 years ago: Roseville Methodist Church is observing its 100th anniversary. 1964 -- 50 years ago: The last remaining unfinished portion of Interstate 80 between the Quad-Cities and Joliet will be opened to traffic by Aug 12. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Of all the highlights of the last 12 years, this is the greatest of all, said Dennis Hitchcock, producer director of Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse, as he torched the mortgage, clearing a $220,000 loan financing the downtown Rock Island theater's beginnings in 1977.