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Funds for Taft statue not part of new budget

Demmer says he is frustrated by the delay

The Black Hawk statue appears to be doomed to spend another year shrouded in black plastic.

State Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) said Friday that a $350,000 grant earmarked for repairs to the Black Hawk statue may not be funded by the state legislature until the 2018-19 budget.

Hopes were high that the grant, from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, would be part of the recently passed 2017-18 budget.

However both Demmer and an IDNR official said that didn’t happen.

“Grant funding was not included in the budget that was just passed,” Demmer said. “That’s basically unresolved. It wasn’t appropriated this year.”

IDNR Director of Communications Ed Cross said Friday that the new budget did not include capital projects, which is where repairs to the statue falls.

“What was passed was an operational budget, not a capital budget,” Cross said. “That’s why we haven’t been able to resume anything. Once we get a capital budget passed by the General Assembly then we can begin looking at that [the statue repairs].”

Demmer said he backed an earlier budget bill that included capital projects, but it failed to gain approval.

He said a bill for capital projects could still be brought up, but it may be next year until it gets another look from state legislators.

In the meantime, he said he is working with the IDNR and the Illinois Historical Preservation Association, which is now under the IDNR, to find other resources, hopefully from outside the state, to fund the statue repairs.

Demmer said he is frustrated by the delay in getting the repairs started on the 106-year-old landmark created by sculptor Lorado Taft as a tribute to Native Americans. It was unveiled and dedicated in 1911.

“I don’t want to give up because this got caught up in the budget mess,” Demmer said. “I think we’ve got to look fro everything and anything we can. Time is of the essence here.”

The 50-foot statue, which sits on a 125-foot bluff overlooking the Rock River at Lowden State Park, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2009. 

The ravages of weather and time have taken a toll on the concrete monument, which draws thousands of visitors each year. 

Over the years, despite numerous repair efforts, parts of the statue have crumbled and fallen off. Winter weather has been especially devastating.

Last November, a team from Quality Restorations, Inc., Wood Dale, spent three days wrapping the 50-foot concrete monument in 12 millimeter thick dual-layered polyethylene, padded underneath with blankets, and tied on tight with a half-mile of elastic rope.

For the previous two winters it was encased in a scaffolding covered with green mesh, put in place by then conservator Andrzej Dajnowski from Conservation of Sculpture & Objects Studio, Forest Park.

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