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No budget is still holding up statue repairs

Tom Demmer working with state agencies

The state’s lack of a funding for capital projects means the a local landmark is still languishing under a wrapping of black plastic.

The 107-year-old Black Hawk statue at Lowden State Park, near Oregon, is spending a fourth winter encased in plastic wrappings for protection from the elements, awaiting much-needed repairs to its deteriorating surface.

“There’s no capital budget yet — that’s what we’re waiting on,” IDNR Director of Communications Ed Cross said on Friday. “That’s the hold-up.”

A $350,000 grant earmarked for repairs to the statue may not be funded by the state legislature any time soon.

Hopes were high last summer that the grant, from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which has jurisdiction over the statue, would be part of the 2017-18 budget.

The General Assembly ended up passing only an operational budget, leaving capital projects like the statue repairs out in the cold.

State Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) offered a ray of hope early this week.

“I’m continuing to work with IDNR and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which is the agency who controls the grant that we’re waiting on,” he said on Monday afternoon.

Demmer’s legislative aide was planning to attend a community group meeting on Tuesday “to gather specific questions and then we’ll get answers to those questions from whatever state agency is appropriate,” he said. “Then our plan is to do a public meeting and share those answers and an update on funding sources and opportunities.”

The state legislature returns to session on Tuesday, Jan. 23, but passage of a capital funding bill seems unlikely.

“There is a possibility we will consider a capital funding bill,” Demmer said. “However, that has been the case for the past few years, and there hasn’t been an agreement on how to come up with the funds needed to pay for the capital projects. So the need for a capital bill is still on the table, and we continue to have discussions about it, but there are still issues to resolve before it could be passed.”

To keep state attention focused on the importance of the Black Hawk statue, Demmer said he plans to introduce a House Resolution expressing support for the statue renovation when the legislature returns to session.

The world-renowned statue was created by sculptor Lorado Taft as a tribute to Native Americans. It was unveiled and dedicated in 1911.

The 50-foot statue, which sits on a 125-foot bluff overlooking the Rock River, 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.

In November of 2016, a team from Quality Restorations, Inc., Wood Dale, spent three days wrapping the concrete monument in 12 millimeter thick dual-layered polyethylene, padded underneath with blankets, and tied on tight with a half-mile of elastic rope.

It has remained shrouded ever since.

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.

Last fall the floodlights illuminating the statue at night were shut off.

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