Illinois Senator Dick Durbin (D) appeared in Rockford, near the under-repair Jefferson Street bridge, as he urged Congress to pass more transportation funding. But he also took the time to address funding for AAR’s $40 million maintenance hangar project at the Rockford Airport, asking Governor Bruce Rauner to release $15 million to fund the project. The state approved the money late last year, but officials say it was contingent upon the receipt of $10 million in federal funds. Durbin doesn’t have it yet and says that was never the agreement.
“I was there when it happened and I would’ve remembered it if somebody said ‘the whole project depends on you, Durbin, to get ten million in federal funds.’ I would have said, ‘hold on that’s never happened before,’ ” adds Durbin.
AAR Corp, an aircraft maintenance company, has plans to build a 200,000 sq. ft hangar at the airport, a move that’s expected to bring 500 jobs to the area.
But the Department of Commerce officials say Durbin’s involvement was stipulated in the agreement, and state, in a letter to Durbin, “The Department of Commerce requested documentation several times from the airport to confirm that $10 million in federal funding had been received. Unfortunately, the airport has yet to provide any documentation of this commitment ….:
The Senator says it’s an unreasonable stipulation.
“What we do is our best. Sometimes it takes a little longer. For a local unit of government or the state or the federal government to come in with the money they need. But we all have a common goal, and to keep working together and eventually it gets done.”
Rockford Airport’s executive director, Mike Dunn, released a statement saying he has confidence that this will come to a “positive resolution.” But Senator Durbin is concerned that they won’t be able to obtain the federal funds without the state’s support.
“This notion that the state’s gonna withhold its money until all the federal money comes in, it’s going to be very difficult for Congresswoman Bustos and I to secure federal funds with that kind of threat.”