Harrisburg receives federal grant to fight future floods

HARRISBURG — Leaders in Harrisburg say a federal grant to battle flood waters will bring in business for years to come.

The Delta Regional Authority has awarded Harrisburg $84,000 to repair a pump station that has caused flooding issues for years.

“Just this investment, dollar for dollar, is one of the better investments that’s been made in the city of Harrisburg in quite some time,” said Harrisburg Mayor Dale Fowler.

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City officials call this a game changer for local flood protection. The pump station set to be repaired is notorious for clogging when heavy rains hit, ultimately causing flood water to back flow into the city.

It’s caused hefty damage at many local businesses for years.

“It was actually 12 inches deep in this building. We were closed at least five days,” said Gerrett Joiner, referring to damage to his business from 2008 flood waters.

Joiner owns Southern Illinois Workwear and Outdoor in Harrisburg.

Flood waters have left their mark on Joiner’s business for more than a decade. His plans to expand and add jobs in Harrisburg, have been on hold for just as long.

“It just puts things on the back burner. Do you want to sink more money in a second ship? Invest more money in a building that floods? Who’s going to want it?” Joiner said.

The repair will allow city employees to help prevent a pump on the west side of town from clogging, by making a mechanical fix to screens on the pump that improve water flow.

“It kind of eases the mind that those flood waters are going to be able to leave the city at a greater rate now,” Fowler said.

Fowler expects the repair to help calm concerns about future flooding and attract more business to the area.

“It’s two-fold. It’s retention and creation of jobs,” Fowler said.

Fowler says flood waters have threatened jobs and stalled local business expansion.

“They’ve all said that if we flood again, we’ve got to go, and that’s understandable,” Fowler said.

But with a grant coming in to start fixing that problem, attitudes have started to change.

“We’ve been thinking of adding about 2,500 square feet onto the east end of the building and bringing in more product,” Joiner said. The expansion would allow him to add jobs.

Harrisburg city leaders hope to have the repairs completed by this summer.

Several other southern Illinois towns also received funding. Energy was awarded just over $300,000 to reconstruct East College Street. Sparta was given $100,000 to help Spartan Light Metals expand their business.

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