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CARLINVILLE – The renovation of the seat of Macoupin County government, the Macoupin County Courthouse, is progressing steadily thanks to a $1 million investment through the Rebuild Illinois statewide construction plan.

State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), who currently leads budget negotiations for the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus and served as chairman of the Macoupin County Board from 2003 to 2012, advocated for swift action on this project.

"As a lifelong Macoupin County resident, securing the funding in the state budget for this renovation project was especially important to me. The courthouse is the crown jewel of Carlinville and deserves to be treated as such,” Manar said. “During my tenure as Chairman of the County Board, I came to understand just how challenging it was for the county budget to pay for the needed repairs to preserve the working seat of our government. The county budget can’t handle this expense on its own. So, it is my hope this state investment will both preserve our rich history and help the county board and sheriff continue their work.”

As it stands, the top of the courthouse received three coats of paint while the remaining coats of paint and roof repairs are set to commence in the Spring. Critical repairs to the courthouse roof structure and dome are also being made. The project is being carried out by Joiner Sheet Metal of Highland, Illinois.  Heading up the project is Sheriff Shawn Kahl who is responsible for the maintenance of county buildings and a committee of the Macoupin County Board.

“Being able to witness the progress of the Macoupin County Courthouse restoration project over the past several months has been a blessing for the Carlinville community,” said Sheriff Shawn Kahl, who advocated alongside Manar to fund this project. “The courthouse is a monument to the history of Macoupin County, and I could not be more thankful to Sen. Manar for his continued advocacy on this project’s behalf.”

The Macoupin County Courthouse, nicknamed the “Million Dollar Courthouse” because of its original cost when completed, is one of the largest courthouses in the country. It is also on the National Register of Historic Places and has been named one of Illinois’ great places by the American Institute of Architects. Years of delayed maintenance on the building, however, left it in dire need of revitalizing.

“The improvements to the courthouse provided by this project have been a long time coming," Macoupin County Board Chairman Mark Dragovich said. "A few fresh coats of paint and a new roof go a long way in showing appreciation for such a historic landmark."

“This undertaking represents a monumental change in our county,” County Board Member Harry Starr said. “A new courthouse dome gives the people of Macoupin County something to take immense pride in, and I’d like to thank Sen. Manar for his efforts to make it a reality.”

The project is expected to be completed in the spring of 2021.

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BUNKER HILL – State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) announced an open application period for the second round of Connect Illinois broadband grants to improve access to quality broadband service Downstate.

Manar, who serves as a chief budget negotiator for the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus and chairs the Senate Appropriations II Committee, played an instrumental role in this program’s inclusion in the state budget.

“We made broadband expansion a part of the Rebuild Illinois plan, because we were fully aware of the glaring gap in access to quality broadband services for many Downstaters,” Manar said. “The COVID-19 pandemic shed light on these already existing problems and made them exponentially worse.”

With a $4.2 million broadband expansion grant to Staunton-based Madison Communications, the first round of Connect Illinois grants jumpstarted the process of providing improved access to high-speed internet for approximately 9,283 businesses, farms, households, and other institutions in Macoupin and Madison Counties. This was one of 28 projects that supported over 26,000 new or improved connections throughout the state.

The second round of Connect Illinois grants will allow for up to $5 million per project and calls for a matching component, which requires companies to dedicate funding that will accelerate the delivery of broadband investments.

“We continue to prioritize Connect Illinois because we recognize that reliable internet service is a crucial part of our impending economic recovery and will serve as a solid foundation for small business growth, successful school districts, and top tier hospitals,” Manar said.

Funding for the Connect Illinois program is made possible through Rebuild Illinois, the state’s historic, bipartisan $45 billion statewide construction program, which dedicates $420 million to broadband infrastructure.

The application can be found on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s website and will remain open through February 2021.

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BUNKER HILL – In response to the passing of former Gillespie Mayor Howard Carney, State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) filed a resolution in the Illinois Senate to honor his life and service to Gillespie and Macoupin County.

A retired coal mine manager for Monterey Coal Co., Howard Carney was civic-minded with deep roots in his community. He served the City of Gillespie as an Alderman for eight years and as mayor for 20 years. He was a graduate of Gillespie High School, loved fishing and enjoyed being with his family.

“Mayor Carney’s public service was a testament to what providing for others and your community is all about,” Manar said. “While he spent 28 years dedicated to his neighbors as an official elected, anyone who knew him knows that his service to Gillespie was lifelong.”

Manar, the former mayor of Bunker Hill, said he recognizes the difficult work that local elected officials must tackle.  “Serving as mayor is a challenging task. Many times, it is a thankless job. But, Mayor Carney understood the importance of serving his community and did it for nearly three decades.  That is something we should all celebrate and recognize.”

When the Illinois Senate reconvenes, Manar will present the resolution to the full chamber. 

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GILLESPIE – The Illinois Coal Museum at Gillespie has been awarded a $33,800 grant for projects that include upgrades to the museum’s exterior, structure and signage, State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) announced Thursday.

Manar, who serves as Chair of the Senate Appropriations II Committee, was a driving force behind funding this project.

“The coal industry is part of our rich history in Macoupin County. In many ways, it made us who we are today.” Manar said. “Those stories deserve to be preserved and told to generations to come, and I’m proud to have advocated for funding these crucial renovations to the Illinois Coal Museum at Gillespie in the state budget.”

The grant was awarded through the Illinois Public Museum Capital Grants Program, made possible by Rebuild Illinois, the historic, bipartisan multi-year statewide construction program passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor JB Pritzker in 2019.

“We opened this museum four years ago with the intention of providing a magnet for tourism in Gillespie, while also preserving the history of the coal industry in Illinois,” Ald. Dave Tucker, who serves as Chairman of the museum’s Board of Directors, said. “This grant money allows us to proceed with renovations that keep us in lock-step with the current revitalization project in downtown Gillespie, while also maintaining the museum’s status as our crown jewel.”

In all, 43 museums received a total of $22.8 million in funds. The Illinois Public Museum Capital Grants Program is administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and is open to any museum operated by local government or located on municipally-owned land.

Manar credits the dedicated volunteers of the Coal Museum for their continued work and vision that has made the museum a success: “I want people to know that the state supports Gillespie and Macoupin County. Along with the recently announced $1 million grant to renovate Macoupin Street, I am proud to support the good thing happening in Gillespie, and I will continue to work to make sure the towns of Macoupin County get the support they need for critical projects from State government.”

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