Durbin in Paris to show that "gov't. works"

By:  Dean Curtis
Paris Beacon News

PARIS – U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) helped “cut the ribbon” at the recently-opened Maple Ridge Apartments in Paris Thursday afternoon. More about the alleged “cutting” incident later. The developer of the project was the Laborers’ Home Development Corporation, which is affiliated with the Laborer’s International union.

The senator was introduced by both Laborers’ Home Development Corporation Executive Director Michael Goetz and Paris Mayor Craig Smith, both of whom had high praise for Durbin.

“Senator Durbin stepped in at the eleventh hour to help get the federal money for this development approved,” Goetz said. “We had been trying to get this project off the ground since 2008 and that’s when the economy started to take a downturn. We thought the program was done for. But then, when the federal stimulus money was approved by Congress, Senator Durbin was able to help us get that remaining $5 million that we needed. This is a program — a federal program — that actually works. More jobs were created and now Paris residents have quality, affordable housing that they can be proud of.”

The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) originally invested federal tax credits to the project, which would have generated private equity to build the apartments. However, financing fell through when the country’s economic recession caused the value of tax credits in the financial markets to plunge. The stimulus

funding has helped bridge the financing gap and enabled construction to begin.

Two American Recovery and Reinvestment Act programs President Obama signed into law – the Tax Credit Assistance Program and Section 1602 – have helped bridge the financing gap for many developments statewide to set affordable housing development back on track, the IHDA says.

Smith had a slightly different perspective.

“Every time Paris has needed him he’s been here,” Smith said. “He was here when our sons and daughters were being called off to fight in the Middle East and he took time to explain to us all back here what our young people were going up against and what kind of equipment we had to fight back. And when we really needed him to help us with this project, he was able to do it. This a program that shows that the government can come up with things that do work and do help people. And this is a senator who does work for the people of his state.”

Durbin said that projects like this, to him, are more than just about buildings.

“They’re symbols of what we can do when we all work together for the common good,” Durbin said. “It’s what Abraham Lincoln said when he first got to Washington and saw a then-unfinished Capitol dome. A lot of people suggested to him that the government wait to finish the dome until the nervousness about a possible civil war died down. Lincoln told them, “No, go ahead and build it. It shows that we have something to look forward to, that there will be a tomorrow and that we can get things done.’”

The development features 16 one- and two-story buildings with one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. The developer, Laborers’ Home Development Corp., estimates construction created an estimated 41 jobs. Maple Ridge Apartments includes a community center, playground and a washer and dryer in each unit.

Monthly rent ranges from $305 to $435 depending on unit size and resident income. To qualify as a resident, applicants must earn at or below 60 percent of the average median income in Edgar County, or $30,600 for a three-person household. For leasing information, contact Kara Englum, the site manager, at (217) 466-4942.

To finish the tale of the ribbon, the ribbon did not get cut, and the giant plastic scissors that Durbin used were fake. Kara Englum still has the entire — uncut — ribbon in her possession. Durbin was heard to say while looking at the giant scissors, “You know, I don’t think they’d let me back on the plane if I was carrying this.”