DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — Christmas came early for the city. Millionaire Howard Buffett donated $1 million to the community’s revitalization project.
It’s an effort to spruce up abandoned homes. City officials say it will have a huge impact.
“I think all the other mayors in Illinois are going to be jealous.”
You can say that again. The city just got another $1 million grant from local millionaire, and now Sheriff Howard Buffett. In total, he’s given organizations in the area of more than $25 million.
“We are struggling for money so having a major contribution like this is really going to kickstart this and make it a reality.”
Last month, the city held the first of several public hearings addressing dozens of deteriorating homes. But, with only a $300,000 budget, renovations were limited.
“That money could be gone through really fast.”
Now, the budget’s tripled.
“This breathes real life into the program of revitalization because, without this input or Mr. Buffett, we would’ve just had a hope and a dream.”
This is just one of the examples of where the money could be going. Areas lke this used to be thriving middle-class neighborhoods. Now, they look more like ghost towns.
“That’s great. That would help us tremendously.”
Jimmie White has property nearby. For years, he’s seen the neighborhood decline.
“The value of the town is going down.”
Over the course of years, Decatur has lost a chunk of its population. With that loss, came crime.
“I see a dramatic change. Coming form the 90’s, where we used to play to barely seeing kids come outside. It’s rare.”
With this, they’re betting on a turnaround. City officials say it’s a great start.
“We’re going to make things happen and we’re going to be able to change lives.”
The city council will approve the grant next week. It will also host two more public hearings before the end of the year.
The council is using public feedback to determine which neighborhoods to address. There are more than 100 homes on the list to be demolished.
This isn’t the first time Howard Buffett has donated to the city. In fact, he has a long list of generous contributions including the law enforcement-themed exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Illinois and the city’s state-of-the-art fiber optic network.