KANKAKEE — In September 2009, Sen. Dick Durbin announced a $500,000 federal grant to pay for wind turbines at Riverside Medical Center to help power the hospital’s new expansion.
During an event at Riverside back then, the Illinois Democrat said, “People will scratch their heads and say, ‘Wind power? Riverside?’”
About a decade later, people still might be scratching their heads. Despite the expansion, there are no turbines.
According to a federal grants database, Riverside never received the money.
Riverside spokesman Carl Maronich said that back then, the hospital used a test wind turbine at its main campus and other properties.
“We realized there wasn’t enough wind to make it valuable, so we returned the grant money and that was the end of it,” he said.
In 2009, the Daily Journal published two stories about the plan for wind turbines at the hospital.
Back then, Durbin said a successful demonstration project at Riverside could lead the way to many low-wind sites at other hospitals and industries.
“It will give Riverside the ability to tap into the wind God has given them,” Durbin said.
That same year, the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation gave Kankakee Community College a $279,0000 grant to buy equipment for its new renewable energy curriculum, the first in the state. The college now has a wind turbine.
Kankakee resident Phil Wagner recently wrote a letter to the Daily Journal, enclosing a copy of a 2009 story about the turbines.
“It’s been 10 years. Was the wind turbine ever built? Where is it? If it wasn’t built, where’s the money?” Wagner asked.
In an interview, he said he has asked officials at the city and county buildings over the years about the status of the wind turbines. He said he was often told the hospital was proceeding with the plan, but had sought no building permits yet.
Because of the confusion, he said he reached out to the newspaper for answers.