A Growing Need for Assistance
Around 1976, the North Central Illinois counties of Bureau, Stark, Putnam, and Marshall were beginning to experience an increase in activity and problems in the areas of housing and community development within their rural communities. At that time, these four counties were among only a few clusters of counties in the state not served by some sort of single-county or multi-county planning agency to address some of these rising problems. As a result, the counties were chosen to become part of the Illinois area wide Project, a two-year housing and community development demonstration project. This project provided technical assistance and increased state and federal activity in this four-county area to deal with housing and community development problems.
As the two-year project neared its end, the heightened level of technical assistance services that were provided through the program began to decrease. Local government officials were faced with the same problems that were apparent two years prior. They began to realize that joint community efforts based upon sound planning would provide long-term mutual benefits within the four-county region. The formation of an area wide planning organization would be able to maintain the momentum that was gained in dealing with the housing and community development problems within the rural communities and help to assure that local officials continued to receive the same level of technical assistance to which they became accustomed to through the previous demonstration project.
The Beginning Steps
In 1978, a four-person steering committee was formed to address the possibility of a newly-formed planning agency to serve the area. One constant driving force behind the committee was the possibility that one of the four rural counties could be drawn into one of the adjacent, metropolitan-oriented planning jurisdictions such as the Chicago agency (Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission), Peoria agency (Tri-County Regional Planning Commission), or the Quad Cities/Rock Island agency (Bi-State Regional Commission). The steering committee agreed that the four-county area would be better served by developing its own planning capacity with a rural focus rather than joining one of the surrounding, more urban-oriented planning jurisdictions.
Formation of the Council
In October 1978, a preliminary meeting of interested parties was convened to discuss the possibility of forming a regional council of governments. The meeting was attended by three staff members from the Illinois Department of Local Government Affairs (DLGA), today called the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs (DCCA). The Steering Committee decided that a Council of Governments would better serve the area because Councils are comprised of all governmental units within a prescribed area, while planning commissions are entities of county government. By June of 1979, grant dollars were found to begin the Council, locate office space, and hire professional staff. The Council took on the name of the North Central Illinois Council of Governments (NCICG). In October of 1979, NCICG located in the City of Princeton in Bureau County and began offering its professional services to the surrounding communities.