Joliet city manager suggests Rialto Theatre takeover
In response to supporters’ cries to save the Rialto Square Theatre, Joliet City Manager Jim Hock suggested that officials consider his funding proposal.
During a recent meeting, Hock proposed an idea that would allow the city to takeover the Rialto and its operations to keep the doors open.
“What I propose is adopting a resolution asking our senators, state senators and representatives to introduce legislation that transfers ownership of the Rialto Theatre and their properties to the city,” Hock said. “The city will sell the office buildings that aren’t part of the theatre to the private sector. We’ll pay off all the bills that the Rialto board has approved for payment but have not paid, and we’ll assume the renovation loan obligation of approximately $2.4 million.”
Hock said as many in the city know, a constant mantra they hear is save the Rialto, and officials have done that in a number of ways throughout the last year.
The city advanced a quarterly budgeted amount, valued at $150,000, to the Rialto Theatre in March. That action allowed $110,000 of that to be paid directly to the state and federal government for unpaid payroll taxes.
In April, Joliet officials asked the Rialto board for access to their financial information before any additional funds could be released; they refused. The city took action later that month to save the Rialto by paying for two scheduled performers that would’ve canceled their shows and left ticket holders without a refund.
In August, the Rialto board selected a third party vendor, VenuWorks, to run the theatre knowing that their proposed operational model had a deficit.
When the city highlighted a proposed a 2017 budget last month, no funding for the Rialto was shown. A number of supporters of the theatre were in attendance during that meeting to plea their case for the theatre. The council is expected to pass a budget later this month.
“Last week, council received a proposed intergovernmental (agreement) from the Rialto requesting us to commit funding for four years,” Hock said.
That agreement calls for a $500,000 allotment.
Hock’s proposal suggests that an alternative funding solution is necessary.
Hock said the city would manage non-concert events—like weddings and recitals— and enter into contracts with Harrah’s and other entertainment vendors to put on concerts and performances. The Rialto buildings would also be added to the city’s engineering consultant facilities evaluation contract, which is currently underway, to evaluate physical conditions and determine what capital improvements are required, he said.
“We want the foundation to continue and work closely with them because they qualify for grants that local governments may not qualify for,” Hock said. “This proposal seems to me, like, a natural progression of the commitment the city has made to the downtown. We own the baseball stadium, the building in right field, Union Station, soon a new train station and a new bus station, along with the (Joliet Area) Historical Museum.”
Hock said if the city is looking to continue with investments to implement the downtown development plan, they must ensure that concerts and other performances are scheduled at the Rialto.
Hock emphasized that doors to the theatre must remain open for all community events held in the downtown.
After the meeting, Hock said it was unclear when the council would look to consider his proposal.
Joliet City Council amends powers, duties of inspector general
To ensure residents that city functions and programs are performing well, Joliet is looking to amend the powers of the inspector general.
In a 7-1 vote, the Joliet City Council moved forward with plans to extend the powers and duties allotted under the position to charitable organizations and other governmental bodies that look for financial or other forms of support.
Councilman Pat Mudron cast the lone dissenting vote.
“I feel the inspector general has enough power now, and we are are the elected officials that can give money out or take money back from any of the organizations,” he said. “I feel that too much government is always bad.”
The Land Use and Legislative committee last reviewed the matter on Nov. 28.
The Office of the Inspector General was created in part to investigate for misconduct, inefficiency and waste within the confines of city government.
Joliet increases fines for illegal possession, sale of fireworks
Joliet officials are looking to crack down on illegal possession and sale of fireworks by increasing the city’s fine from $150 to a $500 minimum.
In a unanimous vote, the Joliet City Council amended city rules for illegal firework offenses.
The city said it is common practice for the Joliet Police Department to confiscate illegal fireworks for destruction.
Councilwoman Jan Quillman said she would like to reiterate what was said at the committee meeting level.
“This fine seems steep, but there’s been so many fireworks, and they’re not fireworks, they’re have been horror … of dynamite that just is ridiculous,” she said. “It’s like a warzone anytime there is a holiday or a celebration. We said there would zero tolerance if they’re caught with dynamite, and we would leave it to the hearing officer whether they wanted to impose a $500 or $750 fine depending on the offense of the fireworks that they use.”
Joliet OKs paratransit local share agreement with PACE, seeks grant funding
Joliet officials took action last week to secure a local share agreement with PACE, the Suburban Bus Division of the Regional Transportation Authority, to allow for continuing paratransit services for persons with disabilities and persons who are age 60 or older and who cannot drive.
City action allows PACE to sub-contract for curb-to-curb advance reservation bus services for eligible riders residing in Joliet.
The program is subsidized by PACE and the communities receiving the service on a 60 percent city and 40 percent township formula, as fare box revenue hasn’t shown sufficient funding to cover the entire operation, officials said.
Joliet is billed a portion of the cost for the transit program in the amount of $142,270, and is looking to offset the cost by applying for available monies under the Title XX grant. Funds are available in the city’s 2016 budget.