The Joliet City Council set out to begin a new chapter at its Dec. 20 meeting by agreeing to allot $500,000 in funding toward the Rialto Square Theatre with a set of conditions and amending the 2017 budget to account for it.
In a 6-2 vote, officials looked to address cries from supporters and opponents. Council members Larry Hug and Brooke Hernandez Brewer voted in opposition to the agreement. Officials rescinded two other measures that would’ve paved the way for Joliet to transfer ownership of the theatre’s properties to the city and another request asking the Rialto board to investigate and create a referendum to help the organization in supporting itself.
Mayor Bob O’DeKirk said the council’s decision comes after much-needed discussion to determine alternative funding solutions to keep the theatre from going dark.
“I think ultimately that’s what this city council has been after this entire process, not simply the same ol’ same ol’ with another check being written,” he said.
This matter arose in discussion a number of times at public meetings since November, when the city manager presented a budget that wouldn’t support the Rialto with funding.
Will County executive Larry Walsh Sr. was one of several who spoke out regarding the council’s hesitancy to take action to support the Rialto.
“I know that I respect what you’re facing to do tonight in regards to our jewel of Joliet, the Rialto,” he said.
Walsh said it’s important for the council to get sense for what Joliet means not only to Will County, but also the state of Illinois.
“We have foreign governments that are investing in Joliet and Will County,” he said. “Foreign governments that are seeing what’s happening with what’s going in the intermodals and the developments that are out there. We have corporate leaders that are coming to Illinois, to Joliet and Will County… Even corporate headquarters that are wanting to come and be involved in our area.”
Walsh added that Laraway Crossings has never seen so much activity exhibited there in the last couple years.
“After the legislature adjourned in June, Governor Rauner—looking to make a statement about how things are going, how good things were going—made a point to come to Joliet in July to make the announcement of his participation—the state’s participation—in the Houbolt Road project that the mayor and I, myself, and other entities have been talking about for a couple of years,” Walsh said. “He came here to make the statement that ‘this is where progress was being made’ and that he wanted to be part of it.”
Walsh said it is his hope that council members can agree they need the Rialto to be strong, visible and operational. The council’s hesitancy has been a source of concern in recent weeks, he said.
“All these governmental entities believe in the future of downtown Joliet, and I have been one of the strongest supporters of the need to support the Rialto Theatre and what it means to downtown Joliet, our county seat. The only hesitancy up until what I’ve heard tonight—and I hope the motion is approved—is that Joliet was hesitant in investing in Joliet.”
O’DeKirk said realizing the future potential for Joliet is amazing when you consider the county’s support shown to help revive the downtown.
Walsh said the county looks forward to working with Joliet officials to bring change.
O’DeKirk said he thinks he and council did what’s best to keep their pledge to do what’s best for the people of Joliet.
“I know it’s good for the theatre, and I believe it’s fair for the people of Joliet,” he said. “I personally support it. Again, I want to thank the city council. It’s been a trying issue.”
The city will use fund balance out of reserves to pay for the Rialto’s 2017 allotment. An agreement with the Rialto setting forth conditions was still pending as of the council’s Dec. 20 meeting.
Joliet City Council extends special tax to downtown businesses, properties
To fund improvements for economic development and marketing activities in downtown Joliet, officials took action to approve a time extension and enlargement of the special service tax area.
The current taxing district for the city center is set to expire at the year’s end.
Territories covered will now include areas along Cass, Collins and South Chicago streets.
As of the Dec. 20 meeting, one objection was filed out of the 1,224 parcels included in the SSA.
The boundary enlargement will apply a 0.95 tax rate for each $100 in assessed valuation. Those already included in the SSA will maintain this rate.
Joliet OKs snow plow purchases for roadways division
Joliet is moving forward with plans to equip the city’s Roadways Division with five new snow plows.
Officials at a recent meeting agreed that it’s in Joliet’s best interest to make some purchases.
The city said they only have two plows on hand for emergency use if one fails.
Council action advances plans to pay Lindco Equipment Sales for five snow plows and a freight in the amount of $56,378 using funds budgeted under roadways supplies.
Contract for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit approved
The city of Joliet is looking to maintain compliance with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for discharge limits set forth in their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit.
The measure intends to test various metals that appear in the city’s wastewater plants.
Joliet officials agreed to award the contract to Test America Laboratories in the amount of $22,487 using monies allocated under the 2017 water and sewer operating fund as well as plant operations admin and professional services.