Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk took time to address rumors circling the City regarding the controversial North Point development at a Feb. 20 meeting of the Joliet City Council.
“I guess I have to confess up until now, I’ve told anyone who’ll listen that we’ve never met regarding North Point,” he said. “This city council continues to be accused of having some backroom deal with North Point or whatever. We haven’t, we’ve never discussed the proposal, [and] we never met with anyone from North Point or anyone involved in that.”
The development in question has raised opposition from many Elwood Residents in recent months.
Recently, O’Dekirk had a meeting with a couple mayors from surrounding communities.
The North Point rumors circling stem from a letter issued by the City of Joliet to Elwood and Manhattan regarding a request to extend its boundary agreement.
O’Dekirk said he thinks time may be of the essence to open up a public dialogue on this.
“I’ve tried hard to keep the City of Joliet out of this argument,” he said. “I know it’s very contentious in Elwood, but it doesn’t seem to be working, we keep getting dragged into it. So, at this point, I wonder if we should take a little bit more active role, especially regarding what is being told to other communities, the lies that are being told to the mayors of the other communities specifically that deals are being cut with Joliet, [they’re saying,] ‘We don’t need you, we’re going to go around you.’”
O’Dekirk wants the City to take a more active approach in addressing the rumors.
“There is no question about what the City of Joliet is or isn’t doing,” he said.
It is O’Dekirk’s desire to see the Joliet City Council address the matter publicly again at a later date.
Animal compliance update
Also at the meeting, officials were provided an update on Joliet’s animal compliance.
The City last year created a job titled, animal compliance officer, to work together with Joliet Township Animal Control to address incidents involving dangerous or vicious animals.
The position, held by officer Robert Badertscher, enables the City to establish a process to wade through various compliance issues.
“The big thing is again Joliet Police is working together [with Joliet Township Animal Control,]” he said. “We are trying to solve this issue of the animals getting lose, injured, or other situations.”
During an investigation, the Joliet Police and Joliet Township Animal Control officers respond to calls for service, the dog is found, and information is retrieved. At the time, a rabies check is performed and owner identification is handled.
A determination is later made to pinpoint whether an incident is an accident or reoccurring issue. Subsequent to that, the animal compliance coordinator sends out the proper notification to the victims, witnesses, and the owner.
Joliet hosts administrative hearings once a month, in accordance with municipal administrative procedures. Last year, Joliet held 20 administrative hearings. There, the City presents its case to its legal counsel. Victims and witness are allowed to give their statements and the owner presents his information.
The Animal Compliance Officer sends out a notification with findings of the hearing officer’s recommendations whether it be to declare a dog as dangerous, vicious or neither. It is then that the Animal Compliance Coordinator looks to follow up with the owner to ensure compliance is met.
A number of requirements have been identified to allow residents to keep a dangerous dog in certain casess, including the use of a leash and muzzle, liability insurance, rabies vaccination, signage, spay or neuter, and fencing.
“We have in the past in 2017, we did have several required to see an animal behaviorists,” Badertscher said.
Under Joliet ordinances, there are cases in which an animal can be kept for the purposes of protection.
“Again, in these cases, they’ve all showed some type of behavior that was deemed prey-driven or some other type of aggression,” Badertscher said.
The City last year had 209 incidents to address, with 60 involving acts of dog versus dog and 62 involving dog versus human. A police report was generated for 117 cases in 2017, in conjunction with the issuance of a possible compliance ticket.
Of the 24 cases reviewed at the hearing committee last year, 20 of them required an administrative hearing to be conducted.
“We’re at 88 percent compliance and that can be with the compliance or dismissed cases,” Badertscher said.
Badertscher wanted it to be clear that follow ups are conducted.
The hearing committee consists of Ken Hailey, animal compliance coordinator; Robert Badertscher, Joliet Police Department representative; and Sarah Gimbel, director of Joliet Township Animal Control.