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Local News

Joliet gives township go-ahead to inspect Bicentennial Park

Several slabs of stone bearing Bicentennial Park's name face the Des Plaines River.
Several slabs of stone bearing Bicentennial Park's name face the Des Plaines River.

JOLIET – City officials have given Joliet Township permission to inspect Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park as a prelude to a possible change in park ownership.

Joliet Township Supervisor Dan Vera sought permission to bring contractors onto park property to inspect buildings and grounds as he pitches a plan to put the park under township control.

The City Council met with Vera in closed session at the end of its meeting Monday. During that closed session they gave Vera permission to inspect the park, which is owned by the city.

City Manager Jim Hock said there was no need to take a formal vote in open session on the matter.

"It was just a consensus," Hock said. "It doesn't require any action by the city."

Mayor Bob O'Dekirk said Tuesday he did not think the decision to allow the township to inspect the park means the council is ready to cede control, adding that the township has not yet made a formal proposal to the city.

"I think until something is put on the table you're not going to get a hard answer from the council," O'Dekirk said.

The council did debate in open session Monday whether or not to allow the township to inspect Bicentennial Park.

Councilman Jim McFarland said he opposed giving the park to the township and also said he was against letting township contractors onto the property to do inspections.

Councilman Pat Mudron, however, said the city does not have money in its budget to bring back major events at Bicentennial Park and Joliet should consider the township option.

"I see no downside in letting them do their due diligence," he said.

Vera has said he wants to be able to inspect the park to determine its condition so the township board can vote at its October meeting on whether to pursue an intergovernmental agreement with the city that would allow the township to operate the park.

Just what that agreement would look like is not clear. But Vera told the council in open session Monday he wanted a transfer of ownership because the township would invest money in upgrading the park and staging events.

Vera also said he planned to keep activities now at the park and did not want to change the historical features, which include plaques on boulders commemorating the site's history as Joliet's old Bluff Street business district.

The boulders "would stay," Vera told the council. "We have no intention of moving boulders and those plaques. ... There is no intention of getting rid of history."

Vera could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

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