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Local News

Vera lays out Bicentennial Park plans to Joliet council

JOLIET – Joliet Township Supervisor Dan Vera said Monday that his proposal for township control of Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park includes a transfer of ownership.

Vera spoke to the City Council at its Monday meeting and then met with the council in closed session.

He has been meeting with individual council members and city officials about a township takeover of the park, which is owned by the city of Joliet. Monday was the first time his proposal was aired at an open City Council meeting.

“We’re looking at a transfer of deed and ownership. Why else would we make the investment?” Vera said when asked by one council member if the township would be interested in supporting the park without owning it.

City Manager Jim Hock had said previously that township involvement in Bicentennial Park could take many forms, including a lease arrangement. But Vera dismissed the possibility of a lease Monday.

“Why would we make leasehold improvements?” Vera said. “Then in five years, you could say we don’t want to lease it to you anymore.”

Councilman Larry Hug had suggested the township could support the park financially, such as the city does for the Rialto Square Theatre.

Vera said if the township took control of the park it would begin making improvements in the spring.

Councilman John Gerl, noting that the township plans to keep existing programs at the park and add others, asked Hock at one point how much money Joliet has put into the park in the past five years.

“Probably nothing,” Hock said.

Vera said last week that he wants permission for the township to bring contractors into the park to examine facilities, so the township board can vote in October whether to move forward with a possible park acquisition.

Among topics that were to be discussed in closed session were financial arrangements. Vera’s comments in the past have indicated that while the township would take ownership, it would not pay for the park and would seek support of about $100,000 a year from the city.

Candace Johnson, co-president of the St. John’s Neighborhood Association, told the council that she believes the park should stay under city control.

“The park has historical significance for the city of Joliet,” Johnson said.

Water and sewer rates

City Council members said they were not ready to vote on a proposal to increase water and sewer rates by 9 percent on Oct. 1 and more in following years.

Hock said after the meeting that the rate hike, which had been scheduled for a vote Tuesday, would be taken off the agenda.

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