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Local News

Will County to bond out $225 million for capital projects

Brooks: 'There will be some consequences'

The Will County Courthouse in downtown Joliet is seen May 6, 2014. Funding construction of a new courthouse was among the areas addressed at Tuesday's joint meeting of Will County committees.
The Will County Courthouse in downtown Joliet is seen May 6, 2014. Funding construction of a new courthouse was among the areas addressed at Tuesday's joint meeting of Will County committees.

JOLIET – Will County Board Democratic Caucus Chairman Herbert Brooks, D-Joliet, might have summed up the gravity of the county’s new plan to borrow $225 million in staggered bond issuances over 30 years for a number of county capital projects.

“As we go forward, I think I’m prepared to call it a good plan, but I’m not sure I’d call it a solid plan,” Brooks said. “I think … we’ve got to face each other and make some tough decisions, because there will be some consequences.”

The plan unveiled Tuesday at a joint meeting of the county’s finance and capital improvements committees paints a clearer picture of how the county intends to pay for capital projects.

Officials would issue staggered bonds through 2047 to pay for a Laraway Road sheriff’s facility, a county courthouse in Joliet and a health department building, all of which are inefficient and aging in their current state.

Under the plan, county officials would build a $65 million to $75 million line of credit to pay for early “soft” costs associated with construction. Then officials would borrow money to pay for the sheriff’s complex, estimated at $20 million, rather than paying cash up front through RTA sales tax dollars as County Executive Larry Walsh Sr. suggested earlier this year.

The plan relies on several funding sources to pay back bonds over time.

Targeted resources for bond repayments include annual pulls of: $2.4 million from the corporate fund, $1.5 million in courthouse fees, $300,000 from parking lot fees, $1 million from landfill fees, $2 million from Public Building Commission sales tax revenue and federal rebate dollars associated with Sunny Hill Nursing Home renovations.

The city of Joliet also has said it would chip in $500,000 annually beginning in 2018 as an incentive to keep the courthouse – estimated to cost $175 million to build – downtown.

In 2028, bonds for the new Adult Detention Facility will fully mature, releasing about $4.7 million in sales tax dollars for use toward the courthouse bonds, Finance Committee Chairman Mike Fricilone said.

The county would take no more than 15.01 percent of RTA tax dollars each year to pay off bonds, Fricilone said.

Fricilone, R-Homer Glen, said the plan was created, in part, in response to Walsh Sr.’s earlier opposition to the Republicans’ plan to repeatedly use 25 percent or more of RTA tax dollars each year to pay back bonds associated with the courthouse.

Republicans on the board have been adamant about paying for several capital projects without raising taxes.

Nick Palmer, chief of staff for Walsh Sr., questioned the wisdom of diverting $2.4 million annually from the operating budget over the next 30 years to capital, noting rising health care costs and union contractual raises.

“If you’re not going to commit to raising revenue from whatever source – it doesn’t have to be property taxes, it can be sales tax increases – then basically your alternative is to cut elsewhere to pay for it,” Palmer said.

Of course, there will be an impact, Finance Committee member Chuck Maher, R-Naperville, replied. But the county has to pay for these projects somehow, he said.

“We can’t let our [buildings] fall down around us,” Maher said. “These are not projects that are being done because we want to spend money.”

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