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Local News

Joliet Township supervisor to talk with city about Bicentennial Park plans

Several slabs of stone face the Des Plaines River with Bicentennial Park's name etched into the surface Sept. 9 at Bicentennial Park in Joliet.
Several slabs of stone face the Des Plaines River with Bicentennial Park's name etched into the surface Sept. 9 at Bicentennial Park in Joliet.

JOLIET – The timetable for a proposal to put Bicentennial Park under Joliet Township control has slowed since the city gave the go-ahead for an inspection of park facilities.

But Joliet Township Supervisor Dan Vera said the township’s due diligence is done, and he intends to talk this week with the city manager about his interest in the city-owned park.

What’s next is hard to tell.

Vera would only say Friday that the due diligence inspection of Bicentennial Park facilities was completed in November, and he plans to talk with Joliet City Manager Jim Hock.

As to whether he will go to the township board this month for authority to pursue an agreement for township control of the park, Vera said he did not have an answer.

“I don’t until we talk to the city manager to see what his thoughts are,” Vera said.

Vera at one time had hoped to seek township board authority in October after getting a green light from the city to bring building and insurance inspectors onto the property to check out conditions.

But the due diligence work was not completed until November.

The city, meanwhile, has budgeted $431,000 for Bicentennial Park in 2016, close to the same amount budgeted in 2015. Hock said the budget does not mean the city has made a decision about the future of the park.

“There really hasn’t been any action on it,” Hock said. “We still have to budget it.”

Vera has made a general proposal, saying he believes the township could bring back festivals and events that were held at Bicentennial Park before the city cut funding with the onset of the recession. He has said an intergovernmental agreement could keep the city involved in the park while giving control to the township. He has proposed that the city continue to contribute $100,000 a year to the park.

Councilman Michael Turk, the liaison for Bicentennial Park, said there is mixed opinion on the council as to whether the city should give up control of the park to the township. Much depends on what kind of detailed proposal is made by the township.

The city probably should not wait much longer to decide, however, he said.

“I think the public and staff want a decision one way or the other in the near future,” Turk said. “I think we owe it to them.”

The St. John’s Neighborhood Association, whose area includes Bicentennial Park, has opposed a change in control, wanting the park to stay in city hands. Co-President Candace Johnson said the association is waiting to hear more news about the township’s intentions.

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BICENTENNIAL PARK TIMELINE

• AUG. 17 – Joliet officials acknowledge talks with Joliet Township Supervisor Dan Vera about possible township control of Bicentennial Park after questions are raised at a City Council meeting by a leader of the St. John’s Neighborhood Association.

• SEPT. 14 – The city gives the township authority to bring contractors and insurance inspectors into Bicentennial Park to examine the property. Vera said he hopes to seek township board authority in October to pursue an agreement with the city.

• OCT. 29 – Vera said due diligence work continues.

• JAN. 8 – Vera said due diligence work was completed in November. The matter is not yet ready for the township board. He plans to talk with City Manager Jim Hock.

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