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Local News

Deadline may be looming for Joliet Township's Bicentennial Park plans

Concert audience members listen to the Joliet American Legion band June 5, 2014 during the opening night of the annual summer concert series at Bicentennial Park in Joliet.
Concert audience members listen to the Joliet American Legion band June 5, 2014 during the opening night of the annual summer concert series at Bicentennial Park in Joliet.

JOLIET – The clock may be ticking on Joliet Township Supervisor Dan Vera’s pending plans for Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park.

The Joliet City Council in September gave Vera authority to have contractors inspect the city-owned park, part of the due diligence he wanted to do before making a proposal to put control of the park in the hands of the township.

Vera said the township would be able to fund the kind of events that used to be held at the park in past years but have gone away since the city cut funding.

But Vera has yet to come back with a proposal, and two council members said they want to hear a proposal from him by the Feb. 2 council meeting.

“Then, we could maybe have a vote on it in February, because it’s just taking too long,” Councilman Michael Turk said Wednesday.

It’s not clear what would happen if Vera does not have a proposal by then. But Vera’s interest in Bicentennial Park has raised concerns among some residents opposed to the possibility of township ownership.

The co-president of the St. John’s Neighborhood Association spoke Tuesday to the council, reiterating the group’s opposition and noting that it has collected more than 400 signatures opposed to township control of the park located in their neighborhood.

“We want to give a reminder that we disagree with anyone other than the city owning Bicentennial Park,” Candace Johnson told the council.

Opposition to a change in control is linked to the park’s historic location on what was the first commercial district in Joliet. Opponents also have said they are concerned with what the township might do with the park.

Vera could not be immediately reached Wednesday afternoon for comment.

Turk suggested the city set a deadline for a township proposal after Johnson’s comments.

“I think we’ll have to give the public and employees some closure,” Turk said, noting that park employees are trying to make plans for the year. “They want to know what’s going on, and I think we owe them an answer.”

The council is believed to be divided over the possibility of ceding control of the park to the township, and some may be willing to give Vera more time.

But Councilwoman Jan Quillman also said she thought a decision deadline was a good idea.

“It just seems like it’s been dragging on forever,” Quillman said at the Tuesday meeting.

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