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Local News

O'Dekirk outlines progress, plans for Joliet in State of the City speech

JOLIET – Mayor Bob O'Dekirk in his State of the City speech Wednesday said Joliet ended 2015 with an unexpected budget surplus, and then shared several plans he has for the city for 2016.

The mayor gave his address at a luncheon meeting of the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry at the Joliet Country Club.

O'Dekirk presented a long to-do list for the coming year that ranged from initiating the long-contemplated opening of Chicago Street downtown to adding an enforcement officer to deal with vicious dogs.

He also said the city will try to repeat a budgetary outcome that was accomplished at the end of 2015 – turning a projected $8.6 million deficit into a $1.7 million end-of-year surplus.

The city "budgeted correctly," O'Dekirk said.

"Make no mistake, the city of Joliet was fiscally sound," he said.

The budget got a big boost in revenues because of economic development in the past year from projects such as the Amazon.com fulfillment center that opened and the massive Ikea distribution center in the works, he said.

Most of those projects started under O'Dekirk's predecessor, Thomas Giarrante. Some, including a $21 million Whirlpool distribution center, have been announced since O'Dekirk took office in May.

O'Dekirk said growth will continue, mentioning that he has signed a number of non-disclosure agreements for developments being contemplated in Joliet.

O'Dekirk said he hopes the city will see a similar budget turnaround in 2016, when the city has projected a year-end deficit of more than $6 million.

The mayor presented a long action agenda for 2016.

He said he expects major progress in 2016 on plans for a Houbolt Road toll bridge connecting the CenterPoint Intermodal Center-Joliet with Interstate 80 and future widening of Interstate 80.

O'Dekirk also said he expects an agreement with Will County, and perhaps even the start of construction, for the connection of Chicago Street from downtown to Interstate 80, a route now interrupted by a courthouse parking lot.

"I think in 2016 you're going to see a continued push to revitalize the downtown area," he said.

O'Dekirk also said he supports adding field turf to Silver Cross Field, an idea recently proposed by the Joliet Slammers as a way to attract more events and people to the city's baseball stadium.

Addressing an issue that has come up since a pit bull attack earlier this month, O'Dekirk said he wants to hire an enforcement officer to go along with the revamping of the city's ordinance for vicious dogs.

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MAYOR'S VIEW OF THE STATE OF JOLIET

2015
• City ended 2015 with $1.7 million surplus despite budget projection of $8.6 million deficit

• 24 percent increase in building permits in 2015 compared to 2014

2016

• Major progress on Houbolt Road toll bridge and widening of Interstate 80

• Agreement with county and possible start of construction for Chicago Street downtown connection

• Decision on field turf for Silver Cross Field

• Start of construction for new train station downtown

• Addition of enforcement officer to deal with vicious dogs

• Creation of volunteer force for assorted services, including shoveling snow for seniors

• Permanent assignment of beat officers downtown

• Resolution of contracts that expired at the end of 2015 with five city unions

• Resolution of Evergreen Terrace court appeal with city gaining ownership

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