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Local News

Joliet mayor delivers speech, fields questions at JJC

Suggests first inspector general report coming soon

Mayor Bob O'Dekirk (right) talks with Juan Felipe and other students after giving his State of the City speech Wednesday at Joliet Junior College.
Mayor Bob O'Dekirk (right) talks with Juan Felipe and other students after giving his State of the City speech Wednesday at Joliet Junior College.

JOLIET – A prospective Houbolt Road bridge was a hot topic when Mayor Bob O’Dekirk gave Wednesday his State of the City speech a second time at Joliet Junior College, located up the road from where the bridge would be built.

O’Dekirk added some new twists to the speech given a month ago to the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry, including a hint that a report from the city’s new inspector general will be out soon.

“I think in the next few weeks something is going to come out that will confirm why I wanted the position,” O’Dekirk told an auditorium filled with students, faculty and residents.

Joliet Junior College invited the mayor to give the presentation at the college, in what one administrator described as a venue to promote civic involvement among students and the public.

The mayor fielded a dozen questions after the speech, including a few focused on the future Houbolt Road bridge.

The bridge is no sure thing. But O’Dekirk said he expects progress on the plan to build a bridge over the Des Plaines River to connect CenterPoint Intermodal Center-Joliet with Interstate 80 and relieve truck congestion on local roads.

“I think in 2016 you’re going to hear announcements about this project going forward,” O’Dekirk said.

Antione Edwards, multicultural retention specialist at JJC, was one of three people in the audience who asked about the Houbolt Road project in the ensuing question-and-answer period.

Edwards said truck traffic at the Chicago Street interchange, an exit for downtown, also is an issue because of JJC’s growing City Center Campus.

“We project more of our students going downtown for our culinary program,” he said.

Others asked questions about job opportunities with the city, the Rialto Square Theatre, and economic development on the East Side.

Juan Felipe, a JJC student from Rockdale, asked about potential redevelopment of the old U.S. Steel site on Collins Street, which he noted was once a goal of O’Dekirk’s predecessor, Thomas Giarrante.

“Since [the site] is along the rail line, I thought that would be a good expansion opportunity for bringing more business in,” Felipe said later.

O’Dekirk suggested something may be happening in the near future with the site.

“There’s not much I can say right now. You can read between the lines,” he said.

O’Dekirk earlier in the presentation said he has signed nondisclosure agreements regarding some projects in the works in Joliet.

Inspector general report

After the speech, the mayor declined to elaborate on his suggestion that an inspector general’s report would come out soon.

Joliet hired Christopher Regis as its first inspector general on Jan. 25 to look into corruption and inefficiency in city government.

“It’s a whole new oversight that Joliet has never had,” O’Dekirk said in his speech. “I think it’s a great progressive step forward.”

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