JOLIET – The Will County Board’s Finance Committee was not in favor Tuesday of a funding request from the Rialto Square Theatre Foundation.
According to a letter sent from the theater’s interim general manager and director of development Jack Ericksen to Will County Executive Larry Walsh Sr., the foundation is requesting $25,000 from Will County toward refurbishing the theater’s marquee and vertical blade and $25,000 toward support of further 90th anniversary celebration events planned throughout the rest of the year.
To date, the foundation has secured a $28,000 federal cost-sharing grant from the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program and has received a $20,000 donation from First Midwest Bank toward the marquee work. It is also hoping to secure a $25,000 Rotary grant, the letter states.
Will County Executive’s Office Chief of Staff Nick Palmer told the committee the office is supportive of the request by the foundation; however, it would propose holding off on the request with so much uncertainty at the Rialto. Palmer said he met Monday with city of Joliet officials. The city does not have plans to help fund the theater this year.
“At this point, we don’t even know what [the Rialto] is doing,” Palmer said to the committee.
Tuesday afternoon, the Rialto announced it was cutting five administrative staffers to three days per week starting immediately. The theater’s regular payroll is about $80,000 a month.
Finance Committee Chairman Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen, said it’s hard to consider the request when the committee, minutes earlier, debated whether to bump the county’s funding of the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension – deemed an important service – from the usual $25,000 per year to $30,000 this year. The committee did vote in favor of the increase.
Committee member Jacqueline Traynere, D-Bolingbrook, said she is not in favor of the county funding Rialto payroll or operations, but is in support of capital improvements that would preserve the building’s historical status.
Member Steve Wilhelmi, D-Joliet, said a small donation toward capital improvements might be a worthy expense because of the history of the building, but he’s not sure the operations of the theater have gone well.
County Board Speaker Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort, said there are historical sites all over the county worthy of preservation, but funding the Rialto would set a precedent that the county is open to all requests.
Committee member Cory Singer, R-Frankfort, made the motion to not fund any aspect of the theater. Singer, Fricilone and Kenneth Harris, D-Bolingbrook, voted “yes” to not funding the Rialto. Traynere and Wilhelmi voted “no.” Committee members Darren Bennefield, R-Aurora, and Ray Tuminello, R-New Lenox, were absent.