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Joliet council approves Rialto money – with conditions

The Rialto Square Theatre is seen Nov. 24, 2014, in Joliet. The Joliet City Council approved a budget Tuesday with funding for the theater.
The Rialto Square Theatre is seen Nov. 24, 2014, in Joliet. The Joliet City Council approved a budget Tuesday with funding for the theater.

JOLIET – The city council Tuesday gave conditional approval to $500,000 for the Rialto Square Theatre in 2017.

The conditions were not announced, but the council voted 6-2 to fund the Rialto subject to an intergovernmental agreement yet to be reached.

The city is revising an intergovernmental agreement proposed by the Rialto. City officials would not discuss what is going into the revisions.

But they could involve some changes at the Rialto, one council member said.

Mayor Bob O'Dekirk said at the Tuesday meeting the agreement would be "fair for the theater" and "good for the city of Joliet."

Afterwards, he refused to discuss details of the revised agreement, which has yet to be presented to the Rialto board.

Council members, while they would not discuss the agreement revisions, did suggest that the issue of Rialto funding in 2017 is not settled yet.

"We'll see what happens," Councilwoman Jan Quillman said when asked why she voted for funding after strongly expressing frustration with Rialto operations at a special council meeting last week.

Councilwoman Bettye Gavin said at last week's meeting that she could not vote for Rialto funding under the terms of the intergovernmental agreement that the theater had proposed. Asked Tuesday why she voted for Rialto funding, Gavin said, "It's up to the Rialto now."

O'Dekirk at last week's meeting did pose the possibility of asking for the resignations of all the city appointees on the Rialto board so he could appoint new members. That prospect was not discussed Tuesday.

The mayor appoints four members of the Rialto board, and the governor appoints three.

The council voted 6-2 to add the $500,000 requested by the Rialto to the city budget, which was approved Tuesday. Voting against Rialto funding were Larry Hug and Brooke Hernandez Brewer.

The council also decided not to move ahead with a proposal to seek a change in state legislation so that ownership of the Rialto could be transferred to the city. A resolution to pursue the transfer was removed from the agenda as the council also added the $500,000 in Rialto funding to the budget.

The Rialto is governed under the Will County Metropolitan Exposition Auditorium Authority, a unit of government created by state law when the Rialto was saved from demolition planned by its previous private owners.

VenuWorks, the outside company hired in August to manage the Rialto, had asked the city for $500,000 to cover a projected deficit in 2017.

The city has provided the Rialto with funding for years and contributed $600,000 to theater operations in 2016. But the relationship between the city and theater became strained this year as financial conditions at the Rialto worsened.

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