It’s been almost three years since the fee for Will County Courthouse parking was increased from $5 to $8 a day, but for some, it’s not always worth the price.
T.J. Tichy of Joliet, who was making his way to his car at the lot Wednesday, was blunt when he called the fee a rip-off and argued the parking should be free to the public.
“They know they’re the only game in town, so they gouge us for parking here,” Tichy said.
County officials said the parking fee beats what’s offered in Chicago and the funds generated go toward maintenance and paying off bonds for the new courthouse. Will County Board member Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen, who leads the finance committee, said there’s been no drop-off in the amount of people who use the lot.
“They have other options, but most of the people use this portion because it’s convenient. It’s right next door,” Fricilone said.
In August 2015, County Board members discussed bumping up the price of courthouse parking from $5 to $8 to help pay for the new building that’s under construction this summer.
Then-board member Ragan Freitag said the county received $400,000 annually from parking lot fees and the increase would generate close to $250,000 more a year. She considered proposing the price hike at the time because there were less expensive options such as city parking garages nearby.
Before that, the fee had not been increased since 2003.
On Sept. 17, 2015, the County Board passed a measure to increase the fee effective Dec. 1 of that year. According to the resolution, the operations and maintenance expenses for the courthouse parking lot increased “significantly during the past 12 years without an increase to the daily parking fee.”
Tom Terrell of Worth, who was at the courthouse Wednesday with his brother, Jay, said if the county is receiving additional revenue from the increase, they could at least repave the lot.
“At least if it looked good, people wouldn’t complain,” Terrell said.
Nick Palmer, chief of staff for Will County Executive Larry Walsh Sr., said in 2019, the county and Joliet portion of the parking lot next to the courthouse is slated to be reconfigured into one big lot.
“The look and feel of that lot will be different, and it’s going to be automated,” Palmer said.
Terrell said the $8 fee was too much for parking when people are obligated to be at the courthouse for traffic tickets, divorce cases, child support and other legal matters.
“You don’t have a choice,” Terrell said.
Palmer and Fricilone said they have found parking in Chicago to be more expensive than Joliet. Fricilone said that when he went to the city for a convention, he had to pay $52 a day for the parking.
“We’re not in bad shape, I’ll tell you that,” he said.
Fricilone said parking structures are expensive to build and maintain. Palmer said nobody likes to pay for parking, but there are lower cost options if people are willing to walk.
Will County Chief Judge Richard Schoenstedt said he didn’t know about the financial benefits of the parking lot increase.
“When I do walk past there in the morning, the parking lot is still being used well. It looks full to me,” Schoenstedt said.
Some avoid the $8 price by heading to a nearby city lot that costs $1 an hour. Others, such as Allene Libby of Plainfield, use the parking lot across from the Will County jail where the daily rate is $1.
“Some people park here and spend $8,” Libby said of the courthouse parking lot. “They’re in, and they’re out. They spend $8 for what?”