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Local News

Okon: Joliet keeps its eyes on the future this time

Whether or not a new hotel gets built in the hospital neighborhood, the plan being hatched is a good sign for Joliet.

It's good because the city is not leaving the future of the AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center to chance. Joliet officials may not have been able to do anything to prevent Silver Cross Hospital from moving to New Lenox in 2012. But Joliet officials never saw it coming and scrambled unsuccessfully to keep the hospital after Silver Cross announced it was leaving.

Mayor Bob O'Dekirk made it clear early in his first term that he did not want to see the same situation develop at Saint Joseph Medical Center.

“In 2016, I would like to see the city make a bigger commitment to Saint Joseph hospital,” O’Dekirk said in January of that year during his first State of the City speech to the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry. “Saint Joseph’s has made a commitment to Joliet. They stayed in Joliet. I think the city of Joliet should make the same commitment to Saint Joseph hospital.”

Joliet created a Tax Increment Financing District in January 2017 to fund economic development in the area around the hospital. The TIF District was created at the urging of hospital officials, previously under Presence Health and now under AMITA Health, who want to keep the neighborhood vibrant and encourage redevelopment.

Hardly going gangbusters, TIF funding hasn't been used for a single project yet. But the hotel plan is likely the first.

The Joliet City Council votes Tuesday whether to contribute $3,000 out of the TIF fund for a market study that will help E&M Strategic Development decide whether to build a hotel near the hospital.

Joliet Economic Development Specialist Derek Conley said he recommended that E&M consider the hospital neighborhood when the developer approached the city to gauge interest in another hotel being built.

Noting that the city and AMITA are "community partners," Conley's comments reflect a city-hospital relationship that should be healthy for the neighborhood.

Hug for state senate?

Councilman Larry Hug has not announced a campaign for state senate in the two weeks that have passed since it was reported he was circulating petitions for the job in the 49th District. But he's getting closer.

Hug who then said he was 95% certain he would run now puts his chances at 95.2%.

Notices for Hug's annual fundraiser on Oct. 24, which he dubs Hugtoberfest, include a teaser for an "important announcement."

Public comment limits

City Attorney Martin Shanahan pulled his proposal for new limits on public comments at city meetings from the Land Use and Legislative Committee's agenda Thursday.

Will he come back with another proposal?

"It has been withdrawn and will come back at a later date," Kendall Jackson, director of community development said.

"Maybe at a later date," Shanahan added.

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