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Local News

O'Dekirk on city manager, NorthPoint and Joliet performance

Mayor Bob O'Dekirk delivers the State of City address on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, at the Renaissance Center in Joliet, Ill.
Mayor Bob O'Dekirk delivers the State of City address on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, at the Renaissance Center in Joliet, Ill.

Mayor Bob O'Dekirk pointed to $2 million-plus that NorthPoint Development would pay to the city and other pluses in the pending project during his State of the City speech on Monday.

The mayor did not not take a position on the project but pointed out potentially positive aspects while also discussing what he said was a down year for city revenues that he attributed to instability in the city manager office.

O'Dekirk introduced the NorthPoint topic by saying he wanted to clear up "a lot of misinformation" that he said was being spread by opponents of the proposed Compass Business Park.

"NorthPoint is asking for no tax incentives from the city of Joliet," he said.

The company will pay taxes, building permit fees and tap-on fees, while also providing the city $2 million up front plus 33 cents per square foot over the course of development.

The money would go to a community enhancement fund that caps at $6 million and is covered by a pre-annexation agreement the city Plan Commission would review later in the afternoon.

O'Dekirk noted that the pre-annexation agreement provides that no building permits can be issued unless NorthPoint builds a bridge over Route 53 to create the closed-loop system aimed at giving trucks a direct route to the intermodals in Joliet and Elwood and keeping them off local roads.

"If this is done, traffic goes on Arsenal Road to I-55 and from Houbolt Road to I-80," he said.

O'Dekirk also said he expects construction of the Houbolt Road bridge to begin in the next month or two.

The Houbolt Road bridge to be built by CenterPoint Properties is planned as a direct connection from CenterPoint Intermodal Center industrial parks to Interstate 80. That project, too, is designed to get trucks off local roads.

O'Dekirk ended his speech on the NorthPoint issue.

He began it with a joking reference on the ongoing city manager controversy.

Teasing an audience that he had breaking news on the next city manager, O'Dekirk pointed to a big screen on which appeared a slide of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich recently released from prison.

"Some may not realize it, but this is a joke," O'Dekirk said to an audience that had already broken out in laughter at the mayor's jest over the ongoing city manager saga.

Joliet is on its second interim city manager since David Hales left the job mid-contract in October 2018.

The mayor went on a serious bent, however, pointing to numbers that were down slightly in general fund revenues ($181 million in 2019 compared to $182 million in 2018), sales tax revenue ($50.3 million in 2019 compared to $49.7 in 2018) and numbers of building permits as signs that the city needed stability again in the city manager office.

"This is the first year in five years the city is not going in a positive direction," O'Dekirk said.

Noting that the city has not had an economic development director since Steve Jones was put in the interim city manager role, he said., "I think it's imperative that we do find a new city manager and put the team back in place.

O'Dekirk also commended City Attorney Marty Shanahan as doing an "outstanding job" before being removed as interim city manager. Shanahan was removed against the mayor's wishes by a majority of the divided City Council.

He did point to positive developments in the city, saying assessed value has increased in Joliet by 30 percent over four years after having previously been on the decline.

O'Dekirk also said construction on the long-awaited Chicago Street connection downtown is expected to start next week.

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