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Local News

Second push to close Joliet alley meets 'pushback'

A dead-end sign remained after an alley off the 1100 block of Center Street was reopened in September.
A dead-end sign remained after an alley off the 1100 block of Center Street was reopened in September.

A petition drive and a councilwoman's urging that a Center Street alley be closed again apparently was not enough.

The alley, which serves 20 home owners including an outspoken critic of the mayor, was opened up by the city in September after being closed for eight years at the residents' request.

Mayor Bob O'Dekirk initiated the reopening of the alley, saying he had received complaints about it being closed.

But it's not clear who complained, and Councilwoman Bettye Gavin said residents who live along the alley want it closed again.

"The residents are not too pleased about that alley being back open," said Gavin, the councilwoman for District 4 that includes the neighborhood.

Residents include John Sheridan, a sometimes critic of O'Dekirk and president of the Cunningham Neighborhood Council that advocates for the neighborhood.

The city has had a procedure for closing alleys similar to that used when residents want parking restricted on their streets. City officials have confirmed the process was followed in 2012 when the alley in the 1100 block of Center Street was blocked off on one side after residents said it had become a source of trouble.

However, there has not been a written policy.

Gavin said interim City Manager Jim Hock now wants a written policy approved by the City Council before agreeing to close the alley again.

Hock did not return calls for comment.

Gavin said she and Sheridan went door-to-door to survey residents, the process followed in 2012, to get the alley closed again. Of the 15 residents who were home, 14 wanted it closed. One did not speak English, and they were unable to determine whether he wanted it closed or open.

Gavin said Hock had told her the alley would be closed again. But then Hock told her Thursday he was getting "pushback" from the Public Works Department and would send the issue to the City Council to review.

Public Works Director James Trizna, however, said there was no resistance in his department to closing the alley again.

"There's no pushback from public works," Trizna said Friday. "We were directed to come up with a policy, and that's what we're going to do."

Trizna said he was waiting for the order to close the alley again when he was told to develop a policy.

The alley is one of at least seven alleys in the Cunningham neighborhood that have been closed over the years.

Sheridan and Gavin both have said they have not heard from anyone opposed to the Center Street alley being closed.

"The mayor has not talked to me," Gavin said. "We went to follow up on the complaints, and nobody complained."

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