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Local News

New alley rules in the works in Joliet

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.

The Joliet City Council may consider a written policy for alley closures later this month.

The city is developing a policy for closing alleys after reopening one that was closed for eight years for unclear reasons in September.

Councilwoman Bettye Gavin at the Tuesday council meeting suggested that the recently reopened alley serving the 1100 block of Center Street be re-closed regardless of what policy the city develops.

Gavin said residents "did everything that the city required them to do" when the alley was closed in 2012.

"It was reopened without the residents' knowledge," Gavin said.

The city has had a procedure, although not a written policy, allowing residents to petition to close alleys and restrict parking on residential streets.

Residents served by the Center Street alley petitioned to have it closed on one end to hamper getaways because of thefts and other issues. It was still accessible from the other end.

Those residents include Cunningham Neighborhood Council President John Sheridan, who at times makes public comments critical of the mayor.

Mayor Bob O'Dekirk sought to close the alley in 2019 and again recently, saying he had received complaints from neighbors. The alley was not opened in 2019 when city officials thought they should develop a policy for such actions first.

This time, interim City Manager Jim Hock authorized reopening the alley by taking down the posts on the end where it was closed.

Hock told the council that the Public Works Department has written up a policy, and it will be ready for review by the council's Public Service Committee when it meets Oct. 19.

O'Dekirk said any action on the Center Street alley should await the new policy.

He said some residents on the East Side have been told by city staff in the past that they would have to acquire the land in the alley for the city to shut it down.

"Somebody else because they're connected politically maybe gets their alley closed for free," O'Dekirk said.

The comment appeared to be a reference to Sheridan, a former ally of the mayor who worked on O'Dekirk's first mayoral campaign in 2015.

"I like the idea of taking it to committee and getting a policy that's fair to everybody and not just certain people," he added later, ending the council discussion.

Gavin, who represents sections of both the East and West sides, said the city has closed a number of alleys on both sides of town.

"We have been vacating alleys on the East Side because the city has said it's not going to take care of them," she said.

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