Township moving forward with plan to take over Bi-Park

Joliet Township officials have completed their due diligence inspections as part of the first step in a plan to take control of Bicentennial Park.

The city agreed to allow building and insurance inspections of the site in October of last year in order to get a snapshot of the conditions of the park land and buildings.

According to remarks made by Township supervisor Dan Vera to other news outlets this week, inspections were completed in November and he intends to meet with Joliet City Manager Jim Hock soon to see what the next step will be in approving an agreement to transfer control to the township.

A story reported by The Times Weekly in October noted that the township planned to upgrade “park buildings and landscaping, retain current programming and organize volunteers to launch new events or resurrect old ones.”

"We would look at every aspect of the park," said Vera in October, calling the site “one of the ‘pearls’ of Joliet."

The forward momentum of the plan may be due in part to a change in leadership at city hall as the idea had been floated around for a few years before finding new life when Mayor Bob O’Dekirk took office in May of last year.

As outlined in the Times Weekly article, the township proposes an intergovernmental agreement, which would give it primary responsibility for the park's maintenance and improvements with the city retaining minority ownership and paying an annual subsidy of about $100,000.

Township supervisor Dan Vera said in October that officials were looking at completing work to resurface the parking lot and Bluff Street, replace and upgrade landscaping, restore and replace signage, and improve lighting in addition to any work found following the inspections.

Events that are held at the park would continue including summer Concerts on the Hill, the Festival of Gnomes and other theater productions.

Times Weekly columnist and Joliet resident Wayne Horne said that the deal looks to be a good one for the residents and the city.

“What’s the downside here?” said Horne noting that under city stewardship the park has suffered from neglect calling it “abandoned.”

“The city has no good track record for taking care of its assets,” said Horne. “It’s really not a priority.”