It’s been just a little over two weeks since the coronavirus pandemic was declared a national emergency by President Trump and the Illinois Primary squeaked by with a dismal voter turnout for a Presidential Primary. Turn-out this year was just over 25 percent. The last Presidential Primary in 2016 netted slightly less than a 45 percent turnout. The official results of the 2020 primary will be posted on April 7. Provisional and mail-in ballots were added as of March 31. There are no changes in the outcome of any race. There have been no Presidential Primaries held in the U.S. since March 17.
The news is almost completely dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are very few positives that can be highlighted regarding the crisis, but perhaps those objecting to development of the Northpoint intermodal project can take some solace from Mondays announcement. The public hearing on the pre-annexation of the 1260-acre project has been postponed until further notice. Seems the best efforts of many people to delay the vote had unanticipated outside help. This project has been on a fast track for, what appears to be, no visible reason. Why the rush? That’s the question. According to the pre-annexation agreement, several things must be accomplished before any dirt is turned over. A bridge over the Des Plaines River must be built. Even though it has been approved and preliminary plans to proceed with construction have been made, it’s possibly two or more years away from completion. The project’s main concept is that of a closed loop facility with only two places to enter and exit. The promised bridge is one of them.
Tuesday, March 17 is primary election day in Illinois. Early voting began this last Monday. Voters in Will County should have received a sample ballot for both the Democratic and the Republican Primary races. You have to pick one or the other and declare the party ballot you wish to use for your vote. Other than the presidential race, there are not many races providing an array of selections. As of this week the Democratic Party has four choices for President: in ballot order, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Tulsi Gabbard. There are four other races on the ballot that are contested. The contest for the 11th Congressional District is between Bill Foster and Rachel Ventura. The 49th State Senate race is between Meg Loughran Cappel, Larry Hug and Michael Crowner. The Will County Board Chief Executive contest is between Jennifer Bertino-Tarant and Nick Palmer. The Coroner race is between Laurie Summers and Sean Talbot.
Curious. That’s another word for peculiar. Odd, strange and unusual are also words that are derivative meanings of “curious.” What am I talking about? Leadership at City Hall. The City of Joliet continues its administration without a fulltime, permanent City Manager. The current part-time, Interim City Manager Steve Jones, who is also a non-resident, has a new status. Beginning March 1, according to Jones’ new arrangement with the City of Joliet, he is an independent contractor under the terms and conditions of an Employee Leasing Agreement with GovTempsUSA, LLC. The compensation payable to the leasing company is $135.10 per hour. The Assigned Employee, Steven Jones, will be paid only for hours worked. The maximum number of hours that can be invoiced is 40 per week. It is unclear if that means there is no 24/7 on the job or if he has to show up for 40 hours per week. It is also unclear who determines the number of hours actually worked. Jones?
Overtime pay at 135% over budget?
No decision has been made about Joliet’s next permanent City Manager as was implied at a recent Special City Council meeting. City management leadership in Joliet will have to wait at least another couple of weeks. Officially the current part-time Interim City Manager Steve Jones, who is also a non-resident, will continue in the role. That is until he takes some time off this week and next. According to sources, Jones is appointing City Clerk Christa Desiderio as Acting Interim City Manager during his absence. She will be the fifth person to fill in at the manager role, at least temporarily, since Jim Hock left the City Manager position in May of 2017.
The first order of business for the City Council meeting this week was a proclamation recognizing the work of the Environmental Commission. The Proclamation stated in part the Commission “exceeded expectations and provided for a thorough, unbiased and transparent study process for the benefit of all City of Joliet water customers and potential regional water partners.” As a member of the Environmental Commission, I can confirm that is a true statement. That objective guided the study from the beginning. The fact that Lake Michigan was the final choice for Joliet’s alternative water source should come as no surprise. Approximately 83 percent of communities in the Chicago region, which includes seven counties, use Lake Michigan as their drinking water supply. The Great Lakes Region contains more than 20 percent of the world’s surface drinking water.
The end of the year is often the time to reflect on the passing year’s memorable happenings. In keeping with that tradition, here’s my attempt to remind you of a few topics covered by Wayne’s Words columns in 2019. A column in January reminded everyone that in spite of the lousy weather January had dropped on Joliet, polar vortex and snow, that the baseball season was just around the corner. Hometown team, the Joliet Slammers, promised better attendance and a hope for a championship. The promise of improved fans in the stands was kept with a 38 percent increase at the gate. Unfortunately, the team tanked and didn’t make the playoffs as they had in the previous year.
To budget or not to budget was the question at Tuesday’s Joliet City Council meeting. Since the decision was not made this week, the Council will meet again next Thursday. The budget vote requires at least five votes to pass. The vote was four to four on Tuesday. Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, and Council Members Larry Hug, Terry Morris and Jan Quillman objected to several tax and fee increases contained in the budget. The four also opposed a bond issue included in the budget for a $6.5 million renovation of the downtown library. Council members Pat Mudron, Sherri Reardon, Don Dickenson and Mike Turk voted for the budget. One of the major points of disagreement is whether the $11 million deficit projected by Interim City Manager Jones will actually materialize when final revenues for the 2019 budget are realized probably sometime in February or March next year.
Joliet’s pursuit of a new water source has become a complicated saga of miscommunication and questionable cost comparison information. Last week the DuPage Water Commission sent a letter to Mayor Bob O’Dekirk questioning how cost estimates to become a DWC customer were derived. The DWC did not submit or review any of the cost estimates attributed to DWC. According to another source another candidate that could provide a river water source, Aqua Illinois, also did not submit costs. What’s going on? Good question, the trite response goes! The City’s response was sent to DuPage Water Commission on Tuesday in an effort to explain how the cost figures were computed. The reply was provided by Allison Swisher, Public Utilities Director for Joliet. In the letter Swisher suggests they read the Phase II Study Report and after reviewing the full report “provide us with any specific issues that you feel may need to be addressed.”
The City of Joliet received a letter on Monday, November 25, from the DuPage Water Commission (DWC) contesting inclusion of cost estimate comparisons of water source alternatives. The letter was addressed to Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk and copied to the Joliet City Council, the Joliet Environmental Commission and Allison Swisher, Public Utilities Director. The letter acknowledges making a presentation made in March that established the reasons why Joliet should consider using DWC for their water source. The presentation did not include any cost estimates. Since then, the DWC has been invited to submit a formal Request For Proposal (RFI), attend a workshop meeting in Joliet and received an email from Joliet that included cost estimates the DWC deemed inaccurate. The DWC did not respond to any of the requests nor prepare or present anything, according to the letter.