Joliet spent $800,000 dealing with recent looting and storm damage

Joliet spent about $800,000 protecting the city from looters and recovering from recent storm damage, interim City Manager Steve Jones said this week.

Jones gave the report on the unbudgeted personnel expenses at a time the city is trying to cut back on personnel costs because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on tax revenues.

City administration is seeking pay concessions from city unions in an effort to cut personnel costs by $3.9 million.

Most of the $800,000 spent on the recent crises comes from overtime paid to city workers, Jones said.

“I hate to say it, but we’re probably talking about $300,000 of overtime from the wind damage and a half-million of overtime from the looting and civil disobedience,” Jones told the City Council on Tuesday.

The looting-related overtime costs extend beyond the May 31 rioting that led to 10 stores being looted and one being set on fire.

Police and other staff were used in the following days to block entryways to stores in the Louis Joliet Mall retail district and other areas to prevent a possible recurrence of looting that never developed.

“We went multiple nights through the week,” Jones said. Thursday. “It was extra people. It was public vehicles blocking driveways.”

The looting that occurred on Sunday, May 31, followed a wind storm the weekend before that blew down trees and utility lines while also peeling roofs off of some buildings.

Jones said some of the $300,000 spent after the May 23 may include costs of private contractors, but most of it was for overtime pay to city employees called out for the recovery.

“We had a contractor out there working to get trees off of people’s homes,” he said. “We had some parkway trees that hit houses.”

Joliet, like other cities, has yet to get a grasp of the full impact the pandemic-induced recession will have on tax revenues.

But Finance Director James Ghedotte told the Finance Committee this week that tax revenue plunged in March.

“I will tell you that our sales tax is down down 11% already, and that was for March,” he said.

Hotel tax revenue was down 85%, and food and beverage tax dollars were down 70%.

The city is making budget cuts to prepare for a potential $13 million drop in tax revenue for the year.

City administration has proposed 3.85% pay concessions to cut $3.9 million in personnel costs on top of $9.1 million in other planned budget cuts.

The proposal reportedly has met with resistance from city unions.

Jones said the $800,000 in extra costs incurred by the recent disasters have not been added to the $3.9 million in cuts sought by the city.