News - Joliet and Will County

Joliet council votes on next step for library, vehicle bonds

Jim Roolf speaks in support of the proposed Joliet Public Library bond on Monday, Jul. 20, 2020, in Joliet, Ill.

The Joliet City Council is slated to vote Tuesday a decisive stop toward issuing $10.5 million in bonds for library renovations and vehicle replacements.

The council will vote whether to hire law firm Ice Miller to prepare the separate bonds, which include $6 million for the library and $4.5 million for city vehicles.

The question of the bonds has divided the council at times with some members saying it's too risky to take on debt with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.

Still, local banker Jim Roolf, who has backed the downtown library improvements previously did so again at the council's workshop meeting on Monday.

"When you're on your heels, you still have to be able to move forward," Roolf told the council, adding that the improvements at the library may be what students will need with the impact of the pandemic on the classroom.

"This library will put Joliet in the forefront in terms of technologically advanced services for young people and everyone else," he said.

One plus for the library bonds is that state grant money has been secured by state Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, to cover the $6.5 million that otherwise would have been paid by home owners through property taxes that would range between $6 and $9 a year.

The library is adding $4 million in reserve funds to pay the total $10.5 million bill for the renovations on the interior of the downtown library.

The vehicle replacement program is being paid with a 3-cent hike in the Joliet gas tax that started in February.

The program has been a sore spot for Mayor Bob O’Dekirk and Councilman Larry Hug, who have questioned the extent of the expenditures while staff has insisted the money is needed to pay for aging vehicles.

Both the library bonds and vehicle replacement program have had the backing of a council majority and are included in the 2020 budget. That budget, however, is being cut by $13 million to prepare for the estimated impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on city revenues with business down at stores, restaurants, hotels that all generates local taxes.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News