Clean energy bill in Springfield to provide economic boost to Zion

Mayor credits Mason, Yingling for helping to get legislation to aid city

ZION – Gov. JB Pritzker’s signing of energy policy legislation will be a financial shot in the arm for residents of Zion, thanks to the efforts of a team working on behalf of the city led by Zion Mayor Billy McKinney and state Rep. Joyce Mason, D-Gurnee, according to a news release.

The legislation will help to restore the tax base that Zion lost when the Zion Nuclear Power Station closed, and it will reduce the tax burden on Zion families.

The Zion Nuclear Power Station was permanently shut down on Feb. 13, 1998. The plant had almost 700 employees and indirectly supported many local businesses. Jobs and many businesses disappeared after the closure and decommissioning of the plant. The plant reportedly had a market value of $693.2 million and paid $19.6 million in property taxes in 1996 to Zion and other local taxing districts. In 2016, tax income from the plant was about $1.6 million.

“Zion had to eliminate 14 police officers, eight public works employees and five jobs in the building department,” former Zion Mayor Al Hill said.

McKinney saw the financial effects of the plant’s closure as a challenge for his administration and hometown and began building off the efforts of his predecessors by contacting state and federal officials and regulators. McKinney tapped City Administrator Dave Knabel and Zion’s state representative, Mason, and put together a team at City Hall to solve the problem of Zion’s financial straits.

Mason and her Lake County colleagues in the House delegation ran with an idea that Knabel previously had raised and McKinney championed – essentially make Exelon restore the tax base and money that left Zion when the nuclear power station abruptly closed. Mason, state Rep. Sam Yingling, D-Grayslake, and their colleagues inserted language in the energy bill that ensured that Zion and Zion-area taxing districts would get funds equivalent to the taxes received during the final years of the plant’s operation.

The blend of tax relief and direct funds from the legislation could mean as much as $2.25 million annually for Zion and would alleviate the tax burden on residents who are still reeling years after the plant’s closure.

McKinney thanked Mason and other Lake County elected officials for supporting Zion residents in the bill.

“It was clear from the outset that Rep. Joyce Mason wasn’t going to be stopped,” McKinney said. “She committed wholeheartedly to getting this bill passed for the people of Zion. She drove it, and she delivered. She was calling, texting and emailing at all hours of the day and night to get this done. We in Zion are lucky to have her as our state legislator.

“Along with Joyce, Rep. Sam Yingling and the other members of the Lake County House delegation worked tirelessly to get this done for the people of Zion,” McKinney continued. “Seeing the state legislature act so fast in approving the bill shows what is possible when good elected officials put their constituents first. ... I am eternally grateful to all of you for doing this for the people of Zion.”