Will County launches efforts to gather Fairmont community feedback

2nd event scheduled Aug. 17

A Northern Illinois Food Bank truck at the Envision Fairmont event on Saturday, June 22, in Fairmont, an unincorporated community in Lockport Township.

Residents of the historically neglected Fairmont community in Lockport Township still want to see more sidewalks, better infrastructure to prevent flooding and a grocery store.

Those were some of the issues brought up by attendees at the Envision Fairmont event Saturday at the Fairmont Community Center, 525 Barry Ave.

The event marked the first steps by Will County officials to reach out to residents of the unincorporated community and gather their feedback on what changes they’d like to see in the future.

“We have continuing problems that need to be addressed, for sure,” said DeLinda Herod, executive director of Fairmont Community Partnership Group.

Herod said she would like to see improvements to the streets, better drainage to prevent flooding and more sidewalks. Many streets in Fairmont don’t have sidewalks, including the street that leads to the Fairmont Community Center.

While the population in Fairmont has continued to decline over the past decade, the community has experienced improvements.

Those include a new water and sewer system, better garbage collection services, the revitalization of homes and the demolition of vacant properties, said Martha Sojka, Will County community development division director. There’s also been efforts to address illegal dumping.

“We’ve done a lot of cleanup events,” Sojka said.

DeLinda Herod, executive director of Fairmont Community Partnership Group, at Envision Fairmont event on Saturday, June 22, in Fairmont, an unincorporated community in Lockport Township.

Sojak said Envision Fairmont is part of an effort to update the 2012 Fairmont Neighborhood Plan and highlight what’s changed in the community in the past decade. One of those changes has been the Latino population becoming more dominant in what once was a primarily African-American community.

At Saturday’s event was a Northern Illinois Food Bank truck providing free food for visitors.

When residents entered the Fairmont Community Center, they could view a traveling exhibit called “African American Voices From Joliet’s Southend,” presented by Lewis University History Center.

Residents could leave sticky notes about what they liked most about Fairmont and what they wanted improved. The sticky notes for improvements listed sidewalks, a grocery store, a retail shop, the removal of abandoned vehicles and the demolition of abandoned homes.

There were several activities for children, including one called Young Urban Planners that was presented by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. The same agency had assisted in the county in the development of the 2012 Fairmont Neighborhood Plan.

A poster gathering community input for the Envision Fairmont event on Saturday, June 22, in Fairmont, an unincorporated community in Lockport Township.

As part of the Young Urban Planners class, children were encouraged to participate in surveys asking them questions such as what kind of events they wanted to see in Fairmont and how they travel around the area.

Several organizations also set up booths at the event to provide information to residents, such as Herod’s Fairmont Community Partnership Group.

Another was Restoring The Spirit, a Joliet organization that provides behavioral health services. Darrin Myers, Restoring The Spirit chief operating officer, said the organization has been figuring out how they can make an impact in Fairmont.

“We have clients that come out of this area,” Myers said.

Another organization at the event was the Richard Myers Foundation, a nonprofit established to continue the philanthropic legacy of the late Richard Myers, an activist in the Lockport and Fairmont community. Myers was a member of the Fairmont School District 89 board.

Jackie Finch, who founded the organization in honor of her father, said she grew up in Fairmont and her organization also is trying to do more in the community.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to get input from the community,” Finch said of Envision Fairmont.

The next Envision Fairmont event is scheduled for Aug. 17.

Residents who can’t attend the event can receive a community survey by emailing lugrants@willcountylanduse.com.

A traveling exhibit called African American Voices From Joliet's Southend, on display at the Envision Fairmont event on Saturday, June 22, in Fairmont, an unincorporated community in Lockport Township.