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Hosey: Selling Joliet City Hall a million-dollar maybe

You can’t say he didn’t try.

Joliet City Manager Jim Capparelli had a plan in place to save nine city engineering staffers from the teeming mass of humanity in City Hall, not to mention the threat posed by its potentially hazardous and unsightly carpeting, but it fizzled out at the last minute.

That was when the city council stepped in and voted to put the whole thing off for two weeks, leaving the nine employees to endure the overcrowded building for another 14 days when they could have been enjoying life within the friendly confines of Two Rialto Square, which is owned by real estate developer John Bays, who happens to be the mayor’s landlord.

Bays was willing to provide space to the city for its engineering staff at the low price of $50,000 a year, and that would have worked out perfectly, as after three years Bays would have collected $150,000. That’s practically the exact amount he paid the city for the Scott Street parking deck just a few months ago.

City leaders tried to spin it as if Bays was doing them a favor by paying anything at all to take a worthless, dilapidated facility that needed $1 million in repairs off their hands. At the same time, they never went so far as to bother putting the deck out for bids and the price they settled for seemed on the cheap side. Then again, once the city council votes to pay Bays rent to house the engineering staff, he might as well have gotten the parking deck for free after just three years.

So it’s a shame the city council wrecked Capparelli’s scheme to save the engineering staff from the indignity of working in City Hall, and they didn’t stop there.

To make matters worse, Mayor Bob O’Dekirk and the city council also thwarted Capparelli’s attempt to realize a much needed $1 million renovation of City Hall.

City Manager Jim Capparelli listens to council discussion on Tuesday, May 18, 2021, at Joliet City Hall in Joliet, Ill. The Joliet City Council discussed an amendment to allow for liquor consumption and video gambling at gas stations.

What would that $1 million pay for? Good question. Capparelli said It would pay for carpet, paint and the “build out” of some offices, all to make City Hall a nicer place to spend time, even if it is so packed with people they have to send some over to Bays’ building.

“People here, the staff here, spend more waking hours here in the office than they do at home so I wanted to make sure that this is a pleasant place to come to work and it’s nice and it’s viable, and I think our employees deserve to have those kinds of things and to update some of the things that we have around here, and the building’s a little bit dated,” Capparelli said.

Coincidentally, the $1 million Capparelli wanted to spruce up City Hall is just about exactly the same as Joliet Economic Development Director Derek Conley claimed it would cost to fix the Scott Street parking deck, and that gives us a solution so obvious it’s hard to fathom how the mayor and city council hadn’t come up with it on their own.

They just need to give City Hall to John Bays, or at least sell it for a modest price, and let him fix it up for them. Then they could pay Bays rent to work there, just like the mayor does already.

• Joe Hosey is the editor of The Herald-News. You can reach him at 815-280-4094, at jhosey@shawmedia.com or on Twitter @JoeHosey.

Joseph Hosey

Joseph Hosey

Joe Hosey became editor of The Herald-News in 2018. As a reporter, he covered the disappearance of Stacy Peterson and criminal investigation of her husband, former Bolingbrook police Sgt. Drew Peterson. He was the 2015 Illinois Journalist of the Year and 2014 National Press Club John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award winner.