On Monday afternoon Joliet businessman Ed Czerkies issued a letter to the citizens of Joliet in response the controversy involving the new LED Marquee to be built and installed at the Rialto Square Theater. Mr. Czerkies gave $350,000 to the theater for that new marquee project that has caused a small group of citizens to speak out saying that the new marquee is neither period correct for the time in which the theater was built nor is it ascetically pleasing, as it will feature a memorial to Mr. Czerkies parents. In his letter Mr. Czerkies states that he would be fine with his donation being returned, stating that he'll donate the money to an organization and cause that will appreciate it. The Rialto Square Theater has stated that they still do believe there is a chance for an agreement to be made between the theater and Mr. Czerkies. Joliet Mayor Tom Giarrante joined WJOL on Monday and said the simple fact of the matter is you can't please everybody. He went on to say that "the man donated $350,000 to the Rialto, if he's happy, I'm happy. If you don't do it it's going to come back to the taxpayers." If Mr. Czerkies pulls his $350,000 the Rialto would have to return the full amount even though construction of the sign is 75% completed according to General Manager Randy Green to the tune of $197,000, which the theater would have to pay for its self. Does that mean that the theater would come to the City of Joliet and ask for help from the city. The mayor says it's possible that the theater could come to city for the funds and then the taxpayers would be left paying for it. The mayor also said that he's confident with the leaders of the Rialto that everything that has been done above board not just with the marquee project but with the theater in general.
As we begin our look at seven MAJOR STORIES of the year, we go back to the start of 2014; when 1340 WJOL lost someone who gave over five decades to this station.
Don Ladas passed away in January at the age of 85. His over 50 years as a salesman, sportscaster, and general ambassador for 1340 WJOL began in 1955. And that same year, another WJOL legend began his run: Frank O'Leary. He never forgot day one of working together with Dan Ladas.
And of course, there was TEN PIN TOPICS, known as the longest running radio bowling show in the country. But that was just a tiny part of his story. Don loved the White Sox, and enjoyed the 2005 championship like to many others who worked here. But more than anything, Don Ladas loved high school sports, and called more games than you could ever imagine. He recalled just some of it with Scott Slocum, at his retirement party in May of 2009.
One can just imagine what Don would have thought about this year's stories, the Providence and Lemont state baseball championships, or the Wilmington and Providence state football titles. Don also mentioned at his 2009 farewell why he never said "farewell to Joliet." It was the support he received his family received when his daughter Sheri was about to have major surgery.
Frank O'Leary summed up what Don Ladas was all about, and how people like him should be remembered. He stated that you judge people on their character, their contributions, their accomplishments, what they have given back, and their family life. O'Leary summed it up by saying that Ladas thrived in ALL of those areas.
12-21 3 PM
The Lockport City Council is scheduled to take a vote on the "Broken Arrow Golf Course proposal" soon after the first of the year. As City Manager Ben Benson explains, it's a question of whether or not to "continue the process" for something that the course's owners have in mind. The plan calls for the expansion of the banquet center, along with residential additions where the par three golf course used to be located.
But while some neighbors are concerned about density and traffic, those on the side of Broken Arrow believe that THIS is a move that needs to be made in order to stay competitive
Benson adds that those in favor of Broken Arrow doing this have some conditions; such as not asking for substantial variances from lockport regulations.
That vote on the Concept Plan is set for the January 7th Lockport City Council meeting.
12-22 11 AM
Once we get into the new year, there will be a NEW POLICE CHIEF in the Village of Manhattan. After Harold Martin decided to move on to the position of undersheriff in Kendall County, several dozen applied for the Manhattan position. And last week, Evanston Deputy Police Chief Joseph Wazny, Junior was hired as the new Manhattan Police Chief. Joseph Wazny, Junior will be sworn in on Monday January 5th, with a ceremonial swearing-in also scheduled for the Tuesday January 6th Manhattan Village Board meeting.
12-22 11:15 AM
As any experienced police officer will tell you, one thing that just "seems to go up" as Christmastime: domestic disturbances. This past weekend was no exception for the Joliet Police. In one case, 24 year old Tony Harris of Joliet was arrested in an incident with a 21 year old victim, when the victim tried to purchase an item that he did not want purchased. He now faces domestic battery charges. Meanwhile, a fight at 11:20 PM last (Sun) night that somehow ended up on a second floor balcony has led to the arrest of 26 year old Derrick William-Scott. Police say he attacked his 34 year old victim on the balcony, causing both to fall 16 feet to the floor, with him landing on top of her. William-Scott reportedly drove his victim to the hospital before leaving, and was pulled over by Channahon Police about three hours later. Also, at about 1:50 AM this (mon) morning, a call from other occupants led police to a room in the motel at 1103 Plainfield Road. Forty-seven year old Franklin Castillo was arrested for domestic battery after attacking his 48 year old victim when he accused her of speaking with other men on social media. The victim was able to get the attack on her cell phone, with the police officers having not necessarily a good picture, but a good audio account of what had happened.
12-22 12 Noon
Joliet Police say that an arrest has been made in the drive-by shooting death of Terione D Steward this past Sunday night near McDonough and Joliet. A witness was able to give a partial license plate number, which led investigators to the car, the occupants, interviews with the occupants, and determination of who fired the gun. The arrested party, who will be tried as an adult, is 16 year old Demond (de-MOND) Fuqua of Joliet. He's charged with two counts of first degree murder, and one count of aggravated battery with a firearm, due to the fact that Steward's 14 year old brother was shot in the foot. Charges against other occupants in the car are still possible, as the investigation continues. Joliet Police have also stated that this action was gang related, and in retaliation for the recent double-homicide that occured back on December 2nd in the 400 block of Strong. Seventeen year old Tariq J Purnell of Joliet and 30 year old Keon D Kelly of Lockport were killed in that incident.
UPDATE: WJOL has learned that the driver of the vehicle, Davia A. Mayes, has also been charged with 2 counts of murder and 1 count of aggravated battery with a firearm. Both will appear in court January 9th.
The number of video gaming terminals in Joliet has increased by 10 but the revenue brought in, is holding steady. The city of Joliet took in over 38-thousand dollars during the month of November. That's down by about 2-thousand dollars from the previous month. The state's share of VGT gaming for the month of November is just over 190-thousand dollars while the operators of the machines took in 228-thousand dollars. But the staggering number is the amount played. Just over 9.3 million dollars was played at video gaming terminals. And 8.6 million was won. So the net wagering amount is 762-thousand dollars.
12-19 10 AM
The City of Joliet has announced that Martin J Shanahan, Jr will be the city's next Corporation Counsel, replacing the retired Jeff Plyman. Shannahan graduated from Joliet's University of Saint Francis, and received his Juris Doctorate from the John Marshall Law School in Chicago. He will begin working for the City of Joliet on January 5th.
12-18 12:20 PM
The plan to re-do the Joliet draw bridges is on paper, but there's a long way and at the very least three years of work to go. During yesterday's public meeting at Joliet City Hall, Bridge Management Specialist Pete Sambor of the United States Coast Guard said that although Joliet's six draw bridges are seen by many as rare, the miles of federal waterways within the 22 states the he deals with, out of the Eighth Coast Guard District in St Louis, actually has about 150 drawbridges. And many of them, such as a couple in Arkansas, already have this modern control system that they'd like to put in Joliet.
There were diagrams there Tuesday of all six Joliet drawbridges, and detour routes that would be used while this work is being done. But it's important to note that they'd be changed over one at a time, with the Coast Guard giving final approval, after a certain time period, as to whether the updates are safely and permanently done. And as we've mentioned, there will be just one bridge tender site, which would be in the Illinois Department of Transportation maintenance building, on Bridge Street near the Jackson Street Bridge. Three different bridge tenders would work shifts, providing 24-7 coverage of this remote system. However, it would be the state paying for renovation. And that, these days, with the shape Illinois is in, can be very tricky. Sara Wilson of IDOT says, this whole thing has been studied for quite a while.
Wilson said it will be tricky for a long range project like this: because IDOT's list of projects and money for them works on a five year cycle, which is still updated every year. So it's a matter of getting the intial commitment to this, and keeping it.
12-16 10 PM
Thursday's Will County Board meeting was mostly "good wishes" and "holiday greetings." But Suzanne Hart's report from the Legislative Committee did have a case of "good news, bad news." The good news side was legislation passed in Washington, through the help of Congressman Kinzinger and Senators Durbin and Kirk, giving the Will County Landfill on the old Joliet Arsenal grounds a 15 year extension from its original capping date. Now, instead of having to cap the landfill in 2027, it will be capped in 2042. The means more revenue for the county, more energy production from the methane gas generators at the green landfill, and as Hart pointed out: the landfill will be no more full than first planned.
The bad news side of Har's legislative report had to do with something in Springfield. A Senate bill allowing juries for civil cases to have six members instead of 12 has a SECOND part to it that will cost the county money. That "second part" calls for jurors to be paid 25 dollars for the first day, and then 50 dollars each additional day; instead of the current 10 dollars per day. So even with less jurors, the county is paying out more. And Hart says, that's yet another unfunded mandate the county has to deal with, taking over one-quarter of a million dollars out of their budget each year, when they're trying to find the funding for a certain major project: the new courthouse.
In other Will County Board action, former New Lenox Trustee Ray Tuminello was sworn in as the appointed member for District 12, replacing Margo McDermed, who was elected to the General Assembly to replace the retired Renee Kosel.
12-18 12 Noon
The new transportation center being worked on in Downtown Joliet has turned into a "work in progress" on more ways than one.
When the plans were first unveiled for the new transportation center that would replace Union Station, one main reason for it was the old way had Metra ticketing and platforms on the second floor, separated from the Amtrak facilities on the first floor. In addition, the public washrooms were just on the first floor. This led to disorganization, and safety problems, such as passengers crossing live rail lines to get where they needed to go.
And as Kendall Jackson from the City of Joliet explained to 1340 WJOL's Scott Slocum, it was soon discovered that if they just built one brand new facility, a lot of the same problems would still exist. Therefore, the better solution was to spread things out.
And as Joliet City Civil Engineer Lisa Dorothy explains, lots of the work being done right now on the east side of the tracks is right along Art Schultz Drive, taking away some of the Joliet Slammers' staff parking places. But Dorothy says, the Slammers exployees at Silver Cross Field have been a big help; in allowing workers to use the "will call" area to warm up. She says the Slammers realize that this facility will be a great partner, once all is completed.
A big part of this project down the road is going to be a 48 hour stoppage of rain service, while tunnels are worked on and bridges are redone. Dorothy says, this will be 48 hours of non stop work, and she'd actually like to be awake for all of it.
It goes without saying this a huge, incredibly expensive project. Lots of parties are involved. There was a 30 million dollar grant from the state, an eight million dollar contribution from nearby CenterPoint. A one-point-seven million dollar RTA grant for PACE service, 10 million dollars for work that will be done for High Speed Rail, and a two-point-eight million dollar payment from BNSF Railroad. The city will soon be kicking in about eight-and-a-half million. Dorothy points out that once this is over, that tower portion of the original Union Station...don't worry historians, it will be there.
Dorothy says that if all goes well, the major ribbon cutting for the opening of everything at this new Downtown Joliet Transportation Center, will happen sometime in 2016.
11-24 5 AM
Scott Slocum had a chance to take a ride over Centerpoint South in Elwood yesterday. You've heard that it's the largest inland port in North America, see for yourself. Go to Scott Slocum's Facebook page to view the video.