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Joliet mayor suggests progress on old prison on Collins Street

Photo shows section of old Joliet Correctional Center, which closed in 2002.
Photo shows section of old Joliet Correctional Center, which closed in 2002.

JOLIET – Mayor Bob O’Dekirk on Tuesday hinted that there could be progress on the long-standing issue of what to do with the old Joliet prison on Collins Street.

O’Dekirk at the Joliet City Council meeting said he and others from the city went to Springfield last week to talk with state officials about the vacant prison.

“We talked at length about the prison, and I hope sometime soon we’ll have something to present the council about what we’re going to do with that property,” O’Dekirk said.

O’Dekirk after the meeting, however, said he would not elaborate beyond his short statement.

Vandalism, break-ins and arson at the state-owned Joliet Correctional Center has been an ongoing problem for the city, which has had to send in firefighters to put out fires and even rescue a girl who locked herself in a cell.

Former City Manager Jim Hock before he retired in May proposed joint-ownership of the prison by the city and Joliet Area Historical Museum.

Museum Director Greg Peerbolte has proposed the same possibility, pointing to an interest among visitors to Joliet to get inside the 19th-century limestone walls of the prison, which has been made famous in TV and movies.

But the City Council has been reluctant to take on ownership liability, and Peerbolte has said the museum board has not been convinced either.

O’Dekirk said he was joined on the Springfield trip by interim City Manager Marty Shanahan and interim City Attorney Chris Regis.

New crime technology

The council approved spending $86,179 for a Faro 3D laser system used to to reconstruct crime and crash scenes.

Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, whose office is paying half the cost of the scanner through forfeiture funds, told the council that the system creates “a three-dimensional image so that a jury for the first time will be able to see exactly what a police officer saw when he walked into the room.”

Glasgow said the technology will aid his office in prosecuting crimes.

“On car accidents, it can literally take in all the data and make a movie to re-create it,” he said.

The city is paying the other half of the laser system costs through its forfeiture funds.

The council also approved spending $52,467 for 25 more Taser guns for police.

Speedway tax break

Speedway gets a 50 percent sales tax rebate for 10 years at a gas station and convenience store to be built at Route 53 and Emerald Drive.

The City Council approved the rebate and annexation of the 14.6-acre site into the city.

The travel center, which will serve trucks and cars as well as selling beer and wine, is expected to generate annual sales taxes of $310,000, according to a city memo on the rebate.

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