O’Dekirk looking for city role in downtown Joliet bridges
BY BOB OKON email@example.com January 6, 2014 3:16PM
Updated: January 6, 2014 7:12PM
Joliet City Councilman Robert O’Dekirk wants the city to have a bigger role in overseeing the sometimes-troublesome downtown drawbridges.
O’Dekirk said he will call at the Monday city council meeting for the city to take some kind of role in the state-controlled bridges, although it’s not clear what.
“I’d like to address the bridges downtown,” O’Dekirk said Monday morning. “I know we don’t own them. But these things are getting older and older.”
O’Dekirk pointed to the Jefferson Street bridge, which was closed for nearly three months for maintenance and repairs before reopening on Dec. 27, and the Ruby Street bridge, which was closed for eight months for repairs before reopening in April.
“It definitely affects business downtown, I can tell you first-hand,” said O’Dekirk, who has a law practice downtown.
The bridge proposal is one of four that O’Dekirk plans to bring to the council meeting at 5:30 p.m. He is a potential candidate for mayor in 2015, and O’Dekirk said last week that he would bring four proposals, which he did not outline then, to the meeting as he becomes a more “proactive” councilman.
The bridges, built in the 1930s, are maintained by the state of Illinois. The six drawbridges, five downtown and one at Brandon Road, sometimes are closed for months at a time for repairs when work crews find parts that need to be replaced. Replacement parts typically have to be custom-made for the bridges.
Mayor Thomas Giarrante said O’Dekirk’s proposal “sounds good. The problem is the bridges are old. When they work on them, it’s like working on an old home. They get in there and find parts that have to be replaced, and they have to make the parts.”
O’Dekirk said the proposals he will make at the meeting are not tied to any considerations for the 2015 mayoral campaign.
But two other proposals are aimed at a redevelopment project that Giarrante emphasized in his first campaign for mayor in 2011.
O’Dekirk said the city should pursue U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funding to clean up the old U.S. Steel mill site on Collins Street and put it back to use. He said he will first present his idea to Giarrante at the Monday meeting, including a proposal to turn the site into a training campus for police and firefighters with federal funding.
The city currently is trying to get U.S. Steel to clean up the property, Giarrante said. He said the company, under the oversight of the EPA, could do the job quicker than relying on the government alone.
Giarrante also said the front part of the property along Collins Street is not polluted, and the city would like to see retail development in that section.
O’Dekirk’s fourth proposal will be for the city to close certain downtown streets during the summer for more events, like the New Orleans North party sponsored by the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce.