In an effort to greatly expand the district charged with protecting the Kankakee River, a large percentage of county voters residing less than a mile from the river’s banks, will be asked to tax themselves.
The citizen-initiated referendum, commonly called a back-door referendum, seeking approval for the tax — which would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $24 a year — will be on the March 17 primary ballot.
It’s projected the tax would produce $450,000 annually.
Of the 66,060 registered voters within Kankakee County, 24,009 reside within the proposed district, county officials noted. There are approximately 15,000 separate properties which lie in the footprint of the proposed expansion area.
The proposed taxing district would provide cash eyed to address sedimentation, bank stabilization, logjams and, of course, flooding along the county’s portion of the Kankakee and Iroquois rivers.
Early voting for the March 17 primary began on Thursday.
The referendum question seeks a “for” or “against” vote.
The question reads:
“FOR joining the Kankakee River Conservancy District and assuming a proportionate share of bonded indebtedness, or AGAINST joining the Kankakee River Conservancy District and assuming a proportionate share of bonded indebtedness.”
If approved, the tax is anticipated to generate some $450,000 annually. The tax does not have a sunset clause.
Contacted Wednesday by the Daily Journal, officials of the Kankakee Iroquois Ford Association of Realtors were unaware of the referendum.
FLOODING IS THE ISSUE
At issue, of course, is the increasing flooding which is taking place along the Kankakee and Iroquois rivers within Kankakee County. The so-called 100-year floods have been taking place at rapidly increasing frequencies and without addressing the impact the rivers are having, damage will only rise.
The Momence Conservancy District, formed in 1952, covers the 8 miles from the Indiana state line to the Momence city limits. The goal is to wrap the entire length of the river from the Indiana line to the Will County line into the Kankakee River Conservancy District — which would be a total of about 45 miles of river.
The Kankakee River Conservancy District and the Kankakee River Basin Commission in Illinois received certification on the referendum from Kankakee County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Cunnington.
If approved, the district would include all or significant portions of Momence, Sun River Terrace, Aroma Park, Sammons Point, Kankakee, Bradley, Limestone and Bourbonnais and reach the Kankakee-Will County line at Wilmington.
To have the referendum placed on the ballot, 300 signatures were needed. The groups collected 571.
Not to confuse the conservancy district with the Fish and Wildlife marsh proposal, this effort is geared to increasing the current funding from roughly $10,000 annually to $450,000 yearly.
“Everyone can see what is going on with our river,” said Les Burton, conservancy board president. “We are getting more rain than ever and flood events are more frequent.”
Within the past 10 years, the area has dealt with extreme flood events four times.
Burton noted the Indiana Legislature has given the Indiana conservancy organization about $2 million annually to keep the sand out of the river and stabilize the banks. Illinois, he said, has sent nothing to Kankakee County to resolve this issue.
“We have to help ourselves, so those people who love the river and live by the river have to take control of what we can can control,” Burton said. “We can’t address this with $10,000 per year.”
Residents living near the river have faced rising flood insurance costs, not to mention to cost of flood cleanup.
START ‘HEALING PROCESS’
Ken Munjoy, spokesman for the Kankakee River Basin District, said: “It is important to realize that we are, for the most part, the people that are on the river almost daily. ... The flooding has affected most of us and we are not asking anyone to do something that we are not willing to do ourselves.
“... This is historic in our county, something people will look back on in 50 and 100 years and point to this moment, knowing we were the ones that started the healing process of our river. ... We will never have a better chance to impact our greatest asset.”
Kankakee County Board Chairman Andy Wheeler, who has been pushing for funding to address water issues with the county for several years, said Indiana is repairing its side of the river to keep the sand out of the river.
“They have gone so far as to add me to their newly created River Commission and adopt an official ‘do no harm’ policy. ... But unlike Indiana, we do not have any prospects of continued fund for this,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler noted homeowners are being flooded almost yearly. ... We just can’t let this opportunity pass us by and I am extremely hopeful we will succeed. Who can vote against the river?”
While the coronavirus outbreak in China has captured the attention of health officials worldwide, local officials are still focused on containing the flu virus that has impacted the area for the past two months.
Illinois is listed on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website as “red list,” which indicates a high number of flu cases.
“Up until Christmas, Kankakee had missed it,” said John Bevis, Kankakee County health administrator. “Since the Christmas break, people got exposed [to the virus], and as we’ve all gone back to school and work it spread. We’ve seen cases of influenza A and B.”
The impact has been felt in doctor’s offices and in some area schools. Prevention is the solution for stopping the spread of the virus.
“We’re still recommending that people get the shot,” Bevis said. “If you haven’t been sick, it’s not too late for the next month. It should help reduce the symptoms. You might be knocked out for a day or two instead of a week.”
Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, headache and body fatigue. Some may experience vomiting and diarrhea, especially children and the elderly.
Dr. Hashim Zaidi of the Medical Group of Kankakee County in Bradley said his office has seen the respiratory and influenza A and B.
“This time of the year it’s average for January and February,” he said. “We have seen probably 10-15 cases in the past week.”
Zaidi urges patients to take precautions like washing hands.
“If you are sick and go out in public, wear a mask so you don’t spread it,” said Zaidi, who also suggests getting a shot if you haven’t at this point.
“If it gets to be an epidemic, everyone is going to get it if you don’t get a flu shot” he said.
According to the CDC, nationwide during the week ending Jan. 25 (the most recent data), 5.7% of patient visits reported through the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network were due to influenza-like illness. This percentage is above the national baseline of 2.4%.
“Typically, flu signs and symptoms can vary to determine the type,” Bevis said. “It might represent a certain age group and in terms of severity.”
The CDC found high activity flu levels were found in 41 states (including Illinois), the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. It estimates that so far this season there have been at least 19 million flu illnesses, 180,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 deaths from flu in the U.S.
“It can be more severe if you are fighting something else,” said Bevis of the flu. “A death can occur if for example, you’re receiving chemotherapy for cancer or if there’s some other medical condition. …Now your body has to fight both.”
Bevis said very young people and the elderly are the most susceptible.
“We still have the vaccine,” Bevis said. “Physicians have it, pharmacies have it. … It’s out there.”
Central Community Unit School district with schools in the Ashkum, Chebanse and Clifton area has been impacted.
“We have had students ill typically at this time of the year,” said Tonya Evans, superintendent. “It seems there’s been more diagnosed with some sort of influenza.”
Evans said absences are slightly above average.
Kankakee School District has also seen an incRease in absences, especially at the Lincoln Cultural Center building.
“It started before Christmas,” said Genevra Walters, superintendent. “There was a point where we considered closing one school to do a deep cleaning.”
She said they thought with students having brothers and sisters who attend other schools, that closing wouldn’t have helped.
“We just started to do an intense deep clean when the kids are gone,” Walters said. “It seems like it’s getting better, but I’d have to look at the data from the past two weeks.”
The Kankakee County Health Department posted on its website to take three steps to fight the flu:
1. Get a flu vaccine.
2. Take everyday preventive steps to stop the spread of germs: wash you hands often; and cover you cough and sneezes.
3. Take anti-viral medicine, if prescribed.
“If you are sick, follow the rules,” Bevis said. “... Stay home if you have a fever. Don’t go out and make other people sick.”
KANKAKEE — Nearly five years ago, the Salvation Army Corps in Kankakee opened a family store and donation center in Bradley.
The idea was to provide second-hand items at affordable prices as a way to raise funds for numerous programs offered to those in need.
For the past 18 months, the current leaders, Lts. Scott and Makayla Parnell, crunched numbers in an effort to make the store profitable.
Scott Parnell said they tried cost-saving measures including lower utility bills. Discarding items left after hours that were damaged in inclement weather proved expensive.
The effort to make the store viable came to an end with the announcement via Facebook on Feb. 4 that the store located in the 1300 block of Locke Drive would close May 1.
The last day for donations to be dropped off is March 14.
“We couldn’t justify putting money needed to fund our programs into the store anymore,” Scott Parnell said.
Those programs include sheltering services, feeding programs and financial assistance.
These programs are provided at the Salvation Army’s main facility located in the 100 block of North Harrison Avenue in Kankakee.
“This was not a quick decision. We have a [store] staff and several have been here since the store opened,” Parnell said. “The decision to announce the May closing was to allow employees time to secure other employment.”
Parnell said there are 14 employees, most part time.
The building and property will be sold and the proceeds will go toward funding programs.
“Mission No. 1 is stewardship. The money goes to those in need,” Parnell said. “The community has been good in supporting the organization. They trust us to give those in need help. The story with non-profits is doing more with less.
“The Corps poured a lot of resources into the store. The original plan was for the store to fund programs, not the other way.”
The major fundraiser for the organization is the annual Red Kettle drive during the Christmas holiday season.
Parnell said they have reached 99 percent of their $219,000 goal. The final numbers will be known next week.
The 2018 campaign goal of $225,000 came up $30,000 short. Parnell said that makes a significant difference in the budget.
It was in March 2015 the Salvation Army purchased the former location of Aldis, which opened a new store at Illinois Route 50 and St. George Road.