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$4M bus station set for downtown

BOURBONNAIS — After years of budgetary starts and stops, it appears the long-anticipated Kankakee Metro Centre bus station will be built in 2021.

The complex will be located on East Chestnut Street between the 300 blocks of North Schuyler and North Dearborn avenues.

The project is expected to cost $4 million, with $1.6 million coming from the state of Illinois and another $2.4 million from the federal government.

The project was anticipated to be built in two phases, but due to the $2.2 trillion federal CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Act), the entire funding allotment came through, meaning the project could be completed in only one phase, said Siron Sims, managing director of the River Valley Metro Mass Transit District.

The facility will feature covered areas for those waiting for buses at the downtown transfer station. The main benefit to the center will be buses will no longer be required to park on Chestnut Street to pick up riders, making for a much safer process.

The location will be have ample lighting, heated sidewalks under the covered area, security cameras and seating. There will be a restroom area, but only for metro bus employees, Sims noted.

“This will be a great facility,” Sims said. “This district has been working on this for some 16 years. Rob Hoffmann [recently retired managing director] was trying to get this done for years. He completed so much of the groundwork.

“Now I’m going to push it through and get it done. This is going to be big.”

The project is expected to go for contractor bids soon and the goal is to have the project awarded in the fall. Sims said construction would likely not begin until the start of the 2021 construction year. The goal is to have the project completed within 2021.

Sims said final paperwork and the full design plan by Tria Architecture of Burr Ridge — the company which designed the Manteno Transfer Center — is being submitted to the Illinois Department of Transportation. Once IDOT completes its review, it will prepare the bid package. The goal is to have the bid specifications available to construction companies by late fall to early winter.

River Valley Metro in the just-completed fiscal year 2020 provided 607,803 rides. That total is 10.5 percent below the 679,706 rides provided in the 2019 fiscal year, but, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic which led to a nationwide stay-at-home restrictions in March, placed great limitations on the system.

The system’s top year was the 2015 fiscal year when 993,018 rides were provided.

Due to social-distancing restrictions, ridership is limited on the buses. The large buses now have capacity for only 12.

Like everyone else, the sooner life can return to some type of normalcy, Sims said bus ridership numbers should soar.

“We’re so anxious to get this going,” Sims said. “This will be so great for our riders and our system.”

Bond set at $5 million for second suspect involved in double homicide

KANKAKEE — Aaron J. Thomas, 32, of Kankakee, was charged Tuesday by the Kankakee County State’s Attorney Office with four counts of first-degree murder, possession of a stolen motor vehicle and concealment of a homicide.

Thomas is one of two men Kankakee police arrested in connection with the deaths of two men in Kankakee last week.

Judge Kathy Bradshaw-Elliott set a $5 million bond for Thomas. His next court date is Sept. 10.

If convicted of the two homicides, Thomas is facing a mandatory life sentence. Thomas has been on parole with the state of Illinois since July 9.

He has served prison time on four residential burglary convictions in Kankakee and Cook counties. He was also convicted of a weapons charge in Kankakee County.

Joseph Jaworowski, 35, of Kankakee, was charged on Monday by the state’s attorney office with possession of a stolen vehicle and concealment of a homicide. Elliott set his bond at $500,000, and his next court date is Sept. 4.

The victims, Albert Zaragoza, 66, and Elliott Sheppard, 41, both of Kankakee, were found in an apartment building where they lived in the 400 block of West Bourbonnais Street. Both men had been strangled.

Zaragoza’s body was discovered in his room on Aug. 11. During the investigation, police found Zaragoza’s Ford F150 pickup truck was missing. It was recovered Saturday by Illinois State Police on Interstate 88 near Dixon.

Personal effects of Jaworowski were found in the truck as well as receipts from purchases made in Milwaukee, Wis., and Illinois, Kankakee County Assistant State’s Attorney Erika Hamer said.

Hamer said investigators identified Jaworowski in a video obtained from a store where he purchased gas. At 8 a.m. Saturday, Jaworowski was apprehended in Dixon and turned over to Kankakee police.

Jaworowski told investigators Thomas killed Zaragoza and Sheppard, strangling both, according to police reports. He said he did help with concealment of Sheppard’s body.

At about 1:45 p.m. Saturday, the body of Sheppard, who had also resided in the same apartment building but in a different apartment than Zaragoza, was located in the attic of the building. Family members had reported him missing on Aug. 12.

At 11 a.m. Sunday, Kankakee detectives located Thomas in the 300 block of East River Road. After a foot pursuit, the detectives and patrol officers, with the assistance of an Illinois State Police K-9 unit, took him also into custody.

The matter is still under investigation.

St. Anne schools transition to remote learning 2 days into school year

ST. ANNE — St. Anne schools will transition to fully remote learning beginning Thursday following news that three of the district's employees tested positive for COVID-19, according to a letter from Superintendent Charles Stegall.

The letter was posted to St. Anne Grade School and High School websites at about 6 p.m. Tuesday. The district’s first day of school was Monday.

The districts notified families Friday that a total of two staff members between the grade school and high school had tested positive.

Since then, the district were informed of a third positive test from a staff member at the grade school, according to the letter.

Individuals that were in close contact with the positive staff member were notified by the Kankakee County Health Department and also quarantined, and potentially affected areas of the school buildings were cleaned and disinfected, according to the letter.

Both school districts will transition to remote learning through the remainder of the fall quarter “out of an abundance of caution.” The quarter ends Oct. 16.

Wednesday will be a remote learning planning day for staff to prepare for the transition; students will not be in attendance.

“Please know, this was an extremely difficult decision,” Stegall stated in the letter. “We understand that many members of our community will be disappointed. However, the health and safety of our students and staff is our number one priority. We are hopeful that, after the first quarter, we will be able to transition our students back to in-person learning.”

Wanted: Bradley houses needing rehab

BRADLEY — Bradley community development officials are looking to help single-family homeowners complete needed maintenance on their homes and the only thing required is filling out paperwork.

The village is seeking a $550,000 Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity grant that could help homeowners with needed repairs or upgrades, up to a maximum of $50,000 per dwelling.

The village would like to have 20-30 properties to attach to the grant application — due Sept. 30 in Springfield — in an effort to assist low- to moderate-income families with repairs ranging from roofs, siding, electrical, plumbing, furnace, foundation, windows and nearly anything in between.

The grant money could also be used to complete upgrades for those with disability issues, noted Bruce Page, Bradley’s director of community development.

Page noted the target area for the grant is the Bradley neighborhoods south of North Street — the area of the village with the majority of the low- to moderate-income homeowners — but the village would consider any homeowner’s request.

Page said if the village is successful in attaining the grant, all projects would be scored and those with the highest point totals would be the first projects selected. Points would be based in part on the extent of the needed repair, the household income and the number of occupants.

The property must be occupied by the owner, meaning rental properties will not be considered.

To qualify for inclusion in the program, for example, a family of four could earn as much as $59,700. A family of five could earn up to $64,500 to be considered.

To seek more information, property owners can call Page at 815-936-5100 ext. 1111 or email The village will host a public hearing regarding the program at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 14 at village hall.

The grant is competitive and is open to any municipality.

Bradley Mayor Pro Tem Mike Watson said this is not about Bradley’s housing falling into disrepair on a large-scale basis, but rather the village looking into funding sources to assist homeowners who simply may not have the extra money to correct long-standing problems.

This request will be the first time Bradley has sought the Community Development Block Grant Housing Rehabilitation funding.

“This can help bring opportunity to the village with outside money,” Page said. “We want to bring revitalization and redevelopment in any way we can.”

The village has about 4,500 single-family properties, Watson estimated. He said if the village could assist 10, 15 or even 20 homeowners with needed rehab, the village will have at least made a start.

“We know one thing for sure,” Page said, “if we don’t apply, we can’t get it.”

The repairs would be completed by licensed contractors.