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Alcohol sales for movie theaters OK’d in Kankakee

KANKAKEE — More beverage options are coming soon to Kankakee movie theaters.

Moviegoers under 21 will have to stick with soda or a slushy, but those of legal drinking age will soon have the option to pair an alcoholic beverage with their popcorn and candy at the movies.

The Kankakee City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Monday allowing for the creation of a new classification of liquor license, Class W, specifically for movie theaters.

The license will authorize movie theaters to sell alcohol for consumption on the premises.

No more than 20% of the establishment’s gross annual revenues may be derived from alcohol sales, according to the ordinance.

Also, on any given day, no alcohol may be sold or served before 9 a.m. or later than 11:30 p.m. or 30 minutes after the start of the last movie of the evening.

The license fee is $1,500 per year.

The city has set a limit of three Class W licenses, which it will issue one at a time.

The ordinance stemmed from a request from Classic Cinemas, owner of the Kankakee-based Meadowview Theatre and Paramount Theatre.

Kankakee Mayor Chris Curtis noted that the two locations would have to purchase individual licenses from the city.

The application process can take 10 to 14 days, he said. Then, the licenses will have to be approved by the city council.

Council approval could happen as early as the Dec. 5 or Dec. 19 meeting.

Once ownership gains city approval, they will also need to gain a state liquor license. The company then plans to set up with a distributor and install a cooler system.

In a prior committee meeting on the subject, it was noted that nine of the 16 theaters in the suburban region offer the sale of alcohol.

The other movie theater in Kankakee County, Cinemark Movies 10 in Bourbonnais, does not have a liquor license.

Chris Johnson, CEO of the Downers Grove-based Classic Cinemas, said earlier this year that the offering of adult beverages was the third and final phase of upgrades the company began a few years ago.

The first two phases involved installing recliner-style seating and new screens with updated technology.

Once approved, the plan is for the theaters to begin offering the sale of a limited number of canned beers, wines and mixed drinks.

A bar-like setting is not the intention, Johnson has said.

Rather, patrons would purchase their adult beverages as they are walking in, similar to other concessions.

2 hearts beat as one: Kankakee man meets mother of heart donor

It will be a special Thanksgiving Day for Kankakee’s Tom Johnson. He finally got to meet and thank the family who was responsible for extending his life.

“It was absolutely beautiful,” he said. “They were just so beautiful.”

Johnson, 68, has battled heart ailments his entire life, having been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy as a child. He eventually developed congestive heart disease. Johnson was on a heart transplant list for 18 months prior to having the operation in December 2018 at Loyola University Medical Center.

Johnson, who worked for 43-and-a-half years at St. Mary’s hospital in Kankakee, received the heart of Andreona Williams, of South Bend, Indiana. Williams was 20 when she died unexpectedly from an asthma attack, and her family made the decision to donate her organs to save lives.

This past Saturday at a downtown Chicago hotel, Johnson and his wife, Sharon, met Andreona’s mother, Amber Morgan, and her son, Riley, in a meeting arranged by the Indiana Donor Network.

“The minute I turned the corner and seen him, it was just a surreal feeling,” Morgan said. “You hear of the transplants, and I got the letters but to actually see a person in front of me that’s living because of my daughter, it made everything so worth it.”

Andreona’s pancreas and kidney went to recipients in Indiana, and Morgan has met those families as well.

“We keep in contact and send cards,” she said. “I cared about meeting them and it was just as important, but I felt it was more important to me to meet [Tom] and hear her heartbeat again. It was just a different feeling that I needed to meet the man who will have me in her heart. I said, ‘He’s got my heart,’ literally has my heart.”

It was a meeting Johnson was hoping for since he had the transplant. He battled through some serious complications for six months after the operation. He had two bowel surgeries that extended his recovery period a few months before he first penned a letter to Morgan, asking if they could meet so he could thank them for their organ donation.

“I just I wanted him to have time to heal, and we were still trying to heal,” she said.

Morgan said she then started thinking about a meeting, but then COVID hit in 2020. Once COVID restrictions started to ease, she was preparing to reach out, but then Morgan suffered a heart attack. She recovered but was off work for a time and didn’t have much of an energy level.

Fast forward to early November; everything kind of fell into place.

“Well, [Riley] turned 16 on Nov. 18, and we were going to be in Chicago and I knew that [the Johnsons] were somewhere around the area,” Morgan said. “And I thought what a perfect time — you will be there already. If we can make this happen.”

The Johnsons met Morgan and her family, surrounded by several Chicago print and digital media outlets there to document the joyous occasion. They talked, hugged and answered questions for a little more than a hour. It won’t be the final time they get together.

“Amber is just a really lovely person, and we’re just going to keep in touch,” Johnson said. “We’re planning on a meeting in the spring if not sooner, but we’re going to kind of wait until the weather clears. She’s in South Bend, so it’s quite a distance.”

Johnson retired from St. Mary’s in February 2018. He started out as a licensed practical nurse in 1974 before working in respiratory therapy and then the information technology department as a manager.

“I worked for all of the organizations — Provena, Presence Health and then AMITA and so on and so forth,” he said. “All of those organizations for the remainder of my time, which was about 20 years.”

Before having the heart transplant, it was a chore just to climb a flight of stairs.

“I would be able to climb some stairs, but I would have to do maybe four or five steps at a time and then rest,” he said. “Now we go up to vacations in Hayward, Wisconsin, and there’s about 45 [steps] there and I can actually outdo my younger son. They just can’t believe it.”

When the weather is good, Johnson goes on 15-mile bicycle rides each morning and then walks for 45 minutes to an hour on the treadmill in his home. In the winter months, it’s two hours on the treadmill.

Also, Johnson is able to do yard work at his home on Tower Road in the Limestone area in addition to doing woodworking and glass fusion art work. He keeps busy.

“I can do a lot of gardening without tiring,” he said.

Tom and Sharon, a retired nurse from St. Mary’s, have two adult sons, Paul and James. Paul, the oldest, lives in Dwight and is mayor as well as the fire chief and works as a full-time firefighter in Downers Grove.

“He’s got all kinds of energy,” Johnson said of his son.

James lives in Bourbonnais and works as a mechanic at River Valley Truck Parts in Kankakee and is trained in martial arts.

Johnson is truly grateful for Andreona’s heart. He said he knows people who have had transplants that have lasted 20 years and some that have failed real, real fast. He’s doing everything in his power to protect his heart to be the former and not the latter. That’s why he’s staying physically fit and stays on track with his immunosuppressant drugs.

“I’m followed for rejection real religiously, having an echocardiogram at least every year if not more,” he said. “Then I have heart biopsies once a year, and I do some other lab test that check for rejection, but so far no rejection whatsoever.”

Morgan said Andreona suffered from asthma her whole life after she had a stroke in utero when she was born. She had minimal use of her right side and was told she wouldn’t be able to do much. Yet she was able to get her driver’s license and she played soccer.

“She was in and out of the hospital her whole life with asthma attacks,” she said. “So with him to be able to do the things he couldn’t and things she wasn’t able to do; that’s why I feel like I get to enjoy her through him.”

Village of Bourbonnais secures new police vehicles

BOURBONNAIS — Village of Bourbonnais trustees approved an ordinance to purchase three police squad vehicles from a dealership in Indiana during Monday’s meeting.

In March, trustees approved the purchase of five 2022 model Ford Explorer squads for $187,210. The department was replacing older models.

The village purchased them from Court Street Ford using funds received from the American Rescue Plan Act.

In September, they received two of the vehicles, according to finance committee meeting minutes.

Bourbonnais Police Chief Jim Phelps said they learned at the end of September that Ford Motor Company canceled the orders for the other cars.

“This was a Ford issue, not a dealership issue,” Phelps said.

“This left multiple agencies in the state scrambling and looking everywhere to find squad cars. I know our agencies locally were looking at multiple states.”

At last week’s finance committee meeting, Bourbonnais Deputy Police Chief Dave Anderson said he found three 2023 models from a dealership in Bloomington, Indiana.

Trustees approved an additional $29,100 for the three vehicles, bringing the total paid for all five vehicles up to $216,310.

Production of the squads will begin in early 2023, Phelps said.

Tax levy

An ordinance setting the village’s tax levy for Fiscal Year 2023 had its first reading Monday.

Finance director Tara Latz said the village is requesting a tax rate of .4555, netting a tax levy of $1.8 million. The rate would be in effect for tax bills received by residents in May 2023.

Though the village will collect more taxes next year on the whole, if a homeowner’s property value stays the same as last year, their contribution to the village’s property taxes will decrease slightly. Latz said residents could see a decrease of $5 to $15 in their bill as the tax rate was decreased from its 2022 level.

The increase in the total amount collected is a factor of the Equalized Assessed Value, officials said. That value is the result of a process of applying increases and decreases to assessed values throughout the village to create a total property value.

The village’s portion of a resident’s property tax bill amounts to about 5%, according to officials.

Bond abatement

Trustees approved four ordinances that will allow them to abate principal and interest payments on bonds from the village’s tax levy for fiscal year 2024.

The four bonds total $28.515 million and include the $19.945 million bond issued for the Community Campus complex.

During Monday’s board meeting, Latz said doing this will save village homeowners between $188 to $566 depending on the value of their home.

Money to pay the principal and interest comes from a combination of general fund, business district fund and TIF fund revenues. The majority comes from sales tax and income tax revenues from the state of Illinois, village officials said.

According to estimates prepared by Latz, the owners of a home valued at $100,000 will save $188.72 on their 2023 tax bill.

The savings for a home valued at $150,000 is $283.09, followed by a $175,000 home ($330.27), $200,000 home ($377.45), $250,000 home ($471.81) and $300,000 home ($566.17).

County Board's executive committee OKs proposal

The Kankakee County Board’s executive committee gave preliminary approval to the request for proposal process for community providers to receive grants for providing social services at its meeting on Tuesday in the county administration building.

The county previously selected Rincon Family Services, the fiscal agent for the grant, to handle the process. Rincon will be responsible for the monitoring of the recipients of the grants for compliance.

The county will consider $2 million in total for the awarded grants, and that money is part of the $21.3 million it received from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. It anticipates that it will provide a minimum of four grants.

The county conducted an online Community Needs Assessment in July, asking county residents and stakeholders for their input.

Approximately 1,100 individuals offered input through the survey, individual interviews and in-person focus groups, according to the RFP document.

This RFP is independent of any previous social service requests from the county’s ARPA funds.

The CNA identified four areas of need — mental health, housing, youth support and workforce development.

“This is for organizations that are in existence and really supporting their current operations,” said Eddy Borrayo, president and CEO of Rincon Family Services, “by creating mechanisms in where they’re able to combine with other nonprofits to enhance their service areas. We also have within the proposal, as described in prior meetings, three main areas that will enhance overall quality of life within Kankakee County.

“One is making mental health first aid accessible and required for all the sub-recipients. Narcan trainings to address the opioid overdose. And, of course, being able to collaborate in using a system for referrals. ... You’ll be able to see that it is designed to create collaboration but also create creativity to enhance all social services.”

The executive committee approved the proposal document being available Dec. 1 ahead of full board approval at the Dec. 13 meeting. All proposals to provide these social services must be submitted to: Kankakee County Administration, 189 E. Court St., suite 502, Kankakee, IL 60901. Atten: Admiration — Social Services RFP.

That allows the process to move forward, and the proposals would be due mid-January or Feb. 1. The awarding of the grants would be likely by March 1. It also allows for the process to be in line with the county fiscal year, which begins Dec. 1.

“I know a lot of service providers are asking about it,” County Board Chairman Andy Wheeler said.

The timeline will be solidified and formally approved at the Dec. 13 board meeting.

“Ultimately, it is the county board that will determine the finalists and the amount [awarded],” Borrayo said.

Board member Carol Webber noted how the proposal is directly associated with the needs assessment.

“We’ve spent a lot of time finding the needs of the people, and they’re being reflected here,” she said. “It’s a wonderful thing.”