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Completion of downtown Kankakee bus transfer station expected in spring

KANKAKEE — Progress is underway on the long-awaited Kankakee Metro Centre bus transfer station, which is now expected to be completed and ready for use by mid to late spring 2022.

Ken Munjoy, chief operating officer for the River Valley Metro Mass Transit District, said he anticipates the downtown Kankakee complex — which is under construction on East Chestnut Street between the 300 blocks of North Schuyler and North Dearborn avenues — will be finished later this year, barring bad weather or material shipment delays.

“It’s actually progressing pretty well,” Munjoy said. “Most of the concrete work is done. Brickwork is being done as we speak.”

When the project was announced, it was expected to cost about $4 million, with $1.6 million coming from the state of Illinois and another $2.4 million from the federal government.

The federal CARES Act meant that all of the funding came through, and two planned phases of construction were reduced down to one.

Apex Construction Group, the general contractor for the project, got started in the summer of 2021. The work was initially planned to wrap up later that same year; however, some unforeseen issues were found at the building site, Munjoy said.

“That site had been used for many different things over the decades, and some of those things it had been used for were not in the records any place,” Munjoy said. “So, when they started excavating there for our structure, they started running into things like, there were basements down there underground that nobody knew about.”

Having to remove concrete from underground pushed their work into the fall, and thus made finishing by the end of 2021 impossible, he said.

“For it to be done in 2021, everything had to go right,” Munjoy said. “When you are building on an old site like that, it’s not like building on a fresh site.”

Some of the steel needed to complete the walls of a small structure within the complex is not yet available, which is why material shipping might cause more problems with the timeline.

“It’s just a matter of getting it, and I don’t know how long it will take,” Munjoy said. He added that he doesn’t expect this will cause “any kind of major delay.”

The station will feature overhang coverage to protect riders from the elements as well as heated walkways leading from the waiting area out to the buses.

The heating will reduce the risk of snow and ice accumulating on walkways.

“We’re taking everything into account that we can to provide for the comfort and safety of our riders,” Munjoy said.

While these features need to be finished, Munjoy noted that the site is starting to take shape.

“It’s getting down to where you can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

He said it is exciting to see that particular piece of property in Kankakee being developed, as it has been vacant for quite some time. He said a goal of the project is to keep consistent with design qualities that have been added to the area in recent years, such as lighting.

He also noted that a new transfer center in downtown Kankakee has been in the works for a long time, with the former managing director of River Valley Metro working on the idea since around the mid-2000s.

A number of sites have been proposed in the past, but for one reason or another, none of them worked.

“This one finally came together, and we are really happy because we’ve been serving that area as a bus transfer station for years, but we’ve had to do it in the street,” Munjoy said. “We want to be able to get those buses off the street — for better convenience for our riders and more safety.”

SmartWash expands laundry services to Kankakee

SmartWash Laundry Center is cleaning up Kankakee County. Literally.

The Bourbonnais-based company recently opened its third laundry center in the county with the purchase and redevelopment of the former Family Video location at 1650 W. Court St., Kankakee. The building was transformed into a 45-washer and 52-dryer, seven-day-a-week laundry center.

Owned by Ryan and Abby Magruder of Limestone, SmartWash also operates laundromats at 573 and 588 William Latham Drive in Bourbonnais. To top off what has been an extremely busy year for the business, the Magruders purchased Burlington Professional Cleaners Inc., 120 N. Cleveland Ave., Bradley, in late November, and continue to offer dry cleaning services there.

The SmartWash business began in 2014 with the opening of the 573 William Latham location and then expanded in 2017 with the opening of the 588 William Latham location, the former Maytag Laundromat.

Penny Magruder, a Limestone resident and manager of the SmartWash locations since the business was founded in 2014, said the company employs 25 and the redevelopment and opening of the West Court location is in all likelihood not the last expansion for the business.

“We are going big. We want to do it all,” said Magruder, who was an assistant manager with Dollar Tree before joining SmartWash.

The two Bourbonnais locations offer a total of 71 washers and 76 dryers.

While the West Court location offers the traditional laundry service, it also offers dirty laundry pick-up and return of clean and folded clothing the following day through the store’s website, Laundry can also be dropped off at the location.

The 573 William Latham Drive location is open 24 hours and day, seven days a week; while 588 William Latham Drive is open daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The new Kankakee location is open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Pick-up and delivery is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday at that location.

2022 election cycle begins Thursday

KANKAKEE — Although votes will not be cast for about six months, voters need to brace themselves as Election 2022 officially begins Thursday.

That day will mark the first day candidates can begin circulating nominating petitions for elected office and there is a wide variety of offices that will be up for election this year.

This year will also be somewhat unusual as the primary election — normally held in the months of March or April — has been pushed back to June 28 due to issues surrounding delayed U.S. Census results.

Nominating petitions will be filed with the County Clerk’s offices in Kankakee and Iroquois counties from March 7-14.

Kankakee County offices up for election come the June 28 primary and the Nov. 8 general election are clerk, sheriff, treasurer and superintendent for the regional office of education.

All 28 Kankakee County Board members are up for vote due to the redistricting following the 2020 U.S. Census count.

Also on the ballot will be the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Tammy Duckworth. The two U.S. House seats within portions of Kankakee County — the 1st and the 2nd Congressional Districts — will also be on the ballot.

In Iroquois County, offices on the ballot are county clerk, treasurer, and sheriff. Also up for election are 16 county board members: District I, 4 seat; District II, 4 seats; District III, 4 seats; and District IV: 4 seats.

Statewide, the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer and comptroller will be up for vote, along with the region’s state senator and state representative.

“The ball starts rolling next week,” said Kankakee County Clerk Dan Hendrickson.

To make things even more interesting, Hendrickson noted the county will be using its new ballot-casting equipment come June. Voting by mail will also be available for the primary and the general elections.

Independent candidates or those running within new political parties — meaning those who are not running as a Republican, Democrat or Libertarian — can pick up their county filing petition forms the week of April 13. Those petitions are due the week of July 5-11.

The late primary election change was part of legislation recently signed by Gov. JB Pritzker this past summer which pushed back the primary election by nearly three-and-a-half months due to issues with the U.S. Census.

Moving the election date was not the only matter addressed by Senate Bill 825.

The new law makes mail voting a permanent option, allows jail inmates awaiting trial to cast ballots and makes Election Day a state holiday.

Illinois records pandemic high of more than 200,000 COVID cases in one week

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Department of Public Health said Friday that the state had recorded 201,428 new cases of COVID-19 last week, a 57 percent increase over the previous week. Meanwhile, the weekly number of deaths rose 15 percent, to 444, as the omicron variant of the virus continues to spread.

Those cases were confirmed out of more than 1.3 million laboratory tests performed over the previous week, which brought the preliminary statewide case positivity rate to 15.2 percent

Those case counts are the highest of any since the pandemic began, according to IDPH data, although the death rate is well below the pandemic peak of a year ago. On Thursday alone, the state recorded more than 44,000 new cases, the highest single-day case count since the pandemic began.

That brings the total number of cases since the pandemic began to just under 2.4 million, including 28,361 deaths.

The rising case rate in Illinois has prompted the General Assembly to cancel all of its scheduled session days this week, according to spokesmen for Senate President Don Harmon and House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, although committees in both chambers will continue to meet remotely.

As of late Thursday night, IDPH reported 7,096 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized, including 1,123 patients in intensive care units and 639 on ventilators. Those cases account for 38 percent of all staffed ICU beds available and 11.5 percent of all staffed ventilators.

IDPH continues to advise people that vaccines are the strongest defense against the virus. As of Thursday night, more than 19.5 million vaccinations had been administered. Over the past week, 294,687 doses were administered, for an average of 42,098 per day.

Currently, 73 percent of the state’s total population has received at least one dose of vaccine, while 64 percent are fully vaccinated and 40 percent have received a booster shot.