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Coronavirus-local
Website helps residents locate available vaccine

To assist individuals with finding COVID-19 vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has released vaccinefinder.org. VaccineFinder is a free, online service where users can search for locations that offer vaccinations.

The site includes providers enrolled in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, which involves vaccines sent to pharmacies separate from the vaccine that the Kankakee County Health Department receives from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Residents can go to Vaccinefinder.org, put in their ZIP code and range, and will then see a list of current providers with contact information to attempt to schedule an appointment.

The Kankakee County Health Department is encouraging residents to use the site and to also accept the first available appointment offered to them, according to a press release.

Operated by epidemiologists and software developers at Boston Children’s Hospital, the site partners with clinics, pharmacies and health departments to obtain information about vaccination services.

A notification on the website says it includes the latest availability information in Alaska, Tennessee, Indiana, Iowa, Oklahoma, Utah and New York.

In other states, the notification continues, information may be limited while more providers and pharmacies are added in the coming weeks.

Information from Illinois has been rolling into the site, including data from Kankakee County. A search of within 10 miles of ZIP code 60901 netted nine sites that are offering the vaccination.

Six of the nine show they have the vaccine in stock, as of Tuesday morning. Each listed site displays which of the three vaccines — Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson — is available at that location.

The county health department says local availability of the vaccine is improving weekly.

Health Department Administrator John Bevis said he expects the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine to come to the county soon.

“I’m not quite sure who to yet and how much we will be getting,” he said last week.

As of Monday, the state had administered over 3.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in total.

Friday saw a single-day record for vaccines administered with over 134,000 administered statewide, while a total of 98,550 doses were administered Saturday and 29,564 on Sunday. The state has a seven-day rolling average of 90,135 doses administered per day, an increase of 10,000 additional doses from one week ago when that figure stood at 80,416.

As of Monday, just over 9 percent, or 1.1 million, of the state’s 12.7 million residents have been fully vaccinated.


Local
Park district revisiting contract with firm to run Ice Valley, Splash Valley

The Kankakee Valley Park District board has reentered contract discussions with Rink Management Services Corp. on an agreement to manage Ice Valley Centre Ice Arena and Splash Valley Aquatic Park.

“We went back to the drawing board with the management company after speaking with and hearing what some of the commissioners’ concerns were. The terms were more beneficial for both parties,” said Dayna Heitz, executive director of the KVPD, at Monday’s special board meeting at the Bird Park administration building.

Two weeks ago the board voted 2-2 vote to not move forward with a contract with Rink Management which all but ended a deal between the two parties. Now both sides are working on finalizing an agreement to have Rink Management take over managing the two facilities.

“It was a consensus vote,” said board president Bill Spriggs of the decision two weeks ago. “If they come back with something better than the first time this second time, we allow ourselves the luxury to do it again. There’s nothing wrong with that, and to get it right is the main thing.”

Spriggs said he initially had a negative reaction to Rink Management’s proposal, but he met in person last week with its regional manager which helped change his mind.

“We changed the agreement,” he said. “There’s some important things for all of us, and they’ll come out later when we have the action [vote] going on for it. It’s much better now, and I’ve changed my outlook on this thing. ...There are some things that are better for us than the initial agreement.”

Spriggs said he couldn’t go into detail on the changes until the contract is finalized. He did say there will be a probationary one-year clause that would give the board some options.

“When they came up with that, and Dayna and I talked about it very carefully, and we’re trying to protect the taxpayers as well as our investment in terms of who we have come in here in our buildings and run them,” Spriggs said. “They sent a guy in last week. He’s very good, and we like him a lot.”

Heitz said she had a phone conversation with Rink Management owner Tom Hillgrove the day after the vote two weeks ago.

“They were very stunned,” she said. “It was not quite how they had envisioned it. ... I said I will talk to my commissioners and find out what the biggest issues were. I knew some of them, and he started going through them and said, ‘That’s not a problem. I’ll work within this.’ It’s a lot of tweaking and so forth. That kind of started the conversations back up.”

Nick Petrovski, an attorney with Robbins Schwartz law firm which represents the park district, said he reviewed the initial draft that was sent by Rink Management.

“It’s a fair contract, but we did add some things to make it more mutual in certain spots between the park district and Rink Management, as well as add in some specifics regarding the uniqueness of the contract such as the terms and the deadlines and budgetary concerns in the fiscal years,” Petrovski said. “Right now, we have a draft that’s been sent, it’s being reviewed, and we’re in discussions about that.”

The contract will likely be on the agenda at the next board meeting on March 22. Board members Dave Skelly and Don Palmer initially supported Rink Management running the facilities and now that Spriggs is on board, the contract with Rink Management might finally get OK’d.

“We’re looking to have it voted on,” Heitz said.


Local
UPDATED: Negotiations to resume today between Bourbonnais teachers and school board

BOURBONNAIS — The school board presented a written proposal to the Bourbonnais Education Association this afternoon and a bargaining session is now scheduled for 3:30 p.m. today, according to an email from the board.

Lead negotiators from the school board and teachers union met one-on-one for about two and a half hours Monday to discuss the situation.

On Friday, the federal mediator who has helped facilitate negotiations since November reached out to both parties but did not set a date for the next bargaining meeting.

The mediator would have set a meeting as early as over the weekend if both parties were ready to move toward an agreement.

The most recent bargaining meetings were Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. In total, those meetings lasted about 10 hours.

Teachers were back on the picket line Monday morning.

The BEA team told the mediator Friday that they were willing to make some movement in negotiations and available every day to bargain, according to a statement from the union.

The union was last to present a proposal Wednesday, so it is waiting for the board to make the next proposal in response, according to the statement.

“We want to get back to our classrooms as soon as possible,” BEA President Lauren Lundmark said in the statement.

Teachers do not get paid while on strike, the union confirmed.

Teachers also lost access to their work emails, a normal occurrence during a strike, the union said.

John Hall, head of the school board’s negotiating team, said the one-on-one meeting Monday, which was OK’d through the mediator, was not an official bargaining meeting but rather a sidebar discussion in an effort to understand each other’s positions.

He said the conversation was productive.

“[Both sides] said today we want to get our kids back in school by Wednesday,” Hall said. “We can’t guarantee anything, but that’s the goal is to get them back in school as soon as possible.”

The board sent a message to constituents informing them that there is still no school Tuesday, but both sides have talked and are eager to end the strike, he added.

“Hopefully, we got the ball moving a little bit here again,” Hall said. “I’m hoping that we can get something on the agenda shortly so that we can both put an end to this.”

Once the parties agree on a contract, the union would then have to vote on and ratify the contract, which would also have to be officially approved during a school board meeting.

However, teachers and students would return to school right away once a tentative agreement is reached, Hall said.


Local
Village of Bradley has fully funded its police, fire pension

BRADLEY — Due to hot-running revenues in Bradley — most notably sales tax figures — Bradley may be the only municipality in Illinois to have its police and fire pension funds fully funded.

At Monday’s Bradley Village Board meeting, the board unanimously approved the request of finance director Rob Romo to amend its Fiscal Year 2021 budget as a result of surging revenues which will result in a budget surplus of $4,767,431.

As a result of these positive figures, Bradley will soon transfer $1,501,894 into its fire pension fund to bring it to 100 percent funding at $3.2 million.

As a result of board action in early February, the board moved to fully funded the $34 million police pension fund by selling $11.8 million of pension obligation bonds to fill a $10.5 million hole in the fund. These bonds are to be repaid in 20 years.

In the year of the COVID-19-induced pandemic, Bradley is bucking the trend and reaping the benefits of a strong retail base — anchored by a collection of retailers deemed essential.

Revenues have outpaced expenses at such a pace that Romo is projecting a budget surplus of nearly $4.8 million and all but $1,164,431 of the surplus is being plugged into the existing budget.

In addition to transferring $1.5 million into the fire pension account, the village board also OK’d:

• Transferring $1 million from its general fund to the capital projects fund to pay for the new fire station at 1690 Newtowne Drive.

• Transferring $600,000 to pay for police vehicles, accounting software and road improvements.

• Transferring $500,000 to pay toward the planned Lil’s Park splash pad.

Michael McCue, president of the Bradley Fire Pension Fund, was asked to attend the meeting without any knowledge as to why.

Shortly after the meeting began, McCue was called to the front of the board room to receive an oversized check of $1,501,894 made payable to the pension account and dated March 8, 2021.

After the meeting, McCue was all smiles.

“This is a huge relief. This has been a long time coming. I would have never thought I would have come to see this account at 100 percent funding,” he said.

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Watson said he thought the village would get through the pandemic in good shape, but he didn’t believe it would be quite this positive. He said while increased sales taxes, in part due to shopping and in part due to the recent voter-approved 1 percentage-point increase in the village’s portion of the tax.

“I was confident this would work,” he said of village’s plan. He noted the entire village administration and the employees are responsible for the turnaround.

He also noted the village made changes in the way it operated, doing things such as closing its police dispatch center and going the countywide system as well as general belt-tightening.

Romo noted the village administration conservatively estimated the new sales-tax increase would bring in per month an additional $250,000. Instead it is bringing in $385,000. Over a 12-month period that type of revenue generates $4.6 million.

Romo noted he is in the early stages of crafting the Fiscal Year 2022 budget. “We are rocking on all cylinders.”

He acknowledged that the pandemic and the stay-at-home mandates caused him great concern, but once the village made it through a rocky March and April, the skies have been bright over the village.

“It’s been our goal to make Bradley a better place to live and work,” Romo said. “I believe we are the only town in Illinois with 100 percent police and fire pension funds. A lot of hard work and smart decisions went into this. This has been an almost full financial turnaround.”


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