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Kankakee will end vehicle sticker program if home rule kept

KANKAKEE — Kankakee Mayor Chris Curtis will never be confused with Monty Hall, a former, longtime game show host, but the city’s mayor is willing to play “Let’s Make A Deal” with Kankakee voters.

Not that he is a fan of the long-running game show, but Curtis is willing to go to great lengths to keep Kankakee’s home rule authority, which is coming up for a referendum vote this fall.

Curtis is adamant Kankakee must maintain its home rule governing authority in order to continue the fiscal operations of the city.

He is willing to trade the $35 vehicle sticker tax and the about $425,000 it brings into the city’s budget annually as an olive branch for a voter’s “no” vote on the November referendum question regarding if the city should lose its home rule authority.

If the city administration’s plan is successful, the vehicle sticker residents purchased this June will be the last they purchase. The vehicle sticker was started under the mayoral administration of Donald Green.

After being in place for several years, the sticker was eliminated but then brought back in 2013 under then-Mayor Nina Epstein. It has been in place ever since.

“If we are successful, in July 2023, no vehicle sticker will be required,” Curtis said.

A multi-level campaign has begun to encourage voters to maintain home rule. The ballot yes or no question reads: Shall the City of Kankakee cease to be a home rule unit?

A “no” vote keeps home rule power in place. If home rule authority is lost, the Kankakee administration will be faced with a series of likely difficult decisions regarding its finances.

Curtis said he put the matter to city comptroller Elizabeth Kubal to run figures on what the loss of the vehicle sticker would mean. He said the answer was the loss would be felt, but would not be anywhere near the devastation of losing home rule and the resources those powers can do for the city.

It could be as early as the Sept. 19 council meeting or the Oct. 3 meeting when the matter could be brought before the city council.

And with early voting for the Nov. 8 election beginning on Sept. 29, time becomes critical.

The mayor was quick to note what would happen to the vehicle sticker if voters rejected the idea of Kankakee maintaining home rule. He said the elimination of the vehicle tax would be made contingent upon Kankakee being successful in retaining its home rule powers.

Home rule was made available to Illinois municipalities as a result of the 1970 Illinois Constitution. Communities with a population greater than 25,000 gained home rule. Smaller municipalities can earn it by passing a referendum.

At its core, home rule allows a municipality to pass numerous measures without bringing the matter to the voting public, but most importantly, it gives the governmental body the power to borrow money through the sale of bonds and to implement new taxes.

Because the 2020 Census reported Kankakee’s population to be below 25,000, home rule is now being reevaluated through the referendum.

The city’s recent 2-percentage-point increase in its sales tax rate would not be affected as those monies are being dedicated to pension funding.

Bradley recently raised its sales tax rate as well, but the village had to have a referendum passed to put that plan in place.

Curtis noted the city must keep its property tax rate as low as it can since city property owners already pay high taxes. In the past few years, the city’s tax rate has fallen from $8.31 per $100 to $5.48 per $100 of assessed valuation.

State announces first REV Act tax credit to Decatur manufacturer

SPRINGFIELD – The state on Tuesday announced the award of the first electric vehicle manufacturing-targeted tax incentives made possible by a law signed by Gov. JB Pritzker last year.

The incentives come from the Reimagining Electric Vehicles Act, which passed nearly unanimously and became law in November, and will provide an estimated $2.2 million in value to T/CCI Manufacturing in Decatur.

The REV Act passed two months after the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act which incentivizes EV adoption, driving Pritzker’s vision to make Illinois “the best place in North America to drive and manufacture an electric vehicle.”

T/CCI’s Decatur plant currently manufactures compressors for gasoline-powered cars. The company plans to retool the Decatur facility to produce compressors for EVs with an estimated $20 million investment. Currently, T/CCI makes EV compressors, a part which cools batteries and powers car air conditioning systems, in China and India.

Pritzker and local lawmakers said the manufacturing of EV parts domestically is necessary to work around supply chain issues.

“Thanks to the REV Act, Illinois beat out international competition to bring this deal home,” Pritzker said. “That means new jobs and jobs that would have gone overseas are staying right here.”

T/CCI’s transition will create 50 new jobs, and 103 existing jobs are expected to be retained.

The REV Act’s incentives are targeted to the manufacturers of EVs and their parts, such as compressors. The companies receiving the breaks can receive a state income tax credit of 75 percent or 100 percent of payroll taxes withheld from each new employee and 25 percent or 50 percent for current employees. The law also provides a 10 percent credit for training expenses.

The governor’s office tied the Tuesday announcement to a previously announced plan to provide $15.3 million in state infrastructure funding to Richland Community College and $6 million to the city of Decatur to create an “EV cluster” that includes a training, research and innovation facility in partnership with T/CCI.

“We know that when companies are looking where to locate, talent is what’s most important and we want to make sure that when electric vehicle companies are looking to Illinois to either expand or locate a new venture, they should know you won’t find a harder working more qualified workforce,” Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity director Sylvia Garcia said at a news conference Tuesday.

The infrastructure money would go toward a climatic simulation center on T/CCI’s Decatur campus which will allow the testing of new EV-related technologies in extreme environments.

“T/CCI is recognized in the industry as a leader in compressor technology, already having developed a largest range of EV compressors in the market,” Richard Demirjian, TCCI’s president, said in a news release. “We’re excited to use our expertise in innovation and component manufacturing to advance Illinois’ position and create a successful partnership that drives long-lasting economic growth.”

Richland and T/CCI also are working in partnership with the University of Illinois Grainger College of Engineering and Northern Illinois University on a training academy that will focus on EV advanced engineering, software technology and accredited apprenticeship programs.

A public-private partnership model, the climatic center will be open to businesses and researchers looking to expedite adoption of new EV technologies, according to the governor’s office.

“Together we are establishing a new model for Illinois that sets the stage for how education, research and industry work together to cohesively advance us faster, invest in our people and grow our economy,” Richland Community College President Cris Valdez said. “This state-of-the-art facility will provide world class training in electrification, a registered apprenticeship program, along with immersive industry partnerships and testing available to the electric vehicle industry.”

Pritzker said the community college partnership is one he would like to emulate in communities across the state, pointing to a partnership between the EV manufacturer Rivian and Heartland Community College in Normal.

Special use permit OK'd for new animal control site

BOURBONNAIS — Trustees adopted an ordinance granting a special use permit to Kankakee County for the proposed relocation of the Kankakee County Animal Control facility on two lots.

The action came during Tuesday’s board meeting.

The facility is located on Mooney Drive in the Bourbonnais Industrial Park. It is the former site of Illinois Fire and Police Equipment.

It will replace the current facility off of Grinnell Road.

“That facility is in poor condition,” Kankakee County Board Chairman Andy Wheeler said at a recent county board meeting.

The existing building is 3,500 square feet. An addition of about 4,200 square feet is proposed that is designed specifically for animal holding functions and direct operational support spaces, according to a document presented to the Bourbonnais Planning Commission/Zoning Board of Appeals at its meeting July 27.

Outdoor dog runs and additional parking is planned.

The land is zoned limited manufacturing, according to the document.

The special use permit allows the county to use the facility for pet care services.

The purchase of the building and adjacent land was pending the village adopting the special use permit.

That project has a current price tag of $1.5 million, excluding building acquisition, Wheeler said.

The building and land is being purchased for $499,900 and will be closed on soon. The other lot will be closed on in the next couple of weeks, Wheeler said.

The lot cost of $100,000 is funded by BARK.

The organization was formed in 2000 and is the fundraising arm for Kankakee County Animal Control.

In other business:

Trustees passed a resolution approving expenditures for the relocation of the police department’s investigations department.

Bourbonnais Police Chief Jim Phelps said the Investigations Division will be relocating due to space constraints of the current 12 feet by 13 feet room with the addition of a third detective.

The new office will be located in the basement in a part of the old police station.

That room’s dimensions are 20.5 feet by 25 feet.

The phones and computer portals will need to be reconnected.

Crawford won't seek re-election

KANKAKEE — While the November election is front and center on the minds of voters, the next municipal election will swing into place immediately after. There will be a definite change on the Kankakee City Council.

Two-term 3rd Ward Alderman David Crawford has made it known he will not be running for re-election to the 14-member city council.

At a 3rd Ward community meeting last week, Crawford told those gathered he would not seek a third term. He cited personal reasons, mainly his desire to attend his daughter’s Herscher High School sporting activities.

The municipal primary is slated for Feb. 28 and the consolidated election is set for April 4.

The 3rd Ward includes much of Kankakee’s western areas.

A Republican, Crawford, 58, made it clear he will serve out the remainder of his term. He added at least two Republicans have made it known to him they would be interested in running for the city council.

Crawford said it would be his desire to have only one Republican on the primary ballot in a show of unity. It is likely there will be a Democratic Party challenge for the seat in the April election.

Crawford’s city council 3rd Ward seat mate is Larry Osenga.

“I don’t have the time I need to do this job [city council] the way I want,” Crawford said. “I just can’t give 100 percent at this time. If I’m going to do it, I want to be able to give 100 percent.”

Mayor Chris Curtis said he understands Crawford’s desire to be more involved with his daughter.

“It’s disappointing he won’t be seeking re-election. Surely we will miss him. He is an asset on the city council,” Curtis said. “But I have great respect for him for wanting to spend more time with family.”

Curtis said it will be interesting to see who might step forward for the soon-to-be-open seat.

The alderman said he is not closing the door on his political career. He said he can see himself getting back to an elected office when his daughter, Lexi, graduates.

“It’s time to give my family a little bit more of my time,” Crawford said. “I will miss this, I have no doubt. I want to stay as involved as I can. I’m not going away.”

He said his daughter’s events often would conflict with his city council responsibilities, and he does not want to give city residents less than his full effort.

He added he came to this decision about six months ago.

“I just didn’t tell anyone,” Crawford said.