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Deal puts Kankakee property back on the tax rolls

KANKAKEE — The Kankakee City Council approved an ordinance at Monday’s meeting to sell a building it owns at 601 N. Entrance Ave.

Kankakee-based Piggush Simoneau Inc. (PSI) will purchase the empty 15,000-square-foot warehouse for $10, according to the ordinance.

In return, the company will sink $1.5 million in repairs and improvements to the building that has been off the tax rolls for approximately four to five years, Kankakee Mayor Chris Curtis said.

A commercial and industrial construction company, PSI was looking for storage space. Its offices are located in the 600 block of North Cherry Avenue, which is near the warehouse. The two sides worked out a deal in the past 60 to 75 days.

As part of the deal, the city will lease for five years 5,300 square feet to use as storage for the public works department. The city’s payment of the real estate taxes on that portion of the building will serve as its rent.

“We’re actually paying ourselves back,” he said.

In 2010, the city purchased the warehouse along with two other vacant structures, Curtis said. This venture is the first in what Curtis hopes will be many. The city owns several properties as well as more than 200 vacant lots and boarded-up houses.

“Getting businesses to buy these properties is a way to get them fixed up and put back on the tax rolls,” Curtis said.

Buyers will have 12 to 18 months to fix up the property, he added.

“We are not going to let them languish for three or four years,” Curtis said.

By selling some of the properties, it will allow public works to focus more on infrastructure rather than cutting grass at the locations.

Curtis looks at this as a way to keep moving the city forward.

“The aesthetics are more important,” he said. “This is a way to allow businesses to grow and help neighborhoods.”

Illinois continues to lose population

SPRINGFIELD — New estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau suggest Illinois is continuing to lose population.

The latest estimates, released Tuesday, pegged the state’s population at 12,671,469 as of July 1, 2021, down by 113,776, or 0.9 percent, from the official 2020 census.

Several factors contributed to the change, but the single largest was domestic outmigration. According to the data, 122,460 people moved from Illinois to other states during the period from April 1, 2020, to July 1, 2021, while only 5,766 people moved into the state, a net loss of 116,694.

Those losses were offset by a net gain of 5,766 people through international migration as well as a “natural” increase of 2,778 people — the difference between in-state births and deaths during the period.

The Census Bureau routinely estimates national, state and county populations each year following a decennial census using a variety of data sources. But those estimates have been off in the past.

In 2019, for example, the Census Bureau estimated that Illinois had lost more than 51,000 people since the 2010 census while the official 2020 census showed the state had lost about only 18,000.

Still, the latest estimates for Illinois reflect broader national trends of decreased international migration, lower birth rates and increased mortality, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall, the Census Bureau said, the U.S. population grew by 444,464, since the 2020 census, or 0.13 percent, the lowest growth rate since the nation’s founding.

“Population growth has been slowing for years because of lower birth rates and decreasing net international migration, all while mortality rates are rising due to the aging of the nation’s population,” Census Bureau demographer Kristie Wilder said in a news release. “Now, with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, this combination has resulted in a historically slow pace of growth.”

The estimates showed that both the Midwest and Northeast regions saw net population declines over the year while the South and West regions both gained population.

Over the past year, the Census Bureau said, the nation’s population growth was due to a natural increase of 148,043, and net international migration of 244,622, marking the first time that net international migration exceeded natural growth.

Between 2020 and 2021, 33 states saw population increases and 17 states and the District of Columbia lost population. 11 of which had losses of more than 10,000 people. This is a historically large number of states to lose population in a year.

On a percentage basis, Illinois had the third-largest population decline, behind the District of Columbia, at 2.9 percent, and New York, at 1.6 percent. Idaho, Utah and Montana had the largest percentage increases.

On a numeric basis, Illinois also had the third-largest population decline, behind New York and California. Texas, Florida and Arizona had the largest numeric population increases.

Ice Valley cancels programs amid COVID increases

KANKAKEE — As omicron cases surge across the nation, some communities are starting to see closures and restrictions. Now, Kankakee is added to that list as the Ice Valley Centre Ice Arena has announced it is canceling programs and classes amid increases in COVID cases.

In a post on its Facebook page, the Kankakee Valley Park District facility said, “With the increase of positive COVID-19 cases in our area, the wellness of our staff and community is of utmost importance to us. Unfortunately, Ice Valley Centre Ice Arena has been heavily affected in recent weeks by COVID-19. We have no other choice at this time but to cancel all classes, programming and events at this arena.”

The Kankakee County Health Department’s most recent update, which came on Tuesday, reported 410 new cases in seven days. In that time, two new deaths were reported.

The facility will be closed from Dec. 23 to 26. On Dec. 26, it will reassess the situation for a potential reopening on Dec. 27. Even if it does reopen at that time, the Kids New Year’s Eve Bash scheduled for Friday, Dec. 31, has been canceled “as a precaution.”

For updates and more information, visit

Baseball flourishing at Diamond Point Park

BOURBONNAIS — Diamond Point Park has been good for a local baseball organization. The Bourbonnais Township Park District complex at 6279 N. 1000 West Road, Bourbonnais, has baseball and softball fields in addition to a sand volleyball court and a splash pad.

Herb Forkenbrock, president of Ballpark Sports Baseball, attended the BTPD board meeting on Monday at Exploration Station to express how much his organization has benefitted from using the facility for travel tournaments from late April to the end of July and the economic impact it’s had on the area.

He said the travel tournaments for the entire year they hold at Diamond Point Park have an economic impact of more than $6 million annually.

“Our first tournament is right at 30 [teams] already, so we’re doing really well,” Forkenbrock said.

He said the tournaments draw teams from northern Illinois, a half a dozen or so from Wisconsin, and a “boatload of teams” from Indiana.

“I think it’s going to help the area like it has in the past financially,” Forkenbrock said. “It has an impact financially for the restaurants, gas stations and you name it.”

Ballpark Sports Baseball averages about 100 teams playing each weekend, and it has been hosted tournaments at Diamond Point since 2008. The tournaments are for players aged 11 to 18 years old.

Forkenbrock also praised the park district and BTPD complex manager Mike Crews and his staff that maintains the park.

“I think you should be commended for that,” Forkenbrock said. “They did a terrific job on the fields.”