HOPKINS PARK — A can-do attitude was the theme that resonated during a meeting Wednesday to bring natural gas lines to Hopkins Park and Pembroke Township.
For the third time, the Rev. Jesse Jackson sat down with a group of elected officials, members of Operation/Push Coalition, community leaders and residents at the Village Hall, located in Church of the Cross.
Hopkins Park Mayor Mark Hodge led the two-hour meeting that was attended by 50 people.
Residents in the township currently heat their homes with propane, wood-burning stoves or electric heat.
Nicor officials said the project would cost $8 million to bring a natural gas line to the village of 600 people. Local officials must come up with $3.25 million of that $8 million.
State Sen. Patrick Joyce said the state will chip in $1 million in funding.
It would take 18 months to construct the line.
“We can do this for this area,” said Tim Nugent, who is mayor of Manteno and president and CEO of the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County. “This journey has been started a few times with no results, but the people are here [now] to get this done in 2020.”
Kankakee County Board Chairman Andy Wheeler said, “We’ve seen this movie before. The major impediment has been trying to get this business done. The saying is you are only strong as your weakest link, and we need to get this done for Pembroke.”
The effort to bring natural gas to Pembroke dates back a couple decades. Former Gov. George Ryan planned to bring natural gas to the area by constructing a $80 million, 1,800-bed women’s prison in the village. That plan was nixed by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2003 after the project had started.
That site as well as the former Nestle factory are considered prime locations for businesses to locate.
That starts with natural gas service, which in turn would help the impoverished township create jobs.
“If we get the business here, we get jobs. We can help our young people get jobs,” Hopkins Park Trustee Rosemary Foster said.
While initial service would be to Hopkins Park, Lorenzo Smith School and the Nestle plant, the rest of the township would get service in phases.
Nicor’s Marie Laporte, director of customer development, said they have initially identified 400 homes and 22 business in the village for service.
Jackson got involved with the project after Hodge attended an event hosted by Rainbow/PUSH, a nonprofit headed by Jackson that focuses on civil rights and social justice.
“There has been hitting and missing in Pembroke for a long time,” Jackson said.
The group’s next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 13.