Joliet interest in Northpoint Project doesn't surprise Balich
Will County board member Steve Balich views Joliet’s potential interest in the Northpoint Project as being in line with what you might expect from just about any other city cast in a similar position.
“It’s no great surprise that Joliet could see taking the lead on this project to be in its best interest,” Balich told the Will County Gazette. “It’s what cities are doing these days to help promote themselves.”
With the Village of Elwood having recently made its decision to pull out of the Northpoint Project, rumblings about Joliet possibly waiting in the wings are growing louder.
The project brokered with Elwood was seeking to annex nearly 700 acres for the construction of Compass Business Park, a massive warehouse development near Route 53 in nearby Jackson Township.
Joliet City Councilman Larry Hug told the Will County Gazette such a path forward could be “inevitable given that this is an industrial area.”
While Hug insisted no such discussions have taken place as of yet among council members, he conceded he wouldn’t be shocked to see that change in the not-so-distant future.
“I could see why Joliet would want this,” he added. “There’s a lot of tax revenue to consider.”
Balich said if the city can figure out a way to account for all the added truck traffic the project would generate, the deal mostly stacks up as a win-win situation for area taxpayers.
“I thought the same thing for the residents of Elwood,” he said. “There you have a situation where the average taxpayer owes something like $160,000 or more in debt. You have to be willing to listen to almost any overture that’s going to pay down a large share of that.”
Balich said he believes a big part of why the Northpoint Project failed to materialize in Elwood is because some elected officials, like Will County Executive Larry Walsh, came out so strongly against it.
“He was leading the charge against it,” Balich said. “I can’t understand why he previously was for the CenterPoint Project, but (was) so strongly opposed to Northpoint.”
History shows that Elwood’s record in the area of development has been far from spotless.
Village officials previously filed suit against CenterPoint Properties, alleging that the Oak Brook-based developer illegally destroyed documents that would show that the company overbilled the village in its spending of tax increment financing funds.
The Herald-News reported that the dispute traces back to 2000 after the village annexed a portion of the former Joliet Arsenal and designated it as a tax increment financing district.
More recently, CenterPoint opened the Deer Run Industrial Park in Elwood, largely on the strength of a nearly $90 million tax increment financing subsidy.
Village officials now lament that most of those funds are unaccounted for, and they insist they have little recourse in tracing the money because critical records and documents have not been properly preserved and safeguarded.
The cash-strapped Village of Elwood is home to 2,279 and is saddled with roughly $168 million in overall debt. In contrast to most of Illinois’ other financially hamstrung communities, most of Elwood’s debt stems from revenue bonds, not pension plans.