The Wilmington City Council is holding a special Committee of the Whole meeting on Thursday to hear what residents want to sacrifice for the Illiana project - the Bobcat practice field or 26 additional homes.
City administrator Tony Graff met with representatives of the Illinois Department of Transportation recently to review the final anticipated impacts associated with the two possible routes of the Illiana through Wilmington. The routes, 3B and 3F, affect different sets of property, and avoid environmentally sensitive areas on the west side of the Kankakee River.
The 3B alignment eliminates a total of 37 homes in Deer Creek Estates, Foxtail Commons and in the Widows Road area to avoid impacting the Bobcat Junior Football League fields on Widow's Road.
The Bobcat field is gone in the 3F alignment, which goes primarily north of the Deer Creek and FoxTail Commons subdivisions and catches the training field once it crosses the river, Graff said. The 3F alignment eliminates a total of 11 Wilmington homes, and is IDOT's preferred route.
"They feel that if the city has a preference, they'd like to know about it now instead of later," the administrator said. IDOT asked Graff to find out if the council members favor the 3B or 3F alignment, or whether they wanted to remain neutral and let IDOT make the decision. Mayor Marty Orr, whose home will be lost in the 3B alignment but sit alongside the highway in 3F, felt the residents should have a say in the decision. At some meetings, Orr said, 90 percent wanted the project to take their homes. The sentiment wasn't as strong, about 50-50, in other discussions with residents.
"Some people said take us, since we're close enough already, other people said no, keep it north" Graff said. "So they're asking one more time."
"It's come to a point that it needs to be debated from a council standpoint," said Mayor Marty Orr. "That's what it looks like IDOT's putting on the city of Wilmington."
City officials have until May 21 to tell IDOT if they believe the 3B alignment deserves another look.
Graff said the City Council will also have to start talking about addressing erosion on Widows Road near the water treatment facility, and the possibility of re-aligning the road behind the plant. IDOT is not promoting the realignment as part of the Illiana project, Graff noted, but needs to know if the highway plan needs to consider the possibility.
"It could be an opportunity for us to look at that," Graff said.
In addition, a planning grant is being offered to Will County communities. Graff said the city should receive about $30,000 for corridor planning, but maintains that since the highway project's impacts will be so significant on the Island City that that amount will be insufficient to pay for a proper plan. The engineering firm HR Green estimated that the cost would be more in the $50,000 neighborhood.
"I'm still debating with IDOT and the grant people that due to the unique impact of the interchanges and everything for Wilmington, we should get more dollars out of the grant instead of less dollars," Graff said. The proposed $30,000 grant is offered across the board without consideration of impacts. The council will receive an update on the discussion during its Finance Committee meeting next week.
The Committee of the Whole meeting begins at 6:30 p.m., and will be held in the council chambers at city hall, 1165 S. Water St.