Wayne's Words: Plainfield in truck uproar

Wayne Horne | 7/26/2018, 6 a.m.
Good planning, we are taught, is essential for an endeavor to succeed. Of course, what is not always considered is ...

Good planning, we are taught, is essential for an endeavor to succeed. Of course, what is not always considered is whose success we are talking about. Success or failure in the private sector is often overlooked beyond the financial news in the media. Not so in the government arena. Two of those municipal planning endeavors have grabbed our attention of late.

One is the re-purposing of the old Joliet Prison on Collins Street. The other is yet another proposed trucking terminal off of Renwick Road next to I-55. One is for fun and the other promises jobs and municipal revenue. Let’s go for the fun one first.

The old prison finally closed as a viable penal institution in 2001. As a sustainable incarceration institution, it was over as far back as the 1970’s and maybe before then. It was built as an answer to overcrowding of the privately-run Alton prison located on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. That prison was run like a slave-labor camp for the profit of it’s owner. The Joliet Prison opened in 1857 as a solution to overcrowding.

The location of the prison was steered by a three-person committee. One member of the committee was Nelson Elwood, a former Mayor of Joliet with considerable political and economic influence. That’s according to the book “Joliet Prisons, Images in Time” by former area resident Robert E. Sterling.

The 72 acres the prison is located on was purchased by the State of Illinois for $7200. That’s about $200,000 in today’s dollars. The prison was a model penitentiary with state of the art features designed to rehabilitate the prison population. They even had a baseball team made up of inmates from the institution’s Honor Farm. (A forerunner of the Slammers, perhaps?)

Today the city has a lease arrangement that costs nothing but retains the liability and maintenance that comes with operating the facility as a tourist stop. Maybe it will be popular and pay for itself, maybe not. The property is probably not useful for another purpose today anymore than it was 160 years ago. Fake realty shows are all the rage. It will probably succeed.

The other endeavor is in the corporate limits of Plainfield. A proposal to locate a trucking operation with room for over 300 semi-trailer trucks on 32 acres of limited access property is in the works. The neighbors surrounding the property off of Renwick Road are opposed to it. This won’t affect just Plainfield residents. Renwick Road from Weber Rd. to Route 30 runs through Romeoville, Crest Hill, Joliet and Plainfield Twp.

The plan for this development must have taken a detour from common sense. Renwick Road is not designed for any type of heavy truck traffic. The stretch of Renwick Rd in question is a rural country road between Gaylord and Route 30. No matter where the entrance is placed along that stretch of Renwick it will ultimately have to be reconstructed to support heavy truck traffic. You can be sure the owners of the truck park are depending on it. Past experience is evidence that once the development is in place, the hue and cry will be the road is inadequate and needs to be expanded at taxpayer expense.

Taxpayer expense is already being offered in the form of tax incentives that favor the development. Why? Is there another trucking company vying to be located there? Is the proposed development being pitched somewhere else? There are in fact other locations for truck terminals in Will County that do not promise the disruptions the current proposal offers. If Plainfield wants the financial outcomes proposed they should go back to the drawing board.

For instance, it would make more sense to construct an access road along I-55 (at the expense of the developer) that exits at the intersection on Route 30 that was recently reconstructed. Access to the interstate is more readily available and it’s already designed for heavy truck traffic. Yes, it would be more expensive for the developer. But buying cheap land for a heavy industrial use shifts the cost to those who benefit the least from the development. Good planning should equate to a win-win outcome for all affected parties. The Plainfield Village board plans on voting on the proposal August 6, at 7:00 PM on the 2nd-floor boardroom in Plainfield Village Hall, 24401 W. Lockport St. in Plainfield.

Stay tuned…

Comments welcome at wayneswords@thetimesweekly.com