Rex Robinson

Rex Robinson is a staff writer for The Times Weekly. He can be reached at rex@thetimesweekly.com or at (708) 254-1539.

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Nurses continue to strike for fair wages from AMITA

Nurses represented by the Illinois Nurses Association who work at AMITA St. Joseph’s Medical Center, in Joliet, spent the past four days on the picket lines after going on strike July 4. The nurses have continued to picket along the sidewalk in front of St. Joseph’s Medical Center, 333 Madison St. AMITA Health presented its final offer to the negotiating team last week and is scheduled to meet again with the team on Wednesday.

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Will County reported Coronavirus cases increase by 66

The number of reported coronavirus cases in Will County increased by 66 from Tuesday to a total of 7,077 on Wednesday and the number of reported deaths remained unchanged at 323, according to the Will County Health Department.

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Unemployment numbers dismal, but minimum wage increases

From a global pandemic to racial unrest and dismal unemployment figures for both April and May, it can be hard sometimes to find the silver lining. A staggering 60,252 Will County workers filed unemployment claims in April and another 52,447 filed for unemployment in May. Unemployment rates in the county for April were 17.4 percent and only slightly improved in May at 14.9 percent. In 2019, the May unemployment in Will County was 3.4 percent. The aforementioned silver lining kicked in on July 1 when the minimum wage increased from $9.25 to $10 per hour. That is part of an incremental increase that will bring the minimum wage to $15 by 2025. “The minimum wage that went into effect on July 1 (increasing from $9.25 to $10) will keep Will County in line with our surrounding counties and lower than the City of Chicago which increased to $14,” said Caroline L. Portlock, CPRW, director of the Workforce Investment Board of Will County. “Though many Will County businesses are at or above the increased minimum wage rate, it remains to be seen the affect it may have on the businesses already struggling with the loss of business due to COVID.”

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Bolingbrook immigrant group grateful for win on DACA ruling

Tens of thousands of undocumented youth from throughout Illinois celebrated after the U.S. Su-preme Court’s recent 5-4 decision in favor of reinstating the Deferred Action for Childhood Ar-rivals program, widely known as DACA. The Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project (SSIP), a Bolingbrook based group is a social impact organization committed to community organizing for the rights of immigrants in Chicago’s southwest suburbs through education, civic engagement, and advocacy. The released a statement after the Courts decision in favor of reinstating the DACA program that said, “This decision did not arise from nowhere. Rather, this result comes from years of undocumented youth organizing for themselves, their families, and their communities.

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Houbolt bridge extension and tolls

Should the Houbolt bridge extension become a reality, so too would a fee for using it. State Rep. Larry Walsh, Jr., D-Joliet, passed legislation, which would give municipalities and other local jurisdictions more control and discretion over imposing tolls on public roadways. The bill is now awaiting Gov. signature.

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Will County to hire vender to distribute COVID-19 funds

As the Will County Board moves closer to distributing more than $120.5 million in relief funds provided by the federal government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the board plans to hire a consultant to assist in the distribution process. The board is expected to vote Thursday to authorize interim County Executive Denise Winfrey to negotiate and executive a contract with the Bronner Group of Chicago. The consultant was the Ad-Hoc CARES Funding Committee's first choice after evaluating presentations from multiple firms, county officials said.

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Somber farewell to Larry Walsh

Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 11 at Forsythe Gould Funeral home, 507 S. Street, in Manhattan for Will County Executive Larry Walsh who died on June 3 at home after a lengthy battle with prostate cancer. He was 72. Facemasks will be required at the visitation. Due to restrictions, a private Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. at St. Rose of Lima Church in Wilmington on Friday, The public is invited to safely line the processional route (Kankakee Street between Rt. 53 and St. Rose Church) following Mass at 11:15 AM to pay tribute to Larry. Interment will be at Mt. St. Patrick Cemetery, Wilton Center. Memorial donations may be made to Joliet Area Community Hospice, The Kuzma Care Cottage Food Pantry in Wilmington, and the Larry Walsh Memorial Scholarship Foundation. Walsh was known as a loving husband, proud father and grandfather, faithful farmer, dedi-cated public servant and lifelong Will County resident.

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Winfrey tapped as Will County Board interim Executive

Will County Board Speaker Denise Winfrey (D-Joliet) was sworn in on Monday as interim Will County Executive. In a vote of 25-1 during a special meeting June 8, Winfrey was named Will County Executive following the recent death of long time Will County Executive Larry Walsh, who died June 3 after a lengthy battle with prostate cancer. Winfrey will fill out the remainder of Walsh's term, which ends after the election this November. The County Board is required to select a replacement for the vacancy of the Executive. "Larry was among the most dedicated public servants I've had the privilege to know," Winfrey said. "I'm honored to carry on his legacy till the voters select a new County Executive at the polls in November." Winfrey has served on the County Board for 11 years, and as Speaker of the Board for the last two years. She is also past chair of the County Board Capitol Committee and is active in the National Association of Counties (NACo) where she participates in several committees.

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Joliet becomes a microcosm of nation

Peaceful rallies, vandalism, looting and clashes with police collide in City of Champions

What began as a weekend to enjoy the reopening of businesses and outdoor dining as Will County and the rest of the state moved into Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois Plan soon turned into chaos as peaceful protests ended in vandalism, looting and clashes with police in Joliet and numerous other cities across the nation. A number of retailers as well as restaurants and bars with outdoor seating throughout Will County and Illinois opened their doors to customers on Friday for the first time since the stay-at-home orders were put in place in March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The abundance of warm weather and people eager to get out and enjoy after a required Stay at Home order only meant good news. Throughout the region, many took advantage of the weather, stores, restaurants and bars reopening and headed out for some shopping and dining.

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Old Joliet Prison to reopen for tours

With updated public health guidelines in place via Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois Plan, Joliet Area Historical Museum officials plan to reopen the Old Joliet Prison Historic Site at 9 a.m. June 1st. The prison, they said, will be open seven days per week and offer self-guided tours for the first time since its 2018 reopening. Executive Director Greg Peerbolte said with nationwide shelter-in-place protocols giving Americans a new perspective on confinement, it is an opportune time to consider the experience of prisoners confined at the Old Joliet Prison since 1858. “Our hope, as an educational non-profit organization which seeks to interpret the history of the Joliet community through tangible means, visitors to the Old Joliet Prison will leave with a greater understanding of the Old Joliet Prison’s role in the American institution of incarceration and empathy for its inhabitants and employees, as well as its great historical, social and economic importance to the Joliet region,” Peerbolte said.

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