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Rex Robinson

Stories by Rex

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Will County reported Coronavirus cases increase by more than 100 from Friday

The number of reported coronavirus cases in Will County increased by 102 from Friday to a total of 7,278 on Sunday and the number of reported deaths from the virus increased by two during the same time period to 326, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

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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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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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Property tax payment relief

Will County property owners will be getting a reprieve on their property tax bill as many struggle financially through the pandemic. The Will County Board voted to provide relief to property taxpayers. Over the course of the last month, the board looked at ways to help ease the burden on residents who are suffering financial and medical hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said. While options for providing property tax relief are limited by state law, the county is able to delay the due date for half of each payment by 60 days.

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Planned for Romeoville, Naperville’s Ribfest cancelled for July 4th weekend

The Exchange Club of Naperville, organizers of the 33rd annual Ribfest, has decided to cancel Ribfest, scheduled for the July 4th weekend. This Ribfest event would have been the first year held in Romeoville. In consideration of the current COVID-19 conditions and recent capacity restrictions mandated by the state, the Club has concluded that the health and safety of Ribfest attendees, volunteers, and entertainers cannot be guaranteed for such a large-scale public event, organizers said in a press release. “Therefore, the Exchange Club of Naperville, along with the Village of Romeoville, regretfully believes that Ribfest simply cannot go forward this year,” officials said.

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Will County Clerk prepares for general election

Clerk lays out options for voters should shelter orders be in place

While it would seem the November election is still a ways off, in reality it’s just over five months away. With the country in the midst of a pandemic and no one really knowing how much back to normal things will be come Election Day, clerks offices around the country are preparing for different scenarios. The Will County Clerk’s Office is no exception and has been taking the necessary steps to ensure voters will have an opportunity to cast their ballots in a safe manner come November.

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Officials eager for county to disperse stimulus money

Will County received more than $120.5 million in federal stimulus money to assist with a variety of hardships related to the coronavirus pandemic. Now some area officials are wondering when the county is going to start doling those funds out to communities. Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk told The Times Weekly recently that he is still waiting to hear when the funds will be released.

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Helping others key to doing business for Joliet burger place

Restaurants, especially fine dining establishments, have struggled to keep their doors open during the pandemic. If you’re not offering curbside pick-up or delivery service, you’re hanging on by a thread at best and might not even be able to reopen whenever the stay-at-home orders in Illinois are lifted. Fast food establishments seem to be faring better during the crisis as dine-in was never a big part of their business model anyway. MOOYAH Burgers, Fries, and Shakes, 2611 W. Jefferson St., has actually seen an increase in sales of 6.4 percent, according to owner Rob Sterioti. “The pandemic has forced the entire industry to think on our feet faster than we ever have before, because life in COVID-19 seems to be changing every day,” Sterioti said. “Initially, it was a fairly simple adjustment to a lower sales volume. Then as we learned more, it wasn’t just about operating a clean restaurant and serving great-tasting, safe food to our guests; we started thinking about how we can keep our team safe in the working environment.” Once the shelter-in-place order was issued and MOOYAH lost the use of its dining room, Sterioto said he went into survival mode. “We were already doing food delivery and online ordering, so we put our effort toward amplifying those programs. The MOOYAH corporate team came up with the idea offering the sale of specialty items such as our housemade potato chips and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

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Mayors want to reopen under Restore Illinois Plan

A phased plan to reopen the state’s economy has some Will County mayors voicing concerns about it taking too long for the region. Mayors from New Lenox, Lockport, Homer Glen, Lemont, Mokena and Frankfort held a meeting this week to discuss their frustrations over Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan and want Pritzker to adjust the plan to enable Will County to reopen sooner. “There is a very strong argument that the collar counties should be separated from Chicago and Cook County,” New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann said. Pritzker announced on May 5 the five-phase Restore Illinois plan that will eventually reopen the state. The plan breaks the state up into four “health regions,” each with the ability to “independently move through a phased approach.” The four regions are Northeast Illinois, which includes Cook, Will, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Grundy, Kankakee, Lake and McHenry counties, North-Central Illinois, Central Illinois and Southern Illinois.

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Mayors weigh in on proposed extension of stay-at-home order

As COVID-19 cases in Will County continue to rise daily, Gov. J.B. Pritzker late last week an-nounced he will be extending the stay-at-home order through May 30th once the current order ex-pires on April 30. An online poll by The Times Weekly revealed that 56.52 percent agreed with Pritzker’s plan to extend the order. Area mayors, also agree with Pritzker’s plan to extend the order. However, there are some concerns about its impact on the local economy. On Tuesday, the Will County Health Department reported a total of 2,267 confirmed COVID cases, an increase of 87 over the previous day. Deaths from the virus in Will County in-creased by nine over Monday to a total of 145 and deaths in Illinois from the virus increased by 144 to 2,125. That’s the highest one-day increase in the number of deaths from the virus in Illinois since the start of the pandemic, officials said. The total number of confirmed cases reported in Illi-nois also continued to rise, increasing to 48,102 on Tuesday, an increase of 2,219 over Monday’s total of 45,883, according to the IDPH.

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Local financial assistance for businesses in crisis

In an effort to plug the huge economic hole growing bigger each day and brought on by the ongoing coronavirus crisis, a number of grant and loan programs have become available to businesses large and small. Business owners throughout Will County and beyond are struggling to stay afloat during these disastrous economic times brought on by the crisis. There are a number of loan and grant programs all with different requirements coming from the federal and state governments, non-profit business organizations and even local communities. Trying to figure out which ones to apply for while attempting to plug the holes where money is running out is difficult at best for any business owner. Some of the money is slow coming and might not arrive fast enough to keep some business owners from closing their doors for good. Experts advise business owners do their homework and investigate all options fully before taking on more debt via a loan program. Local banks throughout Will County are administering the federal and state loans available as a result of the stimulus packages. Some local chambers of commerce are also offering business assistance in navigating through these various programs.

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Lockport considers assisting businesses through economic crisis

Another community already accepting loan applications

As businesses throughout Will County struggle through one of the worst economic crisis they have ever seen, many business owners are scrambling to find ways to stay afloat. Could help be right around the corner through their local governments? One community is considering just that.

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Filling out 2020 Census crucial to families and community

Households across the country are receiving important U.S. Census Bureau reminders with important detailed information about how to respond to the 2020 Census. The plan is to include everyone you expect to live in your home on April 1. Heads of households can respond online in one of 13 languages and find assistance in many more, according to the census bureau’s website 2020census.gov. People can respond online, by phone or by mail. Accurate census numbers are essential in determining many important things that impact all citizens, which of course includes all residents of Will County. Census results help determine how billions of dollars in federal funding flow into states and communities each year. The results determine how many seats in Congress each state gets.

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Joliet group plans to keep fighting despite judge’s ruling

An initiative to change the make up of Joliet's City Council and its districts will not be on the November ballot following a judge's ruling this week.

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Local pastor responds to mass shootings with art

Multiple deaths, grieving families and frightened communities are too often the results of gun violence, and when these national tragedies strike, they spread over the airwaves like a cancer. How people respond to this violence is important. The healing begins only when people respond with something other than violence. Pastor Lonnie Posley Sr., of Joliet, chooses to respond with art. An artist who has been honing skills for only the past six or seven years, Posley creates works of art in response to mass shootings around the country and then visits those places and donates the paintings to the communities suffering in the aftermath. For his latest project, he created a-piece titled “Broken But Not Bent” in response to the five Dallas Texas police officer that were killed after being gunned down by a sniper. “Art is a great way to bring about healing to the families and all those involved in these tragedies. What’s from the heart reaches the heart,” Posley said recently while sitting among some of his works at New Cannanland Church on Clinton Street in Joliet, where he is also the Senior Pastor. He and his brother traveled to Dallas on Aug. 16 to hand deliver the painting to the police chief and other city officials. The piece now hangs in the office of the Dallas police chief, Posley said.

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Judge delays validation decision for Joliet group’s ballot question

A Will County circuit court judge has delayed a decision until later this month on the validity of a ballot question that seeks to eliminate Joliet's at-large council seats.

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Stopping it before it starts

Children focus of local drug and alcohol prevention coalitions

More than 2,000 community leaders and substance abuse prevention and treatment specialists from around the world, including one from Will County, convened late last month at the Las Vegas Mirage Resort for the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America’s15th annual mid-year Training Institute. Cherry Powell, prevention coordinator with Chestnut Health Systems in Joliet, was among those on hand at the national conference, one of two held annually, to seek information to strengthen local programs aimed at preventing children from using drugs and alcohol. Powell is the prevention coordinator for the Will County Substance Abuse Coalition as well as the Lockport Homer Coalition for Substance Abuse Prevention.

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Joliet group’s referendum question could be ruled invalid

A ballot referendum to change Joliet's city council to 8 districts may be at risk of being thrown off the November ballot and is now awaiting a decision by the Will County Circuit Court.

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Fifth annual Back 2 School Blast this Saturday in Joliet

The annual event includes free food, school supplies and other fun stuff for the whole family.

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Local officials see bridge to better economic times

Project expected to bring reduced traffic, jobs and more to Will County

State and county officials announced this week a plan to build a new Houbolt Road bridge linking Interstate 80 and the intermodal facilities in Will County. The plan is expected to not only create jobs but also help alleviate traffic congestion near the intermodal site.

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Tech upgrades major achievement for McGuire

Joliet resident passes on running for sixth Will County Circuit Clerk term

Pam McGuire remembers vividly walking into her office after being sworn in as the new Will County Circuit Court Clerk in 1996 and looking for a computer.

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Retail jobs dominate area employment offerings

Experts encourage workers to pursue management opportunities

New fast-food restaurants, retail stores and strip mall developments are popping up all over Will County, a good sign that the economy is slowly rebuilding after five long recessionary years.

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T.J. Maxx leaving Crest Hill

The T.J. Maxx clothing retailer in Crest Hill will be closing once a new store now under construction opens in Romeoville later this year.

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New Lenox gets state grant to extend Old Plank Trail

The Village of New Lenox has been awarded more than $200,000 in state grant funding to extend Old Plank Trail and make it more accessible for Providence High School students as well area residents.

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Bolingbrook students get career lessons from business owners

It’s never too early to start thinking about a career. That could be the motto for Brooks Middle School in Bolingbrook ...

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Thousands of dead trees overshadow Arbor Day

Emerald Ash Borer problem hits critical stage throughout region

As local communities get set to celebrate Arbor Day on Friday, this year’s annual celebration of all things trees is somewhat of a mixed bag with all villages and cities facing a huge problem from a little green monster known as the Emerald Ash Borer.

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Buckling under pressure

Lack of constant repair to county courthouse causes serious structural damage.

A crew on Wednesday was busy fixing a 6-by-12 foot section of brick flooring on the first floor of the Will County Courthouse that buckled under the pressure of extensive foot traffic Tuesday afternoon.

Canine unit coming to Lockport

Lockport police will soon be getting a new furry, four legged, highly trained partner on the force. The department is expected to get a canine unit later this summer after Police Chief Terrence Lemming worked out a deal with the Lemont Police Department to swap its canine unit vehicle in exchange for a Lockport squad car.

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A celebration of trees

Early Arbor Day celebration held at Wesmere School in Plainfield

They did skits about the importance of recycling and caring for the environment, learned how to properly plant a tree and they all went home with a small sapling to plant in their yards.

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Homer Glen meeting Tuesday on Woodbine Golf Course purchase

Homer Glen village officials will discuss the village’s purchase of the Woodbine Golf Course at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 22 at village hall, 14917 S. Founders Crossing.

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Veteran’s housing proposal gets green light from Joliet Zoning Board of Appeals

A nonprofit group’s plan to bring a veteran’s housing project to Joliet passed a major hurdle Thursday when the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously in favor of a special use permit for the development.

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Joliet city officials support increased court fees for new courthouse

Joliet city officials have given a nod to a plan by Will County to initiate a fee for each court case filed to help pay for a new courthouse in the city’s downtown.

Veteran’s housing round two

Joliet’s Zoning Board of Appeals is set to hear plans for Thursday for the veteran’s housing project proposed for the property which includes the former Silver Cross Hospital.

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Bettye Gavin appointed to fill vacant Joliet Council seat

Gavin to fill out remaining term of Susie Barber who resigned in March

Longtime Joliet resident and Forest Park Community Center Director Bettye Gavin can now add 4th District City Councilwoman to her resume.

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Mayor to nominate someone to fill vacant 4th District council seat

Joliet Mayor Tom Giarrante, sticking to a pledge he made weeks ago, plans to nominate someone to fill the 4th district council seat left vacant when Susie Barber resigned due to health reasons.

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County board members visit Capitol Hill to advocate for local concerns

Will County Board members this week flew-in to Washington, D.C. to advance its legislative agenda with the county's congressional delegation. The meetings came during National County Government Month and in the midst of federal budget negotiations.

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New intersection coming for Romeoville High School

Construction is expected to get underway in the next couple of weeks on a new intersection that will provide safer way in and out of Romeoville High School.

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Ficarello opts not to pursue recount in primary

Nick Ficarello, who ran for Will County Sheriff in last month’s Republican Primary race against Ken Kaupas, has reportedly decided not to pursue a recount.

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Sparks fly over Joliet mayor's comments on crime stats report

O'Dekirk accuses Giarrante of playing politics, and Giarrante responds

A recent study released by the Joliet Police Department examining crime trends at multi-family complexes in the city over the last 13 years shows Fairview was the worst with a 175 percent increase.

Debate continues over complex

Consultants present new redevelopment plans

A real estate consulting firm responsible for redeveloping several low-income housing projects in Chicago, including Cabrini-Green, this week gave Joliet city officials a preview of how it could help redevelop Evergreen Terrace should the city prevail in its ongoing condemnation lawsuit of the 365-unit complex on Broadway Street.

Officials say more needed to reduce workplace harassment

Illinois ranked fifth in the nation for workplace harassment and discrimination charges in 2013, according to a recently released study from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The ranking showed a total of 4,781 harassment and discrimination charges last year, which is actually a more than 12 percent decrease from 2012. However, according to those who work closely with workers in Will County, harassment and discrimination in warehouses continues to be a problem. “Every month we see hundreds of people,” said Leah Fried, spokeswoman for the Warehouse Workers for Justice based in Joliet. “Discrimination is something that occurs fairly regularly in warehouses and we encourage workers to learn their rights.”

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Joliet housing could get state kick-start

Housing Authority could receive money for the project by next year

The Housing Authority of Joliet’s plans to redevelop a 112-unit housing project, deemed “functionally obsolete” by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, could get underway next year.

Bolingbrook firearms instructor stripped of Concealed Carry training credentials

A firearms instructor from Bolingbrook is no longer approved to instruct Illinois Concealed Carry Curricula, and 327 applicants trained by the instructor will receive notification that their application has been denied due to improper training, according to the Illinois State Police.