Joliet D-204 officials running background checks on driver instructors

JOLIET – Joliet Township High School District 204 officials have a new procedure to check on driver education instructors’ backgrounds after finding they can’t rely exclusively on the Illinois State Board of Education. District 204 officials plan to run vehicle background checks on driver education teachers each semester in addition to submitting their names into a state system required by ISBE that verifies whether they’re approved to teach driver education. The new procedure comes after Nestor Nowak, a Joliet Central High School driver’s training instructor, was arrested and charged with driving under the influence in May. On May 16, district officials said they weren’t aware of a DUI charge in 2014 that Nowak pleaded guilty to and that they would determine why they weren’t aware of the incident. District 204 Spokeswoman Kristine Schlismann said in an email Friday that the district knows Nowak was approved in a state system required by ISBE that’s connected to the Secretary o..

Joliet Action Group Seeks Answers, Justice For Semaj Crosby

CHICAGO (CBS) — A Joliet area group is taking steps to honor the memory of a 17-month-old girl who died in April under suspicious circumstances. The Justice for Semaj Action team has formed to offer help to the siblings of Semaj Crosby and continues to press for answers about how the 17-month old’s death came about. The team has been accepting donations of clothes, toys and gift cards for Semaj’s siblings. They are also asking the Joliet Park District to rename Oak Park to Semaj Crobsy Park and are collecting signatures to make that memorial happen. The toddler was found dead under a couch in her family’s home in April, a couple of days after a DCFS investigator had checked the home and found no hazards or safety concerns. Now the Justice for Semaj Action group has set up an online petition, on change.org, asking Illinois Attorney General’s office to investigate the practices and review the procedures of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. The petition reads: ..

Joliet D-204 board approves plan to provide 1,950 laptops

JOLIET – Sophomore students at Joliet Township High School District 204 will receive new laptops that will be faster, have slightly more battery life and come with touchscreen technology. The board approved, in a 6-0 vote, Tuesday a lease agreement with CSI Leasing to pay for 1,950 upgraded Lenovo 11e laptops. Board President Jeff Pierson was absent. District officials plan to spend roughly $943,68 over three years to finance the cost of the laptops. “They have continued to be solid devices for our students and there are the additional benefits of leveraging existing knowledge of and maintaining common parts for the devices,” Ilandus Hampton, assistant superintendent for business services, said in a memo. Over the years, the district has provided more computer devices for students as part of its 1:1 initiative to give students more access to computers and integrate technology in curriculum. Three years ago, students at every grade level in the high schools were given the opport..

Joliet to provide second installment of funding for Rialto

JOLIET – The city of Joliet will give the Rialto Square Theatre the second half of a $500,000 subsidy after the theater met a requirement the two parties agreed on. Theater officials provided a list Tuesday night of shows put on by the theater in the first half of 2017. The Rialto was required by Joliet to have 30 shows by the end of June in order to get a second payment of $250,000 to help fund theater operations. After Councilman Terry Morris raised concerns Monday that child-oriented shows were being counted toward the city’s quota, the theater provided an updated list Tuesday to interim City Manager Marty Shanahan that did not include kids shows. The list still had over 30 shows, and Rialto Executive Director Val Devine said there are nine other offers out currently for additional shows. Rialto Board Chairman Bob Filotto and Devine, as well as members of the Rialto board, were on hand. Devine outlined a series of ways the theater works to book shows through its third-party manag..

Ryan live from Route 66 Raceway in Joliet

Ryan went to Route 66 Raceway in Joliet for the experience of a lifetime.

Joliet council growling over “Pete the Cat” at the Rialto Square Theatre

JOLIET – City Council members are questioning how the Rialto Square Theatre is booking shows and spending money before they sign off on a $250,000 second installment of annual funding for the theater. Counting kids’ shows such as “Pete the Cat” in meeting the city quota of 30 shows by the end of June caused one council member to express disbelief at a Monday workshop meeting. “They couldn’t possibly,” Councilman Terry Morris said after hearing that two performances of “Pete the Cat” were being counted by the Rialto in meeting the terms of the theater’s agreement with the city. “No, they’re counting kid shows,” interim City Manager Marty Shanahan replied. “You mean we had to be more specific?” Morris asked. The 30-show quota was put in place to ensure the Rialto was bringing people downtown to meet a city goal of generating customers for downtown businesses, particularly for restaurants and bars. Shanahan noted the kids’ shows are staged for schoolchildren who are brought in on sc..

Nonprofits call on Joliet for help

JOLIET – Several social service agency representatives called on the city for help on Monday, but it’s not clear what Joliet could do. The meeting with social service providers was set up after Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said in April that the city needs to consider stepping in to help nonprofits struggling amid state funding shortfalls. But only one of the five agencies represented at the meeting of the Joliet City Council Diversity and Community Relations Committee uses state funding – the Spanish Community Center. “We’re on the last lifeline, and it’s not because we don’t work hard enough,” said Angel Contreras, representing the Spanish Community Center. “The reality is we need the city’s help. We need to be creative to help our center.” Contreras later told The Herald-News that the lack of a state budget could lead to the elimination of some services in July, although he was not specific about what could go. Most of the speakers did not specify what services could be lost, and it was ..

Road repairs mark last phase of Pilcher Park upgrades in Joliet

JOLIET – William Frederiksen calls Pilcher Park a “sanctuary,” but the potholes can make the drive into the wooded refuge a little rough. “I know a lot of older people who don’t come out here anymore because of the roads, but I still do,” Frederiksen, a New Lenox resident, said outside of his truck parked along the cratery pavement that runs between the Pilcher Park Nature Center and Gougar Road. Any day now, construction crews are coming to the rescue. The Joliet Park District this week begins Phase 2 of the $2.4 million park improvement program that began last year. Phase 2 is mostly about the roads – the ones running between the Nature Center and Gougar Road. They will be repaved throughout the summer. It’s part of the last phase of renovations at the park after trails were upgraded and wooden bridges were installed last year. The response to Pilcher Park renovations so far has been good, Joliet Park District Executive Director Tom Carstens said, but the message is that there ..

Joliet Rocket draws 3,000 passengers for steam train excursion

JOLIET – Three thousand people are taking a train back to the 1940s this weekend on the Joliet Rocket, a steam locomotive pulling rail cars from a past era. Just the 700 people lined up for the first ride out of Joliet on Saturday morning were reminiscent of a bygone age when train stations were crowded with travelers. Some waiting for the Joliet Rocket were dressed in 1940s garb, including men in World War II military uniforms and women in dresses, hats and gloves. Tom Rock of Crown Point, Indiana, was wearing a beige suit, straw hat, bow tie and spectator shoes. “There’s only one way to ride on a train like that,” Rock said. “It was a different day and age. You would dress up to take the train to town.” The Joliet Rocket was making four trips to the LaSalle Street Station and back – two on Saturday and two on Sunday. In Chicago, there would be a two-hour layover with live music, re-enactors, vintage cocktails, appetizers and awards for best-dressed passengers. The 13 rail cars ..

Joliet man pleads guilty to killing mother, dumping body

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — A Joliet man has pleaded guilty to charges that he choked his mother to death in 2013 and dumped her body in a river. The Will County State’s Attorney’s office says 36-year-old Shane Smith pleaded guilty to first-degree murder on Monday in the death of Joan Smith. He entered the plea as jury section was about to begin in his trial. As part of the plea, prosecutors won’t recommend a prison sentence longer than 35 years when Smith returns to court for sentencing. The slaying stemmed from an argument between Smith and his mother over her refusal to let Smith’s wife move into her house with them. Prosecutors say Smith killed his mother, put her body in a garbage bag and dumped it in the Des Plaines River. Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Nitro Nite is set for July 6 in Joliet

JOLIET – Two big items about Nitro Nite on July 6 is that the Big Guitars From Memphis are coming for the first time and Rocky Ausec will be back again to rev the engine of his classic alcohol funny car. Nitro Nite is a downtown street festival held during the NHRA Route 66 Nationals, which will be at Route 66 Raceway from July 6 to 9. Some plans for Nitro Nite, which will run 4 to 10 p.m., were announced Tuesday at a preview event held at the Joliet Area Historical Museum. Planners expect Big Guitars From Memphis, actually a band out of the Chicago area that plays country, bluegrass and other genres, will be a big hit. They know Rocky’s car is. Ausec, who lives in Rockdale, was at the preview event and talked about why he likes to rev the engine of his 1971 Mustang Mach 1 on Nitro Nite – typically a favorite among drag race fans downtown that night. “I used to cruise the loop way back when,” Ausec said, referring to times when teens would cruise their cars in and around downtown..

Joliet Junior College board approves budget

JOLIET – The challenges facing Joliet Junior College became apparent as two trustees bristled at each other and several residents criticized the college’s spending. The board approved the fiscal 2018 budget in a 7-1 vote, with Trustee Alicia Morales voting against it. The budget has an operating revenue of $91.4 million, a 2.8 percent increase over last year and reflects sinking state support that is estimated to make up only 5 percent of the college’s revenue. The budget also projects no enrollment growth and includes a $19 student tuition increase, of which $16 is due to the absence of state funding, JJC officials said. JJC President Judy Mitchell said the college has been reducing millions in costs since 2001 and achieved additional savings through course scheduling. “Although we have faced challenges for the past several years, we will continue to be proactive and collaborative on our cost reduction initiatives to help reduce the financial burden for our students,” Mitchel..

Joliet plans to bargain for lower share of interchange costs

JOLIET – Just what Joliet will pay for the interchange project planned for the future Rock Run Crossings project at Interstates 55 and 80 is yet to be decided. City officials are trying to design the project so that Joliet pays nothing for infrastructure costs estimated at $126 million. “We don’t want the city to pay anything related to the hard costs of the project,” Joliet Economic Development Director Steve Jones said. Jones said the city is trying to structure the plan so that all the road costs associated with a full interchange off of I-55 and nearby road improvements will be paid by the state and Cullinan Properties. Cullinan is the developer with a plan to build stores, restaurants, hotels, office space, homes and more in the northwest corner of I-55 and I-80. There is no interstate access to the site now. Cullinan has already committed to spending $750,000 for phase one engineering for the project. Joliet would pay another $750,000 for the engineering, with plans to recou..

Joliet is maintaining, not creating public art

JOLIET – The recent uprooting of the Katherine Dunham statue at Union Station was a reminder of the public art created around the city before the recession hit. These days, the city is only spending money on art maintenance – about $10,000 a year. “The world came to an end in 2008,” said Kathleen Farrell, founder of Friends of Community Public Art, describing the halt to any additional orders for public art from the organization that created about 100 murals and more than 40 sculptures around Joliet. The cost cutting that came with the recession put a stop to the painting of murals and sculpting of statues that told the story of people such as Dunham, a dancing pioneer of the 20th century who spent her school-age years in Joliet. Since then, some of the murals, such as the depictions of the city’s sports legends under the railroad viaducts downtown, have been peeling away. “The murals kind of fade with time,” Farrell said. “At some point, you have to decide whether to repair them ..

Neighbors Help Joliet Family Escape House Fire

CHICAGO (CBS) – Thank goodness for observant neighbors. Two people spotted a house fire on Tuesday in Joliet. What the two neighbors did next is nothing less than heroic. CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker introduces us to one of them in this Original Report. Neighbors helping neighbors took on a life-saving meaning in Joliet on Tuesday. Today was the first time Dawn Barrett is seeing the damage caused by a fire the Liliana Macius escaped because of Barrett’s quick thinking. “You saved my life. Thank you,” Macius said. It was 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. Macius, her daughter and husband were still asleep. Barrett lives just three doors from the Macius family. Barrett said she was about to walk her dog when she saw smoke coming out of the rooftop. “I saw smoke coming out of that side of the house, the other side, up in the air,” Barrett said. With the help of a nearby construction worker, they broke the glass on the door and Barrett started screaming. Macius heard the noise. “I wake up and she’s..