Modernization a key theme in Will County State of the County Address

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Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant shared that Will County is on firm footing as it moves forward into the coming year when she gave her State of the County address last Thursday. 

Growth in population serving as a factor in modernization plans and departmental improvements were key topics in the address made at the August Will County Board meeting.   

Modernization efforts over the last year

Bertino-Tarrant highlighted the approval of $7.8 million in funding for “state-of-the-art” voting equipment as a step toward modernization for the county. 

She also mentioned the Children’s Advocacy Center’s move to a better-situated facility, as well as digitization efforts at the county’s coroner’s office.

“These accomplishments represent a focused effort by our county offices to modernize our government and provide more efficient and effective services for residents,” said Bertino-Tarrant, Will County Executive.

Digitization across departments

The coroner’s office is not the only department moving forward with digitization efforts, something that Bertino-Tarrant says is a key need within the county’s infrastructure.

The Will County 9-1-1 Center received an upgraded system that provides more speed and better communication. By the end of the year, the system will also allow the call centers to receive photos and videos.

Also, thanks to joint efforts from the Division of Transportation and the GIS Division, residents can now use new interactive maps to learn about construction projects or to join the Adopt-a-Highway program.

“We’ve continued this trend to shift towards digitization across our departments,” said Bertino-Tarrant. “This is due to an increased demand for it by our residents, who more and more are seeking online options for services.”

Transportation improvements

Bertino-Tarrant also mentioned that Will County is “on target to have the largest annual road improvement plan in county history.” 

$137 million is expected to be spent on transportation needs within the next fiscal year. 

Connectivity is also on the mind of county officials, who have partnered with the Forest Preserve District of Will County with the goal of creating a Route 53 bike corridor, which will tie into unincorporated Joliet Township.

However, Bertino-Tarrant also acknowledged that more could be done in some areas, such as dial-a-ride systems, where public feedback mentioned limited service hours and complicated registration as barriers. 

Green energy projects

Also noted was the plan to move toward a green economy. Bertino-Tarrant mentioned the county became the first in Illinois to allow battery energy storage facilities in unincorporated areas. 

She also applauded Will County’s renewable natural gas plant, which she says has already raised $3.1 million. 

ARPA funds

Bertino-Tarrant touched on the $134 million in federal ARPA dollars that are being doled out “to make the most impact.”

$17.2 million went to “people-focused” investments, which included expanding access to healthcare and mental health programs, along with providing more food support.

Small businesses and nonprofits got a boost from the allocation of $10 million in the funds, helping them stay afloat after the pandemic.

She said the county plans to be transparent and thoughtful as they continue to the next phase of allocations.

Looking towards 2024

For the final part of the address, Bertino-Tarrant turned her attention to the 2024 fiscal year, proposing a budget of $812 million. 

The budget focuses on public safety with 40% going to the sheriff’s department and 22% to judicial services. She noted that the budget is balanced, and will result in the county property tax rate falling to 0.5498%. It includes the addition of 12 new positions within county offices and departments. 

She closed with a message to the Will County community.

“I promise to you that my door will always be open to each and every one of you,” said Bertino-Tarrnant in her closing statement. “I am confident that we can come together to make the right decisions on how to keep Will County as a great place to live, work, and raise a family.”

Photo courtesy: Will County

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