Business and Economic Development Committee

Tax breaks for two Cook County companies are up in committee this morning – one for a pallet company planning to move from South Holland to a vacant property in Chicago Heights, and another for a movie theater planned for Country Club Hills.

Both are Class 8 property tax breaks, which are specially authorized by commissioners when a property has been abandoned for less than two years. Commercial real estate is normally assessed at 25% of its market value, but properties that qualify for a Class 8 are assessed at 10% of the market value for 10 years, 15% for the 11th year and 20% in the 12th year when construction is complete.

J&A Pallet Inc., an industrial-remanufacturing and recycling facility, is interested in moving south and adding two full-time positions. The property it plans to move to at 1321 Arnold Street is in Chicago Heights, and has been abandoned for 13 months. After the move, the company would have a total of 29 full time jobs.

Country Club Hills Plaza, LLC also plans to open up a movie theater at 4201 W. 167th Street. The plot has been empty for just a month. The project would create 50 construction jobs, and add 10 full-time and 165 part-time positions. The local AMC Loew’s theater shut down abruptly in January, citing an unaffordable hike in rent.

Health and Hospitals Committee

There’s just one item on the agenda – the Cook County Department of Public Health’s Quarterly presentation. You can view the materials here.

Finance Committee

An ordinance mirroring the so-called “tampon tax” exemption that successfully passed through Chicago City Council is up in Cook County’s Finance Committee today. Commissioners Richard Boykin and Deborah Sims introduced an ordinance March 2 that would exempt feminine hygiene products from the Cook County Retailers’ Occupation Tax. “Feminine products, like many medicines, are a necessity and not a luxury. Given this fact, these products should not be over taxed,” Commissioner Sims said in a press release. The county sales tax rate currently applied to tampons and other feminine hygiene products is 1.75%.

The committee, as usual, will also consider approval of a number of court costs and settlements, including:

  • Pang Chong v. Cook County et. al.,: The $400,000 settlement over race discrimination and wrongful termination was approved by the Litigation Subcommittee back in October. Chong is represented by Avila Law Group.

  • David Nardi v. Thomas Dart in his official capacity as Sheriff: Nardi, a Deputy, sued Dart for sexual harassment in 2012, alleging Dart’s office did nothing when fellow officers verbally abused him for being gay. Nardi is represented by Andreou & Casson Ltd. The settlement request is $100,000.

  • Moutry v. Cook County, et al.: A $180,000 car accident settlement between Deborah Moutry and the county is up for a vote. The accident involved a highway department snowplow sliding due to snow and ice and rear-ending Moutry’s vehicle in 2012. A payout for self-insurance claims was on this finance agenda in 2012.

The committee has approved more than $15 million in claims, settlements, and cases so far this fiscal year. A breakdown of some select payments:

  • Proposed Settlements approved FY16-Present: $9,339,465.52
  • Injury Compensation Claims approved FY16-Present: $2,683,849.35
  • Workers Compensation Claims approved FY16-Present: $2,180,665.28 
  • Special Court Cases approved FY16-Present:  $696,957.85
  • Criminal Division Cases approved FY16-Present: $445,597

Zoning and Building Committee

The creation of a Cook County Crane Operator’s License and a Board of Crane Operator Examiners is up for committee consideration today. The ordinance would make it illegal to operate a crane without a license in the County, and is likely intended to beat the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s national deadlinemandating all crane operators be certified by Nov. 10, 2017.

Chicago’s City Council worked with the City’s Department of Buildings on more stringent safety standards for licensed Chicago crane operators, amending its existing licensing requirements this past summer. Representatives from the Department of Buildings at the time said they were also working on an OSHA compliance plan.

The ordinance establishes a new, three member Board of Crane Operator Examiners made up of the Building and Zoning Commissioner, Timothy Bleuher, and two other experienced crane operators. Written tests administered by the County’s Buildings Department would cost $150, and practical exams would cost $250. A one year license would cost $100, and a five year would cost $300. Apprentice permits would cost $50. Fines for not being licensed range from $1,000 to $10,000. The ordinance was deferred last month.

Items of Interest on the Board of Commissioners Agenda up for committee referral:

  • An amendment from Comm. Larry Suffredin mandating “All electronic communication by officials, board or commission appointees and employees regarding official government business shall be by and through official government email accounts.” No personal use of email, texts, or social media would be permitted, but “Separately elected officials and their staffs may use separate email accounts associated with their own offices or personal email accounts if they notify the Secretary to the Board.”

  • Establishment of a Commission on Social Innovation aimed at creating solutions to economic problems in “inner city” and “Southland Chicago.” The commission would be tasked with creating “novel solutions to social problems which are more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just compared to current solutions,” and “ideas that promote public, private, and philanthropic collaboration in order to create positive effects on areas with economic challenges.” It could have as many as 27 members, with Comm. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia as chair.

  • A $4.1 million appropriation for the Department of Highways and Transportation for “contract maintenance and operation services of traffic signals and flashers at 460 locations, 30 roadway lighting and 5 interior lighting installations, 5 navigational lighting installations, 7 pumping stations and 5 cathodic protection locations.” The contract for those services will be introduced at a later date. The appropriation would come from the Motor Fuel Tax Fund.

  • The renewal of the final year option for the Countywide Job Order Contract (JOC) Program contract, which has a current contract authority of $59 million. JOC is a procurement process that allows county facility owners complete repair, maintenance, and construction projects with one competitively bid contract, the item says, though no cost for the renewal is listed. The Departments of Transportation and Highways, Facilities Management, and Capital Planning and Policy currently use JOC Program contracts.

  • A nearly $9 million contract with Southwest Industries, Inc. d/b/a Anderson Elevator Company to replace elevators, escalators, dumbwaiters, and wheelchair lifts at Stroger, Provident, and Oak Forest Hospitals and the Department of Facilities Management.

  • A $3.5 million contract for a new comprehensive case management system to track probation, pretrial operations, cashier and contract monitoring. The current case management system, PROMIS, lives on the Cook County mainframe, was designed in the 70s, “and is antiquated, limited in its functionality, and cumbersome to use. Also, it is no longer supported by the company that designed it.”