Working Together Yields Results Community Cooperation Key to Will County Being Fiscally Sound, Safe and Growing
Editor's note: Will County Executive Joseph Mikan gave his State of the County address Thursday. Here's the edited text:
Ladies and gentlemen, I stand before you today confident that Will County is heading in the right direction.
We remain the fastest-growing county in Illinois, and the 10th- fastest in the United States.
Through it all, we are cutting taxes, cutting crime rates and increasing county government services.
And while in Springfield they struggle with a financial mess, here in Will County your government is fiscally sound.
Will County government is living within its means. We're not over-borrowing, we're not overspending, and we're doing more with less.
This year alone, we cut Will County real estate taxes 3.8 percent.
We're successful because we don't just talk about what needs to be done, we do it.
We identify problems and we solve them.
On education, our booming communities were outgrowing their schools. Cash-strapped Will County school districts were serving more students each year while getting less and less money from the state. They couldn't keep up.
So, we worked with local builders, businesses, municipalities and educators themselves to find a funding solution that worked. The result was the school facilities impact fee which helps new subdivisions afford new, quality community schools of their own.
On our environment, when I took office, Will County quite frankly had a garbage problem. We had nowhere to put it.
Last January, we opened Prairie View, a state-of-the-art recycling facility and landfill that will handle Will County's trash for the next 25 years.
On safety, it's no secret that all Illinois counties were unprepared to deal with terrorism before 9/11. Today, your first responders - police, firefighters, paramedics - have a plan to work together in the case of a Will County terrorist attack.
Our plan was so good, the state recommended it as a model to be followed by all other counties in Illinois.
Good government requires the same type of coordination and cooperation that produces a championship team. This is a winning team I am proud to lead.
Will County is the envy of Chicagoland. Our population has grown to nearly 600,000. People are moving to Will County for its strong communities, local pride and quality schools.
But as your county executive, I believe there is nothing more important than public safety.
I'm proud to announce that, thanks to the efforts of Sheriff Paul Kaupas and our local police chiefs, Will County's crime rate fell again in 2003 - this time by 5.5 percent. We're safer than DuPage County, safer than Kane County, safer than Lake County and safer than suburban Cook County.
In Will County, we're investing in both law enforcement and crime prevention.
That means more police and police stations closer to our new neighborhoods, more courtrooms and more capacity to house criminals in our Adult Detention Facility. It means more mental health services for our juvenile criminals, helping them turn their lives around while they still can.
State's Attorney Jeff Tomczak is working hard to fight crime as well.
He is prosecuting criminals who prey on the elderly in their homes and our children on the Internet.
His office negotiated a $3 million settlement for the victims of a Romeoville company accused of sports and trademark infringement. It was the largest such settlement in Illinois history.
Public health is another Will County priority.
We're expanding local health care to reach more of our friends and neighbors who need it. The Will County Community Health Center will open in 2005, acting as a medical safety net for tens of thousands of our uninsured and underinsured.
We're also improving infrastructure. Some of our poorest communities have water system problems few of us would accept. …