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David Giuliani: Subject to the same scrutiny

October 13, 2018

Just to make it absolutely clear, the Kankakee River Metropolitan Agency, or KRMA, is a government entity like any other, subject to all the same rules.

From its name, it’s hard to tell what the agency does. It treats wastewater for Kankakee, Bradley, Bourbonnais and Aroma Park.

Recently, we ran a story showing how the members of the agency’s seven-member board make $600 per meeting. Officers gets more, with the chairman pulling in $700 per meeting, which typically lasts about an hour and a half. County board members, by contrast, get paid $70 per meeting.

All four mayors involved with the board appoint themselves as members.

After our story appeared, some on Facebook said they considered $600 too high to attend a meeting. Others had questions.

One person wanted to know how the agency is funded. The answer — your sewer bills.

Another inquired whether the board is subject to the Open Meetings Act. Absolutely. And it also must comply with the Freedom of Information Act. That’s how we got the information on how much board members are paid.

The board’s meetings are at 3:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of every month at the agency’s office at 1600 W. Brookmont Blvd. Under state law, citizens have a right to speak out during the public input part of the meeting.

PART-TIME JOB?

In writing the story about the $600 meeting payments, I reached out to the mayors about the issue. In her emailed response, Kankakee Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong wrote, “I work approximately 60+ hours a week as a part-time Mayor between my duties with the city and KRMA.”

Including her KRMA meeting payments, Wells-Armstrong makes $67,000 a year. That hardly seems like the pay for a part-time job. it’s about double Kankakee’s median household income, which accounts for all the money household members pull in.

State legislators in Illinois are also referred to as part time, yet they make a base salary of $67,836 as well as mileage and benefits (plus more money if they are committee chairmen). That’s the kind of pay full-timers receive.

When our elected officials get full-time pay, we need to see their jobs as full time.

EATERY IN LIMELIGHT

When you search a town on Google, a picture that represents the community appears. For Kankakee, a photo of the county courthouse pops up. For Bradley, the local high school. Oddly, though, a photo of Dairy Queen appears when you search for Bourbonnais.

It’s a fine establishment, to be sure. I’ve got nothing against it. But is it the right representation for Bourbonnais? Heck, shouldn’t other places enjoy Bourbonnais’ limelight?

I’ve come across other towns with unusual photos on Google. A couple years ago, I looked up Cedar Point in La Salle County. The photo that appeared was a headshot of a middle-aged woman who was not necessarily from Cedar Point. It was from a singles website.

Google’s algorithms work in strange ways.

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