Will County sues developer over roadwork bill
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org April 5, 2013 10:34PM
Traffic moves by a construction crew at the intersection of Renwick Rd. and Weber Rd. Friday, April 5, 2013. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 8, 2013 6:43AM
JOLIET — Before the Great Recession started in late 2007, the Will County Board waived escrow requirements for developers who were required to chip in for road projects.
But in a post-recession world it’s getting harder to collect the money.
That’s why Will County is suing a Crest Hill company for failing to pay its share of a $10 million intersection and road improvement project at Renwick and Weber roads.
The lawsuit seeking $523,575 from Equimax Partners LLC was filed Wednesday in Will County Circuit Court. Typically, the county requires developers who will benefit from future road projects to put their portion of project funding in escrow until the work starts.
But officials from Equimax said they didn’t have the money at the time they were preparing to build a seven-unit condominium building at the site, which is on the south side of Renwick Road just east of Weber Road.
So the county board passed a resolution in October 2005 that allowed Equimax to pay its roadwork money when the work began. But Will County couldn’t get Equimax to respond to requests for the money when the project began last year, said Assistant State’s Attorney Melanie Manning.
As a result, the lawsuit was filed against the company, whose officials are listed as Dean Tomich, of Plainfield, Donald Tomich Jr., of Crest Hill and Joseph Serena, of Shorewood, according to the Illinois secretary of state’s office.
Joliet attorney Michael Hansen, who represents Equimax and its members, said Friday that he had just received a copy of the lawsuit.
“I’ll talk to my clients about a resolution to the matter,” Hansen said.
The roadwork funding snafu isn’t the only problem Equimax has had with its Renwick Road development. Last summer, Crest Hill cashed in a $369,993 letter of credit the company had on file with First Community Bank in Joliet. The city used the money to install streetlights, remove construction debris, plant 38 trees, remove standing water and clear out storm sewer, Crest Hill Street Supt. Brent Cann said.
“It got to a point where it started to become an eyesore,” Cann said of the lots Equimax was subdividing behind the condo building for future development.
Hansen said the city had a legal right to cash in the letter of credit to fix up the site, and now all of the lots have been sold.
Equimax isn’t the only company struggling to produce funds for public improvements. The county also is in negotiations with a Mokena company that owes it $624,427, Charles Pelkie, a spokesman for the state’s attorney’s office, said. If a settlement can’t be worked out, the county may sue the company, which developed land on the northeast corner of Renwick and Weber roads, Pelkie said.
County Engineer Bruce Gould said the two cases should make the county board more cautious about approving payment delays or waivers from road ordinances for developers.
“If they want access onto our county highways, they have to contribute to the costs of the improvements,” he said.
Gould also is concerned about a left-turn lane requirement for a church that plans to build on 143rd Street in Homer Glen. The church said it doesn’t have money for the lane, which Gould estimated would cost $150,000. Last week, the county board’s public works committee tabled the matter.