ZION, Illinois — The passage of the energy bill in Springfield will mean a financial shot in the arm for residents of the City of Zion thanks to the efforts of a team working on behalf of the City led by Zion Mayor Billy McKinney and Zion State Representative Joyce Mason.

Language in the bill, which was approved by both houses and is on its way to the Governor’s desk, will go a long way towards restoring the tax base that Zion lost when the Zion Nuclear Power Plant closed. And most importantly, it will reduce the tax burden on struggling Zion families.

The Zion Nuclear Power Plant was permanently shut down on February 13, 1998, and the decommissioning of the plant started shortly thereafter. Prior reports provide that the plant employed nearly 700 employees, indirectly supporting many of the local businesses. These jobs and many of the businesses disappeared after the closure and decommissioning. It is reported that the plant had a market value of $693,233,992 and paid $19,639,319 in property taxes in 1996 to Zion and the other local taxing districts. In 2016, tax income from the plant was about $1.6 million and it gradually reduced after that time.

"Zion had to eliminate fourteen police officers, eight public works employees and five jobs in the building department," former Mayor Al Hill has been quoted as saying. In short, the plant’s closure gutted Zion and Zion’s business community financially.

Zion Mayor Billy McKinney saw the residual financial effects of the plant’s closure as a challenge for him, his administration, and his hometown and began building off the efforts of his predecessors by contacting state and federal elected officials and regulators. Known for being resilient, a hard worker, and an enthusiastic leader, McKinney tapped City Administrator Dave Knabel and Zion’s State Representative Joyce Mason and put together a team at City Hall to solve the problem of Zion’s financial straits.

Representative Mason and her colleagues in the Lake County House Delegation ran with an idea that Knabel had previously raised and McKinney championed— essentially make Exelon restore the tax base and money that left Zion when the plants abruptly closed. Mason, State Representative Sam Yingling, and their colleagues in the Lake County delegation inserted language in the Energy Bill that reflected the goals of the plan and would ensure that Zion and the Zion-area taxing districts receive funds equivalent to the taxes received during the final years of the plant’s operation.

The blend of tax relief and direct funds from the bill could mean as much as $2.25 million annually for Zion and would alleviate the tax burden on the City residents, who are still reeling, years after the plant’s abrupt closure.

Zion Mayor Billy McKinney thanked Zion State Representative Joyce Mason and other Lake County elected officials for supporting Zion residents in the Bill.

"It was clear front the outset that Representative Joyce Mason wasn’t going to be stopped," McKinney said. "She committed wholeheartedly to getting this bill passed for the people of Zion. She drove it, and she delivered. She was calling, texting, and emailing at all hours of the day and night to get this done. We in Zion are lucky to have her as our state legislator." McKinney continued, "Along with Joyce, Representative Sam Yingling and the other members of the Lake County House Delegation worked tirelessly to get this done for the people of Zion. Seeing the State legislature act so fast in approving the bill shows what is possible when good, elected officials put their constituents first. I am confident that Governor Pritzker will sign this historic Bill and put this into law like he said after it passed the House. I am eternally grateful to all of you for doing this for the people of Zion."

McKinney commended the team at City Hall for their efforts in getting this legislation passed as well. "Zion has great Commissioners that both support what we are trying to do and hold us accountable in getting it done. We brought in our lobbyists — Dan Shomon, Inc. and Strategic Partnership Alliance — to increase Zion’s presence in Springfield. Their efforts were proven today. The staff at Zion City Hall is second to none. They are as committed to the and the people of Zion as I am. We have the best City Administrator and City Attorney around. Dave Knabel is a creative wizard with a fervid imagination when it comes to finances and came up with the idea for the bill several years ago. Dave’s knowledge about spent nuclear fuel rods and how this issue is handled elsewhere was absolutely necessary to get this done.

"Dave Knabel was essential in bringing this huge win to Zion." Mayor McKinney continued, "City Attorney Jimmy Vasselli is as they say, "’the hardest working man in show business.’ We brought in him and the Del Galdo Law Group and they have far exceeded my expectations. I am proud of the team that has been assembled. Without them, this doesn’t get done."

"In my mind, this is tantamount to winning an NBA Title or a National Championship," said McKinney, who played in the NBA for seven years before moving to the Chicago Bulls front office in 1985. "I never thought that I would get into politics, but I did. I never thought that I would run for Mayor, but I did. When I did run for Mayor, I made a commitment to the people of Zion– I would build relationships with other branches of government to better the City, fight to reduce property taxes, and expand economic development in the City. We did that today. Today was a significant step forward for Zion’s future." McKinney continued, "I am very happy, but there is much more to do, a lot more. We have projects in the works that will further improve public safety and expand economic development. Today was a big win, but there is more to be done, and we will get it done. We will make Zion stronger for all."

via Grayslake, IL Patch

September 15, 2021 at 08:38PM