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Detention center does not make city council’s Monday agenda

Updated: December 5, 2012 6:34AM

JOLIET — The issue of bringing an immigrant detention center to Joliet is not on the agenda for Monday’s meeting of the city council, which so far has only discussed the matter behind closed doors.

The city reportedly has gone so far as to consider areas where an immigrant detention center could be located but has not identified them publicly.

City Manager Thomas Thanas has talked with the media, individuals and groups, including a Friday meeting with a group of opponents to the detention center, but said he does not plan to discuss the matter when the council meets Monday. He did not rule out the possibility that council members may raise questions about the matter.

Thanas has said while the possibility of bringing the detention center to Joliet has been explored, it has not advanced to a stage where it should be brought out for public consideration.

He said he has answered questions about the detention center from individuals and groups as he would on any other city matter.

“I talk to anybody who would like to talk to me about any matter about city business,” Thanas said. “I have people talking to me all the time about it (the detention center), but I’m not out there on a speaking tour.”

Sources, meanwhile, have said the city has been considering potential areas where such a facility could be located, including CenterPoint Intermodal Center-Joliet. The massive industrial area on the south end of Joliet would make sense since Thanas has said any site would be removed from residents, schools and commercial areas.

But Thanas Friday would not confirm any areas being considered.

“That’s going to be a matter that’s discussed if the project is going to move forward,” Thanas said. “Am I familiar with sites that could be considered? Yes. But I’m not at liberty to talk about them publicly.”

Thanas has been the key, and maybe only, city official meeting with the federal agency and private company that unsuccessfully tried to get approval for a detention center earlier this year in Crete.

He did discuss the matter with the city council when it was meeting in a closed session in October.

City Attorney Jeff Plyman said the detention center could be discussed in closed session because of state law allowing exceptions to open meetings for the acquisition or sale of public land.

Plyman said the detention center was brought up in closed session because of the possibility of land acquisition. “Beyond that,” he said, “I can’t get into details of what was discussed.”

Thanas said Friday that the city will not buy or sell any land for the detention center, but city involvement in acquiring property for the project is one way such a facility could be built.

“At this point, I don’t think there would be city involvement to buy the land,” he said. Thanas noted some of the opposition that has developed to the detention center and said, “I thought city involvement as a landowner would not be the best approach to it.”

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