State Rep Mike Unes’ bill (HB 4319) to help redevelop the former Hanna City Work Camp has officially become law. The legislation paves the way for redevelopment of this blighted area by permitting private investment in the now-vacant property for economic development purposes.

“This bill gives the county full control of the site, while providing a mechanism to seek private development opportunities upon its clean-up,” said Rep. Unes. “This common sense measure to invest in the property is a win-win for all involved.  Allowing for private investment should help pique the interest of potential developers and eventually grow the local economy.  In fact, my office has already received inquiries from interested parties looking to connect with the county about this property, and so I believe that the outlook is exceptional.”

The Hanna City Work Camp closed in 2002 and sat vacant for nearly 16 years. The former prison work camp was owned by the State of Illinois and was operated by the Department of Corrections. In 2009, the State conveyed the land over to Peoria County, but with strict limitations. The 40 acre site has remained vacant and blighted, largely due to regulations that prevented private investment.  This law will change that by allowing for the property’s private development, with 10% of any sale proceeds being paid back to the State of Illinois.

“We are extraordinarily grateful to Representative Unes for his efforts and persistent negotiation with the State on behalf of Peoria County,” said County Board Chairman Andrew Rand. “Putting this land to better use provides the great potential for creating economic opportunity for our county and its taxpayers.  It is our hope that the site will one day be home to either a not-for-profit entity, or some viable commercial enterprise.  This bill gives us the flexibility we have long required to accomplish that, and we are anxious to finally move forward on that initiative.”
Families of fallen service members now have one less burden when mourning the loss of their loved one.  A new law allows more flexibility to such families in terms of real estate leases.  The legislation, which was introduced by Mike Unes (R-East Peoria) allows surviving families to terminate their lease without penalty when their loved one is killed in action.

Rep. Unes vowed to assist military families after he met Kylie Riney, the widow of fallen soldier Sgt. Douglas Riney. She and her two young children needed to move back to Illinois from Texas after her husband was killed in action but her landlord required her to pay penalties for early termination of the lease.  The restrictions ultimately led to a weeks-long separation between Kylie and her two young children in the immediate aftermath of their father's death, a time when the family support system is so important.

“The goal of this legislation has been to ensure what happened to the Riney family will never happen to a Gold Star family in Illinois,” said Rep. Unes. “All members of our nation’s military and their families deserve the highest level of care and compassion in every circumstance, and I am proud to do what I can to make sure that we are upholding that standard.”