Hopkins Park, part of Pembroke Township near Kankakee, finally gets access to natural gas

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HOPKINS PARK, Ill. (WLS) — Hopkins Park, a small town just outside Kankakee, was founded decades ago by African American farming families. The Pembroke Township community has always been full of pride, but poor.

“Just across the tracks there is natural gas, but you have this one small African American community, no gas,” said Tonia Jones-Lafi, resident.

Hopkins Park has had no access to natural gas so residents and businesses are forced to heat their homes and cook with propane gas or electricity. Propane tanks can cost anywhere from $800 to $1,500 to fill, and may only last a month.

After going without heat for a couple of days because she couldn’t afford it, Jones-Lafi switched to electric heat in her home, which is also expensive.

“My bill could be as much as $600 dollars a month,” she said.

A cheaper option is finally on the way. Local, state and federal lawmakers have joined forces with Nicor Gas to pass legislation to help finance natural gas in Pembroke Township. Construction is already underway to lay down pipes.

“Eight out of 10 homes in Illinois have access to natural gas for cooking and heating so providing for community is so important,” said Wendall Dalls, CEO and president of Nicor Gas.

Dallas said natural gas is not only much less expensive than propane gas, it is also safer. Hopkins Park Mayor Mark Hodge said access to natural gas will likely bring economic opportunity. He hopes a closed manufacturing plant will soon get a new occupant.

“It’s still good structure, good roof, and it’s able to be occupied, but nobody wanted to mess with it because it’s too much to heat it, too much for electric, too much for propane,” he said.

Besides natural gas, Hopkins Park has lacked internet access. However, that is about to change. Lawmakers said broadband has been bought and paid for and will be installed within the year.

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January 23, 2023 at 06:06PM

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