April 12 Winnebago County Board notes

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117692867430385.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Scott Haugh was honored with the prestigious Seven Seals Award for his work on behalf of veterans.‘);

Democrats passed over for committee chairmanship

At the April 12 meeting of the Winnebago County Board, Ray Graceffa (R-7) was named chairman of the Health & Human Services Committee, replacing Mary Ann Aiello (R-9), who resigned the post.

Democrats serve as chairmen of only two of the Board’s 10 standing committees, and are outnumbered by Republicans 16-12.

Doug Aurand (D-3) believes the chairmanship of this major committee should have been given to a Democrat.

“It does disturb me that there was a Democrat who could have been appointed to that position who was equally qualified,” Aurand said. “This would have been another opportunity to share the power. It’s unfortunate that Republicans choose not to.”

Patti Thayer (R-9) noted this was simply an instance of a Republican replacing a Republican as chairman of the committee.

Harmon jabs Aurand's veteran-care resolution and Blagojevich

Coming out of committee before the full Board, Doug Aurand’s (D-3) Resolution Regarding Medical Care for Injured Combat Veterans clearly didn’t impress John Harmon (R-4).

Aurand’s resolution reads, in part: “Be it further resolved, that the Winnebago County Board formally demand an accounting from the President of the United States, Congress, including Senators [Richard] Durbin [D-IL] and [Barack] Obama [D-IL], and Congressman Don Manzullo [R-16], the Veteran’s Administration, and any and all responsible for the medical welfare of our troops.”

Harmon wanted to amend the resolution to only demand accountability from Governor Rod Blagojevich (D), for what Harmon believes is a lack of state funding related to veteran care.

In his amended resolution, Harmon calls the state’s medical care for veterans “substandard, scandalous and inferior.”

The resolution continues, “Rather than providing additional funding and staff at Illinois veterans’ homes and hospitals, the Governor of Illinois has funneled vital funding away from these facilities to frivolous, poorly managed and fiscally irresponsible programs.”

Aurand argued Harmon’s resolution should have gone through committee first.

“It would appear to me that this is nothing more than a cheap stand to make something political that I was trying to make straight-forward,” Aurand responded. “He obviously wants to criticize the governor of the state of Illinois. He doesn’t want to talk about anyone else regarding this but the governor…I was asking my Democratic senators, Republican congressman, the President—everyone.”

In the end, both versions were sent back to committee.

On a related note, Rick Pollack (R-13) relayed a toll-free Army hotline for wounded soldiers and their families. Pollack said if anyone knows of a veteran receiving poor medical care, he or she is urged to call 1-800-984-8523.

'Communication breakdown' leaves some disappointed

Although easily approved, a resolution to accept a $267,000 grant from the Illinois Housing Development Authority spurred some resentment on the floor.

The grant will provide for the rehabilitation of about eight homes on Rockford’s northwest side.

Dorothy Redd (D-6) had only learned at that week’s Democratic caucus meeting the grant would not be coming to her district, as she’d been expecting.

“About a year ago, [Deputy Director of Economic Development] Jim Hughes came to me, and he told me that he was gonna be applying for a grant for District 6,” Redd explained. “And now that the grant has come through, it is going to District 7…I would like to see the County get this money, but I want this money to come to District 6 as it was promised to me.”

Not everyone on the board was sympathetic since District 6 had received millions as part of the Hope VI project.

“Let’s not forget that this is still Winnebago County,” Jim Webster (R-2) argued. “I think we should just be, collectively, very happy to get this grant.”

Pete MacKay (R-5) noted the application had been site-specific all along, and questioned why any board member would have a problem with accepting the grant as written.

Angie Goral (D-7) was glad her district, which she said had been under-served for years, would receive the funds.

Unlike her District 6 counterpart, Pearl Hawks (D) had no complaints. Hawks noted Hope VI funds and forgivable home-rehabilitation loans had greatly helped the district.

Taking a different approach than Redd, Hawks said, “I’m thankful to the county for what they’ve done for us in District 6.”

Redd acknowledged the Hope VI money, but argued there are still many elderly residents who cannot afford to fixup their homes. Redd said she was told the funds would not be used in District 6 because it was determined residents there were able to afford the improvements.

L.C. Wilson (D-12) said he, too, had only just found out about the change, blaming a “communication breakdown” for Redd not having been notified sooner.

“I was deeply saddened in the committee meeting when this had come about,” Wilson stated. “I voted for it, but I was not totally for it because it was not in the area that I felt it should have been.”

George Anne Duckett (D-12) indicated she’d support the resolution, but criticized Hughes’ lack of communication.

“When he comes to someone and tells them, ‘I’ve got this grant I’m writing down for your district,’ and then doesn’t come back to tell them, ‘I’ve changed my mind, and I think there’s a different need,’” Duckett argued, “I would just hope that Mr. Hughes becomes a little more sensitive as to where the need is.”

Ray Graceffa (R-7) and John Ekberg (R-10) praised Hughes’ work in obtaining the grant, and suggested to Redd other grants could be applied for.

Echoing MacKay’s sentiments, Hughes noted the grant application had been site-specific all along, and shouldn’t be a suprise to anyone now.

“From the get-go, we introduced a map of the targeted area, and it was never in District 6,” Hughes responded. “The information was there.”

County joins NITT

The Winnebago County Board approved a resolution authorizing execution of an intergovernmental agreement establishing the Northern Illinois Technology Triangle (NITT).

The county now joins with Boone and Ogle counties, Rochelle, Rockford and Northern Illinois University (NIU) in developing a fiber-optic broadband network. The triangle would connect Rockford to Rochelle along I-39, Rochelle and NIU to Chicago along I-88, and Rockford and Chicago along I-90.

Paul Gorski (D-5) applauded the agreement, which he said will bring high-speed internet to rural areas of the county, areas he believes have historically been under-served by telecommunications companies.

Per the agreement, Winnebago County will contribute $1,000 a year to the partnership.

Loan agreements, tax abatement bring 150-ton press, jobs to Rockford

Board members voted unanimously to approve resolutions for low-interest loan agreements with LMC, Inc., and the Abilities Center/Goodwill Industries.

DeKalb-based LMC will receive $50,000 to assist in moving its metal-forming press to Rockford from Zion. The abilities Center will receive $75,000 toward construction of a new home for the machine.

Norstar Mechanical Industries will receive a $933 tax abatement over three years for an expansion project that will bring 12 new jobs to Rockford.

Temporary traffic signals approved for Ralston Road and Bluebonnet Drive

One part of the county is about to become a little safer. Board members voted to approve placing temporary traffic signals at Ralston Road and Bluebonnet Drive.

Pete MacKay (R-5) asked why the traffic signals were only temporary. Doug Aurand (D-3) explained there simply isn’t enough money at the moment for a permanent structure, but the need is immediate.

“I can tell you this is a real danger out there,” Aurand reported, describing the temporary signals as a “Band-Aid” approach. “To not do something now might lead to a very dangerous situation. It’s very close to a school.”

Aurand hopes pe

rmanent signals will replace the temporary ones in the near future.

MacKay, Gorski send mayor and aldermen thank-you note

District 5 board members Pete MacKay (R) and Paul Gorski (D) drafted a letter thanking Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) and aldermen for stopping the proposed re-opening of the Sunset Drive-In Theater on Samuelson Road.

The letter reads, in-part, “Your unanimous denial of the request(s) is deeply appreciated by all of us, and speaks volumes about the value of doing the right thing and of the true spirit of cooperation between two units of government serving a common citizenry.”

Gorski and MacKay had previously sent a resolution to committee, aimed at having Winnebago county file as an objector to the proposed project. MacKay and Gorski, along with neighbors, believed the theater’s re-opening would devastate the neighborhood. The Rockford City Council agreed April 2.

Awards and proclamations

Freeport resident Scott Haugh was presented with the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve’s (ESGR) Seven Seals Award for his selfless work on behalf of area veterans. Haugh, a Gulf War veteran, was nominated by board member Rick Pollack (R-13), who also serves as a regional chairman for the ESGR. A division of the Department of Defense, the ESGR promotes cooperation between reservists and civilian employers.

County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen proclaimed April 15 to be Holocaust Remembrance Day in Winnebago County, and urged residents to remember the millions who suffered, fought and died to end Hitler’s genocide.

Chairman Christiansen proclaimed the week of April 15 to be Swedish Week to welcome Swedish visitors taking part in Entrepreneurial Days (E-Days). Chicago and Rockford will be hosting events April 16-18 aimed at facilitating networks between Swedish companies and local industry.

Chairman Christiansen proclaimed April 21 to be the Great American Cleanup in Winnebago County. This year’s Cleanup marks the first-ever countywide cooperative effort and is being organized by Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful, formerly Winnebago/Rockford Clean & Beautiful. The Cleanup will go on between 8 a.m. and noon, with a 12:30 free lunch for volunteers. Volunteers are urged to call 1-815-637-1343 for information.

April 15-21 was proclaimed National Volunteer Week in Winnebago County, with special recognition given to Allen Thompson. Thompson, 90, has volunteered in the Coroner’s Office for 15 years and said, “They’ve done me as much good as I’ve done them.”


William Johnson and County Board member L.C. Wilson (D-12) were appointed to the Memorial Hall Board of Trustees. Johnson and Wilson will serve three- and two-year terms, respectively.

Donald Carlson was reappointed to the Cherry Valley Fire Protection District for a three-year term.

Carl Burkel was reappointed to a three-year term with the New Milford Fire Protection District.

from the April 18-24, 2007, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!