April 26 Winnebago County Board notes

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117812595027549.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Dave Krienke (R-3) was elected Roscoe village president April 17 and will step down from the Winnebago County Board in the coming weeks.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117812765727533.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘The Winnebago County Board hopes state legislators will close the loophole allowing Pecatonica to annex land 26 miles away.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117812598427538.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘The Rockford Icemen were honored for their outstanding 60-8-1 season.‘);

Pec annexation threatens $355,000 county land use plan

After Belvidere, Cherry Valley, Davis Junction, Poplar Grove and Stillman Valley all turned down Crystal Lake developer Gary Erb’s proposed 1,300-acre subdivision, Erb appears to have been met with open arms in Pecatonica.

The 3,000-unit development, which would also have commercial space, would be developed in unincorporated Boone County. Typically, annexation agreements involve adjacent parcels within a mile and a half.

According to Erb and attorney David McArdle, Pecatonica’s proximity to the site, 26 miles away, is irrelevant.

Following a 2005 Illinois Supreme Court decision that opened a loophole, all Erb needs is a pre-annexation agreement with Pecatonica, and the village would be required to assume ownership within 20 years.

With their hands essentially tied in the matter, the Winnebago County Board is up in arms.

Board member Pete MacKay (R-5) said, “I think this is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen in my life.”

The state Supreme Court decision means this municipal annexation agreement would override Winnebago County’s comprehensive 2030 Land Use Plan, currently in development.

Last year, the County Board awarded a $355,000 contract to Nicolosi & Associates and Chicago-based Camiros, Ltd., for the comprehensive plan.

Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen (R) urged board members to contact state legislators in an effort to allow the County Board to weigh in on the issue.

“Frankly, that’s just gonna render our Land Use Plan useless,” Christiansen warned of the proposed annexation. “Let ’em know that this is just not acceptable. It’s not good business.”

Boone County would be responsible for police and fire to serve the estimated 9,000 new residents to the area. Belvidere schools, already strained, would have to accommodate the new students.

Pecatonica Village Trustee David Westervelt asserted: “I have also asked the attorney representing the [Belvidere] school district and the chairwoman of the [Boone] county commission to provide us with any and all impact statements that they must have reviewed during their 18 months of looking at this and, so far, I’ve received nothing.”

Westervelt noted The Rock River Times was the only media outlet to contact him regarding the issue.

Jim Webster (R-2) wonders how Pec residents would feel if the tables were turned.

“It’s a horrible thing that one community can leap-frog across a county, and indeed across an entire state, to annex land somewhere else,” Webster argued. “I don’t know how things got so screwed up, but this thing needs immediate attention.”

Westervelt, however, said he feels it’s unfair to shift the blame to Pecatonica and indicated, “The residents of Cherry Valley area should be asking their representative, ‘How in the world could you allow their future to be put in my hands?’”

Erb is offering Pecatonica $335,900 a year, along with the likelihood of sales tax revenues; money Pecatonica could surely use to complete a new $6 million sewer system.

Westervelt explained, “It would basically pay for our sewer system, which would alleviate the burden of increased water rates to the village.”

The Pecatonica Village Board is expected to vote on the matter May 7, but state legislators are trying to close the loophole before then.

Representatives Bob Pritchard (R-Sycamore) and Ron Wait (R-Belvidere) sponsored a bill requiring such an annexation to be within a mile of its municipality. The bill passed the House April 24 and is now before the Illinois Senate.

The bill would apply to Boone, DeKalb, Grundee, Kankakee, Kendall, LaSalle, Ogle and Winnebago counties if passed.

Alternative programs funded through September

Board members approved an additional four months of funding for alternative programs related to the 1-percentage point Public Safety Tax. With the new Winnebago County Justice Center about to open for business, board members want to be sure the new facility will never be full.

Phil Johnson (D-8) indicated: “A lot of people have told me that they voted for the one-percent tax because they were really concerned about the alternative programs. People are telling me we need a lot more prevention programs to prevent recidivism.”

“What really concerns me is we’re finishing up the new Justice Center over there,” Johnson added. “My idea is that that place should be forever half-empty. I don’t want to get into a position that, since we’ve got all these cells, we’re just gonna arrest everybody, stick ’em in there and keep ’em in there because we’ve got the space for ’em.”

Programs currently funded include:

Abuse Intervention Services (Family Counseling Services of Northern Illinois)

Carpenter’s Place

Fountain of Life Improving the Community Academy

Friends House (Peacemakers)

Janet Wattles Center

The Literacy Council (Adult Program)

The Literacy Council Tutor Lab (Juvenile Program)

Patriots’ Gateway Center (Dukes and Dialogue)

Reformers Unanimous International—Recovery and Restoration Program

Rockford Reachout Jail Ministry

Rockford Rescue Mission

Rock Valley College

Rosecrance On Harrison

Safer Neighborhoods Coalition

The Salvation Army—Women’s Restorative Justice Program


Rock Pollack (R-13) indicated the county spends nearly $2 million a year on the programs.

Some board members would, however, like to see more reports measuring the success of each program to ensure they’re getting results.

Other board members suggested even more money could be spent to keep the new jail from reaching capacity.

“I’m for the funding, but my concern is that we’re making excess money on that 1 percent tax,” Pearl Hawks (D-6) said. “I’d like to see the county spend more money on alternative programs.”

George Anne Duckett (D-12) noted, “This is very important to the community, and I think that is one of the things that’s gonna make all of us very proud, to have innovative, progressive programs that are gonna keep people out of jail.”

Board approves advisory resolution for veteran medical care

Doug Aurand’s (D-3) Resolution Regarding Medical Care for Injured Combat Veterans was approved April 26 after having been sent back to committee April 12.

Aurand’s original resolution read, 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-Ill.] and [Barack] Obama [D-Ill.], and Congressman Don Manzullo [R-16], the Veteran’s Administration, and any and all responsible for the medical welfare of our troops.”

John Harmon (R-4), however, perceived this as a partisan attack and moved to amend the resolution to hold only Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) accountable. The board voted to send both versions back to committee.

When the re-worked version came before the board April 26, names of political figures had been removed and accountability was requested only of the Veterans Administration and Walter Reed Hospital administration.

Harmon still wasn’t satisfied and moved to lay over the resolution indefinitely. Aurand then appealed to his colleagues not to table the matter.

“At the last meeting, Mr. Harmon tried to derail this resolution,” Aurand argued, noting names of politicians who had been removed from the language. “We went back, we worked it out… I realize it’s symbolic, but I think it’s important that we make it clear.”

Aurand noted Harmon hadn’t attended the committee meeting to discuss his own version of the resolution.

Fellow veteran Rick Pollack (R-13) ran to Aurand’s defense.

“We need to take the politics out of this,” Pollack stated. “We met as a committee; two Republicans, two Democrats. We stripped it down, sent the message that we all ought to be appalled at what happened at Walter Reed Hospital and the Veterans Administration who led it. There are no political figures in this resolution. It is fine. I see no r

eason to delay it.”

Clearly convinced Aurand’s motives were not political, Harmon’s motion to lay over was met by a resounding “No” from fellow board members, and the resolution was approved.

Ash borers on their way

Jim Webster (R-2) spoke briefly about the inevitable migration of the emerald ash borer to Winnebago County and what can be done to deal with it.

“Sooner or later, it will be here,” Webster warned.

Webster said destruction caused by the borers mirrors the catastrophic results of Dutch elm disease.

The emerald ash borers have been reported in Kane and Cook counties and are flying our way at a rate of half a mile per year. Webster said transportation of firewood could inadvertently bring the “green menace” to our neck of the woods much sooner.

Webster favored a suggestion by Mark Dahlgren, who addressed the County Board March 8.

Dahlgren, who serves on the Environmental Focus Group for the 2030 Land Use Plan, urged that a comprehensive environmental inventory be conducted over the more than 500 square miles making up Winnebago County. Dahlgren said the inventory would require at least two biologists.

Because there is no count of how many ash trees are in Winnebago County, Webster said the inventory would help us get a handle on what we may be facing when the borers arrive.

The county currently has four arborists on staff. Webster said he hopes the arborists will offer a short-course to Highway Department employees to aid in the identification of ash trees and borers throughout the county.

“If a tree were to fall in a forest preserve, there really wouldn’t be much harm,” Webster explained. “From the standpoint of public safety, if a tree were to fall upon a public right-of-way or across power lines, that would be a harder problem.”

IDOT kicks in on Meridian Road

The County Board approved a resolution authorizing the execution of an agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) Truck Access Route Program (TARP).

TARP is aimed at helping local governments upgrade roads to accommodate trucks up to 80,000 pounds. IDOT pays up to $30,000 per lane mile for resurfacing.

County Highway Engineer Joe Vanderwerff reported Meridian Road is rated for only 73,280 pounds, adding federal funds will absorb most of the additional cost.

Borrowing from highway funds

In other highway news, the board approved a Resolution Authorizing the County Treasurer to Borrow from the County Highway Related Funds to Pay Non-Highway Related Obligations.

County Administrator Steve Chapman said the resolution was a safety net, and the funds would only be used if necessary.

Casting the sole “No” during a voice vote, Pete MacKay (R-5) called the move “bad policy.”

'One-stop record-keeping' for non-profits approved

A Resolution Authorizing the Execution of an Agreement to Use the Collaborative Case Management System was approved by voice vote April 26.

Rick Pollack (R-13) explained: “What it is, in a nutshell, is a way to take care of the county/local not-for-profits to handle the case management from one agency to another. It’s a software-based package accessible by the web…It achieves synergy between the different agencies so there’s no overlap.”

The program is funded by the Public Safety Tax, with the City of Rockford and Northern Illinois University partnering with the county.

“This is quite a collaboration,” Christiansen noted. “Very unique. Nationwide, they’re actually gonna market this software as it’s developed…This could literally save our community millions of dollars.”

Mary Ann Aiello (R-9) voted “no.”

“I think they’re spending too much of the Public Safety money on other things. There are three things we promised: the jail, alternative programs and an efficent court system. Our main concentration now should be an effective court system—getting them through the courts. We got 500 people in jail now, and we have to work on getting them through the court system first. I’m not saying it’s a bad software system, but once we open that 1200-bed jail, that place is going to be full.”

Where is the Health & Human Services Committee

Still recovering from being passed over for chairmanship of the Health & Human Services Committee, Democrats are voicing their discontent.

Democrats head only two of 10 standing committees. Republicans outnumber Democrats on the board 16-12.

Noting the committee hasn’t presented a report to the board in six months, Phil Johnson (D-8) gave them a nudge.

“There are some issues that need to be discussed,” Johnson indicated. “It’d be nice if they called a meeting sometime.”

Ray Graceffa (R-7) was named the new committee chairman after Mary Ann Aiello (R-9) resigned the post. Graceffa was not present at the April 26 meeting.

Krienke to step down

David Krienke (R-3) said he’ll be stepping down from his County Board seat within a few weeks. Krienke was elected Roscoe village president April 17 and wants to see a few issues to completion before stepping down. He will be sworn in as Roscoe village president in May and replaces Ward Sterett, who did not run for another term.

Christiansen said Krienke’s board seat will be filled by another Republican. No candidates have been announced.

Icemen honored

Coach Tim Mattila and Rockford Icemen hockey players received commendations for an outstanding 60-8-1 season. Coach Mattila was also recently named the Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois’ Coach of the Year.

Motorcycle Awareness Month

“Just remember May is Motorcycle Awareness Month,” A.B.A.T.E. (A Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education) Kishwaukee Valley chapter board member Dave King said after Christiansen made the proclamation. “Watch out for us.”

Christiansen noted motorcycles are an economical form of transportation that cause less road wear and reduce traffic congestion.

A.B.A.T.E., a non-profit organization promoting motorcycle and ATV education, safety and awareness, is celebrating its 20th year in Illinois.

Ray Graceffa (R-7) and Patti Thayer (R-9) were absent.

from the May 2-8, 2007, issue

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