City council: Annexation, the flood, demolitions and bonds

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118841571316567.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Because the lowest bid for Kishwaukee Street demolitions came in $72,254 over the city engineer’s estimate, Ald. Bill Timm (R-9) voted against the contract with Northern Illinois Service.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118841590610587.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Richard York raised the issue of threats received by a local newspaper and radio talk show host in response to expressing negative views of decisions made by the Morrissey administration.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118841597414000.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Becky Vosberg urged the City Council to bring the community together through periodic prayer meetings. ‘);

Aug. 27 Rockford City Council briefs

Public comments

Winnebago County Board member Rick Pollack (R-13) urged his Rockford counterparts to make an effort at better communication with the county regarding annexation plans.

Last month, residents of the Bradley Heights subdivision received letters notifying them they’re being annexed into Rockford. On behalf of those constituents, Pollack asked the city council to delay action on the annexation.

Had he not heard about the annexation from residents, Pollack explained, he would have learned of it from the media since no one from the city had informed the county of its intentions.

“This oversight in your annexation policy is unacceptable to me,” Pollack stated, citing the county’s numerous partnerships with Rockford. “Why can’t the same level of cooperation and collaboration exist regarding an orderly annexation policy? What policy would give six weeks’ notice to affected citizens and not inform the affected government that performs existing services?”

Pollack added the residents, who he said chose to live outside of Rockford for a reason, will be financially impacted by 25 percent higher tax bills. Pollack reported he’d discussed the possibility of tax abatements for annexed properties with Ald. John Beck (R-12), but that no such taxbreak is included in the terms of the annexation.

When the issue came to a vote later in the evening, only Ald. Lenny Jacobson (D-6) voted “no,” and the annexation of the Bradley Heights/Larchmont subdivision was approved.

Also during public participation, Rockford resident Becky Vosberg urged the city council to bring the community together through periodic prayer meetings. The monthly or bi-monthly meetings Vosberg suggested would focus on prayer for the city’s leadership.

“We’re all in this together,” Vosberg noted, saying prayer could unlock Rockford’s potential. “We need to pray together, visit together and build together.”

Bicycling enthusiast Russell Milano, the next speaker, literally brought the issue of broken glass on city streets before the council. Milano held up a plastic bag containing broken glass he alleged is being left behind by recycling trucks on residential streets.

Milano reported having called Rock River Disposal, at the direction of the Public Works Department, but said the glass still wasn’t cleaned up. Milano argued the Public Works Department should be more concerned with how the city’s sub-contractors carry out their duties.

“This is no way to manage a service contract,” Milano flared. “The city is not doing its job. No one is keeping track of their performance or the quality of their work….I am certain that if you make them go back and pick it up again and again, they’ll figure out a way to collect it without dropping it and spreading it all over the city.”

Doc Slafkosky, member of the Downtown Retail Collective and co-owner of J.R. Kortman, presented ideas for improving Main Street.

“Some of our most visited attractions are all along Main Street,” Slafkosky reminded aldermen. “They’re all on Main Street, and they’re all very difficult to get to.”

Slafkosky wants to see Main Street return to being the north-south equivalent of State Street. Specifically, Slafkosky suggests opening the length of Main Street up to two-way traffic and eliminating the downtown mall area, which separates north and south Main.

Performing his best Ronald Reagan impression, Slafkosky said, “Mr. Morrissey, tear out this mall!”

Mayor Morrissey indicated he shares Slafkosky’s vision for Main Street.

The final speaker, Richard York, raised the issue of threats he said were received by a local newspaper and radio talk show host in response to expressing negative views of decisions made by the Morrissey administration.

WNTA’s Bruce Butler, for instance, reported receiving an intimidating e-mail, sent anonymously, in response to Butler’s criticism of the honeymooning mayor for not immediately returning to Rockford upon learning of the Aug. 7 flood disaster declaration.

York demanded an investigation and prosecution by either the Attorney General or State’s Attorney’s office.

“We have a right to know,” York concluded. “We should not have these people threaten free speech and free press.”

Committee reports passed

Rockford-based Northern Illinois Service, the lower of two bidders, was awarded a $229,754 contract for building demolitions along Kishwaukee Street. City engineers estimated the work would only cost $157,500.

Capital Program Manager Patrick Zuroske said the work will be funded by Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) funds, which come with stringent reporting requirements often resulting in higher prices from contractors. Zuroske explained the lower estimate was based on a different funding source.

During the Finance and Personnel Committee meeting, aldermen discussed re-bidding the project, but Zuroske did not expect the delay would result in a much different price.

Citing incidents of squatters and arson in the vacant structures, Zuroske was able to convince aldermen of the need to move forward. Zuroske stressed the demolitions are the first step in making a number of capital improvements to the neighborhood.

The higher-than-anticipated cost didn’t sit well with Bill Timm (R-9), who was the only alderman to vote “no” in committee and on the council floor.

A committee report recommending the honorary name change of the Winnebago Street Viaduct to the Gregory D. Calleia Viaduct was approved. Calleia is a former Fifth Ward alderman.

Resoulution approved

Aldermen passed a resolution to provide for the issuance of up to $22 million in Daily Adjustable Rate Revenue Bonds for the Wesley Willows retirement community. Thirty-six new apartments and a 37,000-square-foot town center will be added to the facility.

The City of Rockford is not on the hook for bond repayment.


Developer Chandler Anderson was re-appointed to a five-year term on the Housing Authority Board, expiring July 2012.


Mayor Morrissey proclaimed the week of Aug. 27 Workforce Development Week in Rockford, encouraging the community to recognize the importance of the Workforce Development Board, which serves Boone and Winnebago counties.

Sept. 2 was proclaimed Lincoln Park Teachers and Alumni Day in honor of the former Rockford grade school’s sesquicentennial. A reunion will be at Page Park Sept. 1-2.

from the Aug. 29-Sept. 4, 2007, issue

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