County appointments bring heated debate

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11793352623060.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Kyle Logan (R) is expected to replace Dave Krienke (R-3), who will be stepping down after being elected Roscoe Village President April 17.‘);

ZBA appointment raises questions

Two appointments to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) were up for vote at the Winnebago County Board’s May 10 meeting, which came as a surprise to some, who thought there was only one vacancy.

Johanna Koslofski, a real estate broker for Valley Realtors, Inc., was appointed to the ZBA in April 2001. Although her term expired in June 2006, Koslofski has maintained her position on the board for the past year.

Doug Aurand (D-3), who’d spoken with Koslofski earlier in the day, relayed, “I am a little concerned…She found out that she was not gonna be re-appointed by simply going online, picking up our agenda for the meeting tonight.”

Patti Thayer (R-9) vehemently shook her head to Aurand’s assertion as Jim Webster (R-2) challenged the claim.

Webster indicated he’d spoken with Koslofski a month ago and noted, “She told me, actually, that she talked to the chairman [Scott Christiansen (R)], and she was not gonna get re-appointed.”

Aurand acknowledged Koslofski had talked with Christiansen, but that she wasn’t clear whether she’d be re-appointed or not.

Randy Olson (R-1), who served as chairman pro tem while Christiansen recuperates from surgery, indicated two vacancies on the ZBA, despite only one unoccupied seat. Not all board members agreed.

Pete MacKay (R-5) stated: “Johanna Koslofski’s not a vacancy. She wasn’t even asked if she wanted to be re-appointed.”

Aurand questioned why Koslofski was essentially good enough to stay for nearly a year past her term, but not good enough to be re-appointed.

“Obviously, the chairman can appoint anyone he wishes to, but I think it’s important that we know why she was not re-appointed,” Aurand said. “It seems to me that we should have at least had the courtesy of sending a letter saying, you know, ‘Your services are no longer needed—we’re not going to re-appoint you,’ instead of letting them find out by picking up the agenda.”

No one on the board questioned the appointment of Brian Erickson to the ZBA, but few knew anything about the second appointee, Tami Verstraete. Verstraete is the owner and operator of FSS [Food Served Safely] Training & Consulting Company in addition to instructing classes for Rock Valley College.

Aurand calls the ZBA the “first line of defense” for the county’s 2030 Land Use Plan, and stressed the importance of each appointment.

“We wanna make sure we have the right people in place,” Aurand urged. “I happen to know Mr. Erickson, so I know that he’s qualified. I have no knowledge of the other individual, and I would ask, before we vote on the other individual, we ought to have some sort of a résumé.”

Aurand made a motion to separate the two appointments and to layover Verstraete’s appointment until board members are supplied with her qualifications. “I’m sure this lady’s gonna be a fine appointment, but I would like to see a résumé,” Aurand said.

Rick Pollack (R-13) agreed, noting board members used to receive résumés prior to confirming appointees. “It’s always nice to know, you know, who they are and what they do,” Pollack said.

MacKay added: “We used to interview the candidates. They used to be interviewed by both caucuses—which was not politicizing it, because it was even-handed. Now, nobody’s interviewing anybody. It’s just a friend-of-a-friend that’s getting appointed, and nobody knows anything about ’em.”

Board members eventually voted to hold-off on Verstraete’s appointment and Pollack asked County Administrator Steve Chapman to supply the board with her qualifications.

Erickson was appointed to the ZBA without objection.

Aurand-Harmon feud continues

In what has become somewhat of an ongoing grudge-match, Doug Aurand (D-3) and John Harmon (R-4) continued butting heads at the May 10 Winnebago County Board meeting.

April 12, Harmon blasted Aurand’s Resolution Regarding Medical Care for Injured Combat Veterans. Aurand, a veteran, said his resolution was in response to the recent scandal at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Harmon perceived the move as a politically-motivated slap to the face of the George W. Bush administration.

Aurand’s resolution called for the accountability of politicians, both Republican and Democrat. Harmon, however, responded by writing his own resolution directed solely at Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D).

After being sent back to committee, the language in Aurand’s resolution was changed to remove the names of political figures. Although Harmon made a motion to layover the matter indefinitely, board members passed a re-worked advisory resolution requesting accountability from administrators at Walter Reed and the Veterans’ Administration.

May 10, Aurand asked staff to provide board members with a report detailing finances related to the Frank G. Bauer Parkway, also referred to as the Harlem Toll Bridge, between Rockford and Machesney Park.

Aurand suggested the possibility of eliminating the 50-cent toll, arguing the move would make Sportscore more accessible and alleviate traffic problems on other nearby roads. If the numbers in staff’s report are favorable, Aurand hopes to expedite paying off the bonds related to the $9.4 million bridge through “creative financing.”

“Folks, this is a way we can really create economic development,” Aurand noted. “If we can take it off a few years early, that makes real good sense to me.”

Bonds for the bridge were issued in 1993. At the current rate, debt service will be paid down in 2012.

Although Aurand’s request was strictly informational, not a resolution, Harmon again took the opportunity to take a shot at Blagojevich.

Harmon stated, “I wonder if we could also, while we’re at it, look into perhaps coming up with a financing scheme for the Morgan Street bridge that the governor seems to be having difficulty figuring out how to finance the proper reconstruction.”

Supporting Aurand, Pete MacKay (R-5) poked a hole in Harmon’s proposal.

“Last time I looked at Morgan Street bridge,” MacKay noted, “it was in the City of Rockford.”

The city plans a $34,917,000 project to replace the ailing structure. City leaders hope to have a new and improved Morgan Street bridge by 2014. The city is to pay $8 million for the reconstruction, with the remaining balance to be paid in federal dollars. The successful passage of the April 17 sales tax referendum will provide Rockford with the necessary matching funds lacking in recent years.

Responding to Harmon’s pitch, Aurand said: “It’s too bad that Mr. Harmon has to turn everything political, because this was not political on my behalf. If he wants to pick on my governor, I’m sure my governor would love to have him talk to him.”

Aiello congratulates IceHogs, takes slap shot at Morrissey, MetroCentre

As the Rockford IceHogs battle the Kalamazoo Wings for the United Hockey League’s (UHL) coveted Colonial Cup, Mary Ann Aiello (R-9) wished the team luck but feels their achievement is a bittersweet one.

Next season, the ’Hogs will move into the American Hockey League (AHL) as a Chicago Blackhawks affiliate in a renovated MetroCentre. Current coaches and players will be replaced by the Blackhawks’ farm team from Norfolk, Va.

“It’s truly unfortunate that the mayor [Larry Morrissey (I)], the City Council and the MetroCentre failed to recognize the talent that we have in our current IceHogs team,” Aiello said. “I think a lot of people in this community want the IceHogs and Coach [Steve] Martinson to know that they did have a lot of support in this community. They have a proven track record. They’ve done a wonderful job with all the donations they’ve given to various charities.”

A fellow critic of the City of Rockford and MetroCentre’s ownership of an AHL franchise, Pete MacKay (R-5) also chimed in.

“The MetroCentre’s gonna have to remember that we gave them a lot of money, and the IceHogs are gonna win a championship, if they win it, for about one-fourth of the cost of running a triple-A team for one year at the MetroCe

ntre,” MacKay cited. “So, when they start losing $3 or $4 million a year, I think they’re gonna wish they had the original IceHogs back.”

Support Juneteenth

During public participation, Tommy Meeks indicated a need for financial assistance related to the 17th annual Juneteenth celebration to be held at Sinnissippi Park June 19, from 1 to 9:30 p.m.

Juneteenth, Meeks explained, is the oldest African-American holiday, and he hopes to be able to continue the free event in years to come.

“Some of my sponsors in the past years have come upon hard times,” Meeks reported. “Therefore, my financing is down.”

Meeks asked board members for assistance, either to help defray costs associated with the celebration, or through simple participation in the event.

Lundin's project lives on

At the start of the May 10 Winnebago County Board meeting, Jon Lundin was honored by a moment of silence. Lundin, who passed away May 3, was a local author, historian and promoter of growth of the area’s manufacturing base as president of the Abilities Center.

The Board approved two low-interest loans related to the Abilities Center April 12. The first loan, in the amount of $50,000, is to assist DeKalb-based LMC, Inc., move its 150-ton metal-forming press from Zion to Rockford. A $75,000 loan to the Abilities Center will aid in the construction of a new home for the mechanical titan.

With kind words for Lundin, John Ekberg (R-10) assured the board plans will move forward despite Lundin’s passing.

National Police Memorial Week

The week of May 13 was proclaimed to be National Police Memorial Week in Winnebago County in honor of fallen police officers. In addition to memorial services during the week, various local law enforcement agencies will be onhand at CherryVale Mall May 18-20.

Preliminary statistics issued May 14 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) show 48 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in 2006.

County to issue $8 million in bonds for road projects

The County Board voted unanimously to approve an ordinance to sell $8 million in general obligation bonds related to Chairman Scott Christiansen’s (R) Build Winnebago County.

Twenty million dollars in bonds have been issued since the program started in 2004. The May 10 ordinance authorized the final $8 million installment for the plan to invest in a variety of infrastructure projects.

The vote allows for a number of subsequent road and bridge projects to move forward.

Other appointments

Rockford Assistant City Administrator Julia Scott-Valdez was appointed to the Winnebago County Board of Health for a three-year term expiring in May 2009. County Board member Pearl Hawks (D-6) was re-appointed to the Board of Health for a one-year term expiring this October. Alphonso Goode, Patricia Lewis and Richard Warrner were each re-appointed to three-year terms ending in October of 2009.

Kenneth Gibler and Gordon Grande were re-appointed to the Durand Sanitary District. Their respective terms will expire in May 2009 and May 2010.

Bart Munger was re-appointed to a three-year term on the Harlem-Roscoe Fire Protection District, expiring May 2010.

J. Ronald Waldschmidt was re-appointed to a five-year term with the Otter Creek Lake Utility District. Waldschmidt’s term will expire in May 2012.

Elmer Jones and Don Kerestes were re-appointed to three year on the Rock River Water Reclamation District. Their terms end in May 2010.

Joseph Vanderwerff Jr. was re-appointed to the Stateline Area Transportation Study for a two-year term expiring in November 2008.

Jesse Dabson was appointed to a two-year term on the Board of Review. Mark Sorrentino was re-appointed for another two years. Both terms expire in June 2009.

from the May 16-22, 2007, issue

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