County Board: No referendum on road bonds

County Board rejects submitting advisory referendum to voters for bonds that could cost as much as $59M in principal and interest

Winnebago County Board members rejected Pete MacKay’s (R-5) proposal to submit a $28 million road bond issue to voters in the fall in the form of an advisory referendum. Instead, the board voted 23-1 with four absent on July 22 to approve selling the bonds that MacKay said may cost as much as $59 million to pay the principal and interest during the next 20 years.

“I think the whole thing is a campaign contribution scam,” MacKay said. “If the motor fuel tax and additional revenue from real estate and businesses doesn’t come in the way they expect, the debt falls squarely on the property taxpayers without a referendum.”

MacKay added that he was “surprised and disappointed” that no other board member seconded his move to put the issue to a referendum.

Scott Christiansen, the newly appointed board chairman, led the charge for the bond sale. He faces Democrat Paul Gorski, who opposed the bond sale (see July 7 article “Candidates square off on roads”), in the fall election for the position.

The $28 million in bonds is part of a larger $79.47 million program called, “Build Winnebago County Partnership.” Christiansen said the partnership consists of the county, Rock River Water Reclamation District and Winnebago County Highway Department. Included in the $79.47 million are three Reclamation District sewer projects that total $20 million.

Build Winnebago also includes: reconfiguring 21 intersections; resurfacing, expanding and upgrading about 122 miles of 25 existing roads; repairing six bridges; and construction of one building near the corner of Springfield Avenue, and West State Street, building approximately 14 miles of two new recreation paths, and four miles of two new roads.

One of the new roads includes the controversial two-mile extension of Perryville Road north from Illinois 173 to Swanson Road.

Supporters of the bond sale, including Christiansen, point to the past as evidence that prior road bond sales have resulted in economic development. Specifically, Christiansen said approximately 10 years ago, the county sold $10 million in bonds for road construction, which included portions of Perryville Road, Charles Sreet, and Spring Creek Road.

Past extensions of Perryville Road, have been labeled by critics as “urban sprawl,” which has had a net increase in government expenses and increased the burden on taxpayers.

Chrisitiansen said past and future expansions of Perryville are necessary for the economic development of the area.

However, most of the proposed road projects are resurfacing, expansion and upgrading existing roads not in growth corridors but rural areas such as about eight miles of Baxter Road.

During a July 2 interview, Christiansen could not provide numbers to support his claim that the $10 million, without interest, taxpayers invested in road construction bonds 10 years ago, was off set by increasing property tax revenue and creation of jobs.

However, Christiansen said sales tax revenue along newly constructed parts of Perryville increased from $5.8 million in 1995 to $7.1 million in 2000. Christiansen said on July 20 the sales tax revenue was actually $20 million.

MacKay continued: “They’re idiotic enough to say this will bring back jobs. That’s bulls – – -. This money will go toward road contractors who will hire union laborers. Then they say jobs will follow, and I’m not convinced of that. Tell me we need all these roads? It’s political payback for contributors.”

The largest contributor to Christiansen’s campaign is the Northern Illinois Building Contractors’ Association. They contributed $15,000 on Jan. 30, 2004. Some of the members of the contractors’ association include: Rockford Blacktop Construction Co.; Ringland-Johnson Construction; Stenstrom Companies, Ltd.; Scandroli Construction Co.; Sjostrom and Sons Inc.; and Cord Construction Co.

Other big-money contributors to Christiansen include: Rubloff Development Group $5,000; Country Homes of Illinois $5,000; Petry Trust Co. $5,000; Buckley Partners, LLC, whose managers are Paul S. Nicolosi, Alfonso Galluzo and Gerlando Galluzo $5,000; Area Erectors $2,500; Citizens for Marc Gasparini $2,500; Cedric Blazer of Zenith Cutter Co. $2,500; Patrick Bachrodt of Bachrodt Auto Mall $1,000. Since 2003, Christiansen has raised $52,900 from 39 transactions.

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