Graceffa stepping down, Seward drive-in presented

May 24 Winnebago County Board briefs

Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen (R) read a letter at the May 24 Winnebago County Board meeting from Ray Graceffa (R-7). In the letter, Graceffa tendered his resignation, effective June 1, from the board for health reasons.

Graceffa, 83, has served on the County Board for more than 12 years. Christiansen will name an appointee, and the board has 60 days to approve Graceffa’s replacement. As of publication, no candidates had yet been named.

Starlite Drive-in proposal

Also during the May 24 meeting, Michael and Melissa Kerz stated their case for developing a drive-in theater in Seward. During public participation, the couple attempted to ease any concerns board members may have about such an outdoor theater.

The Kerzes are hoping to open their Starlight Drive-In by the end of June at the former Ironwood Golf Course, which closed last year. They will, however, need a little help from the County Board to make their dream of the silver screen a reality.

A special-use permit would be needed for the 30-acre site, along with a variance for grass and gravel parking.

Although the Kerzes are planning a single screen on what was Ironwood’s driving range, they indicated as many as two more are possible later.

In April, the couple lost their bid to re-open the Sunset Drive-In on Samuelson Road. The Rockford City Council’s decision was based on noise concerns of neighbors. Essentially. The council thought the theater was a great idea, but in a bad location.

Before the County Board with their latest proposal, Michael Kerz was quick to point out the new site is bordered by trees and features natural berms to prevent noise from escaping, adding, “Drive-ins are very quiet because people go to watch films, and this will preserve the serene environment.”

Kerz explained drive-in theaters are making a comeback nationwide, attracting tourists and families alike.

Wife Melissa addressed misconceptions about what are called “flashback weekends,” which some city and county officials believed to be music festivals.

“There will be no rock concerts,” Kerz promised. “We will be showing films.”

Flashback weekends feature classic movies, often in the horror genre.

“We are a family business,” Kerz continued. “We will be running this as a family business, and that’s the kind of movies we’re going to be playing.”

Again addressing noise concerns, Kerz said she could hear the sound of chirping crickets at a drive-in with a “full house” of 500 to 700 cars the previous weekend.

Kerz described Ironwood’s current state as an eyesore and promised to use local contractors for the project, keeping as many dollars in Winnebago County as possible. The couple also noted the creation of jobs and tax revenues should they get the go-ahead for the outdoor theater.

Mrs. Kerz explained the couple receives e-mails daily from excited citizens asking when the Starlight Drive-In will open.

“Those are your constituents,” Kerz reminded board members, “and we ask that you please consider that.”

The special-use permit and variance were removed from the May 24 agenda so the Kerzes could speak about the issue. Board members were supplied with informational binders and are expected to vote June 8.

In her conclusion, Mrs. Kerz avowed, “We’re trying to benefit the community and bring something good to the community—an American tradition of the drive-in.”

Board waives building permit fees for library

Ann Powell, director of the North Suburban Library District, asked the county for a little help with a new 6,070-square-foot addition to the library’s Children’s Department.

“Tonight I’m asking the County Board to help us out with waiving the building permit fee,” Powell stated, noting the district serves more than 5,000 residents of Loves Park and Roscoe.

Powell explained a growth in circulation has necessitated the expansion, which she said is being done without raising taxes. The District has saved money from its operating funds and has already acquired about $25,000 through fund-raising. Powell indicated another fund-raiser will take place in the fall.

The County Board voted unanimously to approve a resolution to waive the building permit fees.

MacKay opposes tax abatement

Board members approved a Resolution Authorizing Tax Abatement for Midwest Aero Support, Inc. The $4,300 abatement will be stretched over four years.

Midwest Aero performs repairs for more than 30 regional airlines and plans to move its facility from Rockford to Machesney Park.

John Ekberg (R-10) indicated the company has promised new jobs and will invest $500,000 in building improvements.

Calling abatements “corporate welfare,” Pete MacKay (R-5) argued, “They very rarely ever produce the number of employees they say they would.”

MacKay said if the board is going to grant tax abatement to one company, they should be given to all of them.

Doug Aurand (D-3) noted although he often agrees with MacKay’s stance on abatements, he planned to support this one. Aurand stated the Economic Development Committee is working on a system to ensure companies are delivering on their pledges of job creation.

“John [Ekberg] has assured me that his committee is working on a program,” Aurand told MacKay. “One of my concerns is we need a follow-up.”

Ekberg explained: “In future petitions for abatements, we’re gonna have it in the contract…At the end of that first year, they’ll send us the information about jobs they did create…That second, third and fourth year will be contingent upon producing the jobs they said.”

Aurand suggested taking the process a step further, requiring results before granting an abatement.

Brownfield assessment money

Also during his Economic Development Committee report, Ekberg displayed a $400,000 check—an Environmental Protection Agency grant for assessment of brownfield sites throughout the county. Ekberg said the grants would be targeted mainly at assessing ground contamination at sites of former gas stations.

Other resolutions passed

The County Board approved a Resolution Authorizing a Professional Services Agreement with Jano Justice System, Inc. Jano provides Clericus Magnus, the county’s online court record system.

A Resolution Authorizing the Settlement of Pending Litigation was approved. The $26,900 claim, related to River Bluff Nursing Home, is to be settled for $6,850.

A Resolution Authorizing the Appropriation of MFT [Motor Fuel Tax] Funds for Construction and Engineering Costs for improvements at the intersection of Baxter Road and Beltline Road was passed.

Another approved resolution authorizes the execution of an agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) for rehabilitation of Baxter and Beltline roads. As a result, an ordinance to increase of maximum vehicle and axle weights and highway class designation was also passed.

A Resolution for Bid for Bituminous Overlay on Various Roads for Roscoe Township was approved by the board. Janesville-based Rock Road Companies, Inc., will perform the work.

National Hunger Awareness Day

June 5 was proclaimed National Hunger Awareness Day in Winnebago County. Northern Illinois Food Bank Public Relations Manager Amber Wood said 275,800 people are in need of food assistance throughout the 13 counties the food bank serves. Residents are urged to make donations of food, money and time.

Appointments and re-appointments

Tami Verstraete was appointed to a five-year term on the Zoning Board of Appeals, expiring June 2011. Verstraete is the owner of FSS Training & Consulting and instructs classes related to the food service industry at Rock Valley College.

Jesse Dabson is to serve a two-year term on the Board of Review, ending June 2009. Dabson is employed by Dickerson Nieman Realtors.

P.S. Ruckman Jr. will serve a three-year term on the Memorial Hall Board of Trustees, expiring March 2010. Ruckman is an associate professo

r in Rock Valley College’s Political Science Department.

Village of Machesney Park Trustee Mark Sorrentino was re-appointed to two years on the Board of Review.

Barb Berman and David P. Peterson were re-appointed to three-year terms on the 9-1-1 Emergency Telephone System Board, expiring May 2009. Berman is employed by Phones and More and is a member of the Parks Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Peterson serves as executive vice president for Rockford Products. Don Carlson was re-appointed to a three-year term ending in May 2010. Carlson also serves as president of the Cherry Valley Fire Protection District’s Board of Trustees.

Patricia Rogers and W. Hawley Fabrick were re-appointed to six-year terms with the Harlem Cemetery Association. Their terms will expire in May 2013. William H. Rogers was re-appointed for six years, ending in May 2011.

Mark Philpot was re-appointed to three years with the Lincoln Acres Street Light District. His term ends in May 2010.

Carolyn Wise was re-appointed to six years with the Hulse Cemetery Association, expiring in May 2013.

Larry Holeton and Linda Sarver were re-appointed to six-year terms with the Pecatonica Cemetery Association. Their terms end in May 2011. Harold Kloster, Robert Meyer and Paul E. Seaton were re-appointed to six-year terms expiring in May 2012.

William Milanos was re-appointed to six years with the Willwood Burial Park Association. His terms ends in May 2013.


Ray Graceffa (R-7), Bob Kinnison (R-10) and L.C. Wilson (D-12) were not present.

from the May 30-June 5, 2007, issue

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