Jan. 29 City Council briefs

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117027492331221.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Mayor Larry Morrissey's (I) hope for a 1 percentage point sales tax referendum on the April ballot became a reality. ‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11702754311270.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Luanne Dean, owner of Lula's Vintage boutique, said improved infrastructure would result in a better economy and more jobs. ‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117027550019946.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘ Rockford Apartment Association board members argued higher property taxes affect renters, too.‘);

“With council approval, I’m very much looking forward to voting yes on April 17 for a road referendum that is supported by a sales tax increase,” Marjorie Veitch told the City Council during public participation. “It’s a better way to rebuild Rockford, and a smarter way.” Veitch was one of many property owners present to urge the city not to raise property taxes.

“Continuing to improve infrastructure in our community is of vital importance to the economic strength of our region,” said Lula’s Vintage Boutique owner Luanne Dean, also favoring the sales tax approach. “Improving our infrastructure and finding ways to enhance our city’s image can only help us attract new business and improve tourism in our region and, ultimately, bring more jobs here.”

“This is the best way to do it, with the least pain,” argued Burpee Museum President Lew Crampton in favor of the 1 percentage point tax increase.

Chris Wachowiak, owner of Krypto Music Lounge, challenged the city to find wise, yet creative, ways to utilize money from the referendum. “You need to start thinking more outside the box,” Wachowiak offered. “I think it’s really gonna pass this year.”

“The Rockford Apartment Association (RAA) will work diligently with the city,” pledged RAA board member Daniel Kelly, “to help educate and inform our tenants, as well as the public, to support a sales tax and reduce regressive property taxes.” Kelly pointed out high property taxes are passed on to renters.

The West State/Kilburn Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district was approved. Ald. Victory Bell (D-5) noted the Rockford Rescue Mission’s request for its West State Street property to be omitted had been granted.

Leisure Equipment, of Parker Ford, Pa., was the sole bidder for the city’s purchase of a parking lot attendant vehicle. The bid awarded is $28,532 and comes from the Parking Fund.

Sjostrom & Sons of Rockford was awarded $131,780 for fire prevention interior remodeling, funded by the Fire Department operating budget.

Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) addressed the issue of graffiti, saying steps are being taken not only to clean up affected areas, but to stop the vandals. Police Chief Chet Epperson reported several recent arrests.

The mayor proclaimed the week of Jan. 29 to be Fallen Fire Fighter Week in Rockford, and urged residents to show support and appreciation for our fire fighters.

The mayor also proclaimed the week of Jan. 29 to be Give Kids a Smile Week. The fifth annual Give Kids a Smile Day will be Feb. 3 at Crusader Clinic from 8 a.m. until noon. Children younger than 12 can receive exams and cleanings by local dental professionals.

Mayor Morrissey reported a “staggeringly-low number” of flood victims have applied for Small Business Administration (SBA) loans at the Department of Human Services, 612 N. Church St. Morrissey reminded flood victims that applying for an SBA loan is a prerequisite for eligibility to receive city flood assistance. The SBA application deadline is March 6.

The council approved a redevelopment and parking lease agreement with Joseph James Partners, LLC. The agreement provides $750,000 plus interest from the West Side TIF. Joseph James Partners and the Buckley Companies plan to put $9.6 million worth of renovations into 303 N. Main St., the former Gas & Electric Building. Aldermen Jeff Holt (D-11) and Joe Sosnowski (R-1) abstained. Linda McNeely (D-13) and Ann Thompson-Kelly (D-7) voted against the agreement.

A motion by Sosnowski to amend the sales tax referendum from 1 percentage point to .75 percentage point was defeated in a 6-8 vote.

With the 1 percentage point referendum now on the table, Ald. Holt made a motion for another amendment. Holt’s amendment would provide for a quarter of the 1 percentage point increase to be directed toward paying down bonds, resulting in tax relief for property owners. The mayor broke a 7-7 tie by voting against the amendment.

With all other options exhausted, the council overwhelmingly voted to put the 1 percentage question to voters on the April 17 ballot. McNeely voted no, citing the lack of a plan should the referendum fail.

The council approved modifications in the intergovernmental agreement with Winnebago County to ensure the county’s $9 million will be used only for MetroCentre design and construction. Thompson-Kelly and McNeely voted no. Meanwhile, the MetroCentre is busy penning deals to purchase the Rockford IceHogs, an American Hockey League franchise, and a 10-year affiliation with the Chicago Blackhawks. Bonds to fund the renovations are set to go on sale Feb. 12.

From the Jan. 31-Feb. 6, 2007, issue

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