March 26 Rockford City Council briefs

Michael Hakanson of Gambino Realtors addressed the Rockford City Council during public comments at its Monday, March 26 meeting, regarding ongoing hotel development.

Hakanson noted a number of developments in the corridor, including new hotel construction and major upgrades to the Clock Tower Resort & Conference Center. Hakanson reported hotel occupancy is up throughout the county, and encouraged the council to continue supporting growth in the area.

“The evidence is clear that the East State Street hotel/motel corridor is alive with significant construction and renovation projects,” Hakanson said, “as well as new, ongoing construction set to expand this corridor into a hotel campus.”

Aaron Szeto, an attorney for Nicolosi & Associates and lifelong Rockford resident, addressed the council regarding land bordered by Riverside Boulevard on the north, State Street on the south, Mulford Road on the west and the Boone County line on the east. Szeto called the retail-rich area a “limited resource” because it is abutted by Loves Park, Belvidere and Cherry Valley.

“There’s not much room for growth,” Szeto indicated, instead suggesting the development of as much of that land as possible to capitalize on the area’s strong commercial draw. “What does this equate to? Property taxes and sales tax revenue—revenues our city desperately needs and cannot afford to forego.”

Nicolosi & Associates, which represents the municipalities of Loves Park, Rockton and Caledonia, is one of the affiliates comprising the Buckley Companies, a group specializing in real estate development.

Mario Terara, a Rockford attorney, also addressed the council during public participation. Terara questioned the need for expansion of the Rockford Mass Transit District (RMTD). Terara, and later Ald. Joe Sosnowski (R-1), cited a decrease in ridership over the past 10 years, and suggested RMTD make better use of its existing resources.

“I think if we’re gonna consider how to best use the resources of our mass transit district in our city,” Terara argued, “we should focus those on maintaining and improving our current system rather than expanding the Rockford mass transit system to a new size.”

Just a week before, RMTD Chairman Gary Marzorati lobbied the City Council for continued financial support. Marzorati, who was also in attendance, is pushing for an East Side Transfer Center on North Lyford Road to provide for new routes.

Although on the agenda for March 26, aldermen held over a Codes and Regulations Committee report recommending denials of a special use permit and zoning map amendment necessary for the terminal to move ahead.

“I wanna work with [RMTD] on bettering their current system,” Sosnowski indicated. “Spending money on their current structure so that it is more visible and runs better for everybody.”

Aldermen unanimously approved an honorary name change to a portion of Morgan Street between Central and Webster. “Reverend Perry Bennett Way” honors more than three decades of service to the community. Bennett has been the pastor at Macedonia Baptist Church for 35 years and a Rockford Police chaplain for 33. Former American Idol star Paris Bennett is the pastor’s great-granddaughter.

Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) proclaimed the week of March 26 to be Boys & Girls Club Week in Rockford, and urged the community to recognize and commend the five clubs serving 8,000 young people in Winnebago and Boone counties.

Morrissey announced his Second Annual Youth Summit will be April 21. Keynote speaker will be Jim Ellis, who is the swimming coach portrayed in the movie Pride.

Morrissey welcomed new Public Works Operations Manager Tim Hanson, who will administratively coordinate maintenance operations such as budget, customer service, training and labor relations. Hanson was most recently a division manager for UPS, where he’d worked 28 years.

Morrissey spoke about a new exhibit opening March 30 at the Rockford Art Museum. Swedish artists Bertil Vallien and wife Ulrica Hydman-Vallien will showcase their sand-cast sculptures, paintings and ceramics through July 8. The artists will conduct a lecture March 28 in Rockford College’s Maddox Theatre at 7 p.m.

Morrissey reminded the community yard waste collection begins April 2. Waste will be picked up on regular garbage collection days.

Morrissey explained residents on the far southeast side may notice some water discoloration as a result of work in the area, but indicated the discoloration is harmless.

Ald. Victory Bell (D-5) referenced two memos issued by City Engineer Brad Moberg earlier in the day, requesting emergency purchase orders for repairs to the Morgan and Jefferson Street bridges.

According to one memorandum, an early March inspection of the Morgan Street bridge revealed a “significant surface depression.” Moberg recommended a steel plate to cover the depression, as well as concrete patching and follow-up inspections. With a $35 million total bridge replacement in the works, the Finance and Personnel Committee is debating how much is too much to put into a bridge that will soon be torn down.

Moberg reported incidents of concrete falling from the underside of the Jefferson Street bridge onto the pedestrian walkway below. The Public Works Department recommended completion of removing loose concrete from the bridge’s underside, along with further inspections. Moberg said those inspections will likely result in more extensive bridge repair recommendations.

Aldermen voted to approve an ordinance whereby the city will transfer jurisdiction of the Kishwaukee Street bridge to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), which will be responsible for repairs and maintenance.

Aldermen Dan Conness (D-14), Doug Mark (R-3) and Linda McNeely (D-13) were absent.

from the March 28-April 3, 2007, issue

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