Perryville Rd. paves over democracy

Perryville Rd. paves over democracy

By By Frank Schier

By Frank Schier

Editor and Publisher

Apparently, Winnebago County Board Chairman Kris Cohn didn’t get it— when she was spontaneously and resoundingly booed by 900 people in January of 2001 during a public meeting about the Perryville Road extension.

Just about any regular citizen or homeowner you talk to in the area, who is not a real estate developer or road builder, does not want the Perryville extension.

They like their peaceful existence and don’t want the blacktop of urban sprawl to cover them with its concrete and heavy traffic. They pay taxes. They vote.

One family, who does not want to be identified because of possible retribution, said their historic home would be taken by the project. They have worked on the home with loving care for many years, and they feel powerless to stop the restarted Perryville steamroller.

As usual before any public project is announced publicly, investors have been getting in position for years because they are privy to the project before the public knows.

The Rockford Register Star reported three of the major Perryville extension landholders are Herb McKiski, Bob Klecker and Sunil Puri of First Rockford Group. They wrote a letter asking for action on the road. Reportedly, Puri is willing to donate $900,000 worth of right-of-way for the road. The rest would have to be purchased.

Speaking of costs, Renee McNitt, the secretary-treasurer of Illinois Conservation Voters and chairman of the Roscoe Township Planning Commission, said, “Besides being surprised, I’d like to have the taxpayers of the county realize that they are going to be paying for this. I don‘t think they realize that.

“If you put it in terms of years, Perryville would take six years worth of road projects, and that is based on $6 million worth of road projects per year, not including state assistance. It’s probably more years if you include the state reimbursables.

“The county already has nine years’ worth of road projects, according to documents I have called, ‘Highway Department Recommended Priorities,’” McNitt said.

Here is the list of projects presented to the Public Works Committee last year, not including the Perryville extension, with recommended starting dates in the Fiscal Years 2001-2006:

County costs

Riverside Blvd. Phase I Project Report 500,000

Hononegah Road—Add Lanes 7,440,000

Bell School Road/State Street 500,000

Forest Hills Road—Patching & Resurfacing 170,000

Meridian Road—Resurfacing 150,000

Perryville Road—Traffic Signal Synchronization

—(Harrison Avenue to West State Street) 750,000

Mulford Road—Add Lanes 6,400,000

Bell School Road/Guilford Road

— (Intersection Improvement) 1,600,000

Rockton Road/Dorr Road 335,000

Elmwood Road Connection

—New Construction & Resurfacing 1,885,000

Riverside Boulelvard

—Add Lanes & Signal Modernization 1,200,000

Lyford Road—Construction 1,200,000

Meridian Road—Resurfacing 1,340,000

Ralston Road Bridge—Add Lanes 4,570,000

Bell School Road—Add Lanes 4,750,000

Latham Road—Resurfacing 660,000

Perryville Road—Traffic Signal Synchronization

—(State Street to Riverside Blvd.) 2,500,000

Pecatonica Road

—Resurfacing & Intersection Improvements 1,430,000

County costs

Meridian Road—Resurfacing 150,000

Mulford Road/Linden Road—Resurfacing 570,000

Meridian Road—Resurfacing 590,000

Montague Road—Resurfacing 640,000

Ralston Road—Add Lanes 4,000,000

Meridian Road—Add Lanes 2,000,000

Mulford Road/Linden Road—Resurfacing 570,000

Bell School Road—Add Lanes 5,970,000

Prairie Hill Road—Resurfacing 600,000

Meridian Road—Resurfacing 590,000

Montague Road—Resurfacing 640,000

Owen Center Road—Resurfacing 815,000

Montague Road/Osborne Road

—Intersection Improvements 400,000

Rockton Road—Resurfacing 690,000

(340 miles of roads) Total $55,605,000

Oddly, for just the approximately 10 miles for the Perryville extension from Rte. 173 to the Wisconsin border, the cost is estimated at $39 million—versus the 340 miles of road priced at $55.6 million! Curiouser and curiouser.

Roscoe Township Supervisor Tom Hawes, an opponent of the extension, said, “There are other priorities in Roscoe. We have intersections where we’ve had deaths and where repairs are needed.

“Why would they spend money they don’t have to dead-end a road where they can’t go? They don’t have the legal authority to eminent domain the township’s Stone Bridge Trail, and they have to address the federal rail-banking issue on the trail, which requires hearings in Washington, D.C.. Then there’s the State of Illinois conservation easement that protects the natural prairie and endangered species that are along the Stone Bridge Trail. Then there’s the wetlands issue.

“Most importantly, their own traffic studies do not dictate in any way the need for a four-lane highway,” Hawes said.

But guess what? It’s not in a study. Beloit may get a casino. Randy Kirchkow, a South Beloit Commissioner, said, “Right now, Willowbrook Road ends at Stateline Road. If the casino comes, then we’re hoping Willowbrook would go north into Wisconsin. I think at our next meeting (of the South Beloit City Council), we will be passing a resolution in support of the casino. If Willowbrook Road does go north, it would go into the proposed casino location.”

Kirchkow said the Bureau of Indian Affairs had asked for the resolution, and he feels it would be good for the economy of South Beloit.

So what would Winnebago County taxpayers be giving $39 million for?—to make profits for developers, road building companies, and casino owners. The casino would be in Wisconsin, of course; and we would not benefit from any direct tax revenue generated from gambling.

Money, money, money. So much can be said about the green stuff and the Perryville Road extension; that’s another story—a sad story for democracy.

Many voters voted for new board members because of the Perryville issue. Sue McDonald (R-2) lost to David Yeske (R) from Roscoe. Don Kerestes (R-4) lost to Chris Johnson (R); and Bruce Roberts (R-9) lost to Tim Simms. These new board members tend to be very outspoken, independent and have the voters’ interests at heart. John Elliot (R-8), the chairman of the county’s Public Works Committee, is also on the bubble with Phil Johnson (D) or Mel Paris (D) running against him or Bud Wilkens (R-3) in November. In other words, the makeup of the county board may change very significantly, with more Democrats and/or Perryville opponents comprising the majority.

So Kris Cohn wants to move now on Perryville, while she still has the power and the votes.

For Cohn—costs don’t matter; other badly needed road repairs in the county don’t matter; immovable legal hurdles don’t matter; traffic studies don’t matter; and her widely-reported quote that if Perryville “cannot go all the way to the Wisconsin border, there is no reason to build one more mile of Perryville Road,” really does matter.

Read her lips, taxpayers. What everyone is hearing today is very transparent. Your vote, your property and your faith in public officials are all disposable—if the special interests can motivate the right public officials with just a letter. What does a letter from you do? Do you get a reply like that?

Then again, Cohn’s campaign for secretary of state needs replies right now—the monetary kind. The contribution reports due in July should be interesting.

Sadly interesting is the Village of Machesney Park President Linda Vaughn’s cheerleading for the project. This paper endorsed Vaughn because we thought she would stand up for voters instead of falling over for special interests and more tax dollars. Read her lips, taxpayers.

This monster of a road project bred behind closed doors is about more than taxes, taxes, and more taxes. Just as the sinking fiasco of the Springfield-Harrison extension was rammed down the Ditzlers’ and our throats, Perryville should give anyone with a conscience that sinking feeling, too.

Is our system broken? Many of our hearts are because we believe in our democratic system so much. But we can’t believe anything out of most politicians’ mouths anymore. And when we hear the words “regional planning,” we should ask, “Regional planning for whom? Big bucks, big roads, big tax bills?” Larry Morrissey said in his recent editorial that everyone had better get involved in this “planning.”

Amen, and to Cohn, “Booooo! Booooo!”, again.

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