Rosecrance wins special-use permit

Rosecrance wins special-use permit

By Scott P. Richert

By Scott P. Richert

Freelance Writer

On Monday, Dec. 17, by a vote of 10-3 (with Ald. Dick Goral absent), the Rockford City Council approved Rosecrance Health Network’s request for a special-use permit for a halfway house at 2415 E. State St. Aldermen Pat Curran (R-2), Victory Bell (D-5), and Dan Conness (D-14) voted against the request.

More than 1,000 signatures opposing the special-use permit were gathered by the Highland Neighborhood Association, which lies in Curran’s ward. Conness and Bell’s wife, Carol, are competing for the Democratic nomination for state representative from the 67th District, which includes portions of the 10th Ward (where the house lies) and the 2nd Ward.

The vote, laid over from the previous meeting, capped several weeks of controversy. Last week, Rosecrance sponsored a public meeting at the Salvation Army Temple on South Rockford Avenue. The meeting, held on Thursday, Dec. 13, was attended by Aldermen Pat Curran (R-2); Doug Mark (R-3); David Johnson (R-4); Victory Bell (D-5); Nancy Johnson (D-8); Bill Timm (R-9); Frank Beach (R-10); Jeff Holt (D-11); and John Beck (R-12). (Because of prior commitments, David Johnson and Pat Curran were only able to attend for a few minutes.)

Approximately 105 people attended the meeting; about 15 favored Rosecrance’s plan, while the rest opposed it. After a brief presentation by Rosecrance head Phil Eaton, Craig Mentzer, the vice president of the Highland Neighborhood Association, reiterated his offer to help Rosecrance find and fix up another facility in the same neighborhood. When he asked Eaton whether Rosecrance had ever received such an offer before, Eaton replied, “I’d have a real problem explaining to my board that the girls should be run out of the neighborhood.” Mentzer adamantly denied that that was his intent, to which Eaton replied, “That’s a matter of perspective.”

After the public meeting ended, Alderman Beach remarked, “I know [Rosecrance’s proposal] isn’t popular, but for 21 years, I’ve tried to stand tall. I don’t put my finger up in the air and see which way the wind’s blowing. Inside your heart, you do what you think is right.” On his way out, he stopped to shake Phil Eaton’s hand, telling him, “I may need a job in three and a half years. Remember that.” Beach is up for re-election in April 2005.

Eaton stated at the public meeting that the girls currently housed at Rosecrance’s Monarch House on North Main would be transferred to the new house on East State. He also indicated that Rosecrance could save money by purchasing the East State home rather than continuing to rent the one on North Main.

After the council vote, however, he told reporters that “Rosecrance now has three homes . . . “ While he confirmed that the girls from North Main will still be moved to East State in three to four months (after life-safety modifications to the East State house), he also stated that he is “not sure what our future is for the North Main house. We’re taking this one step at a time.”

When asked whether the house might be

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turned into a recovery home for teenaged boys, he initially replied, “No response.” Almost immediately, however, he changed his answer to “That is not an option that we’re entertaining at this time.” Still, he stressed, “Before any plans [for the North Main house] are finalized, we fully intend to have the Signal Hill Neighborhood Association involved.”

The president of Signal Hill is former Democratic Mayor John McNamara. Currently president of William Charles Investments, the real estate development arm of Rockford Blacktop, McNamara serves on the board of Rosecrance.

Eaton called the council’s vote “a win-win for the Rockford community,” which would “preserve a stately old home.”

Mentzer, however, argued that “a wonderful opportunity was wasted tonight. Rosecrance had the opportunity to have a neighborhood embrace it, but chose not to take it. I think both Rosecrance and the city lost out tonight.” The whole controversy, he said, “has definitely left a bad taste in my mouth for Rosecrance.”

Other council items

l In other council business, Mayor Doug Scott proclaimed the week of Dec. 17 “Christmas Seal Week,” in honor of the American Lung Association.

l Ald. David Johnson distributed petitions to keep Robert Lower, the murderer of Joey Didier (the son of the late Rockford Alderman George Didier) in jail. (Copies of the petition can be obtained at the offices of The Rock River Times.)

l Ald. Dick Goral has returned home following his recent surgery.

l The Household Hazardous Waste facility and the Engine Oil and Used Tire drop-off sites will be closed on the weekends of Dec. 22-23 and 29-30.

l Because of Christmas and New Year’s Day, trash pickup will follow a modified schedule the next two weeks. In areas where the trash is picked up on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, pickup will be delayed by one day.

l There will be no City Council or standing committee meetings the week of Dec. 24. The next City Council meeting will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 2. City Hall will close at noon on Dec. 24 and be closed all day Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Scott P. Richert is the executive editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, the publication of The Rockford Institute.

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