StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118841370316837.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Rep. Dave Winters (R-68) pledged to urge the governor to sign the request allowing the Stateline Mass Transit District to receive state and federal dollars.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11884137629018.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘William Wombacher, special counsel for the SMTD, thinks the District should have chosen to work with RMTD.‘);
During an Aug. 22 meeting at Rockton Village Hall, the new Stateline Mass Transit District (SMTD) Board unanimously approved the hiring of Nicolosi & Associates as general counsel for an amount not to exceed $12,000 in the districts first year.
Other government bodies represented by Nicolosi & Associates include the City of Loves Park and the Village of Rockton. In the past year, the Rockford law firm had also represented the villages of Roscoe and Caledonia.
Nicolosi & Associates attorney Roxanne Sosnowski, who was seated in the chairmans position of the Rockton Village Board room, seemed to lead much of the boards discussion. Sosnowski indicated, however, Gino Galluzzo would be the attorney serving as general counsel.
Galluzzo, a Nicolosi & Associates partner, is also vice president of The Buckley Companies, LLC. Partner Paul Nicolosi, brother of new Winnebago County States Attorney Phil, is the president and chief executive officer of Buckley. Sosnowskis husband, Rockford Ald. Joe Sosnowski (R-1), is employed as Buckleys vice president of commercial real estate.
Nicolosi & Associates are also nearing completion of zoning re-writes for Winnebago Countys new 2030 Land-Use Plan. The law firm shares a $355,000 contract with Chicago-based Camiros, Ltd., for the long-range update.
Special Council also approved
At the Aug. 22 SMTD meeting, Sosnowski presented attorney William Wombacher, recommending the board hire the lifelong Peoria resident as special counsel for negotiations with service providers on an hourly, as-needed basis.
Wombacher serves as general counsel for the Greater Peoria Mass Transit District, the Illinois Public Transportation Association and the Illinois Public Transit Risk Management Association.
Ive been through a lot of things as general counsel, Wombacher reported. Through fiscal problems, through personnel issues and problems with managers who did things that they werent supposed to do labor issues.
Off to a bad start?
Although the board approved his hiring, Wombacher indicated the SMTD may already have started off on the wrong foot.
I would have really suggested, rather than looking first for an outside carrier, that you try and do what weve done in Peoria and other areas, and that is negotiate with the Rockford MTD, Wombacher recommended. Use their expertise, use their experience and use their resources to be able to, you know, provide you this service first, and see whether its possible to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with them.
Wombacher added the SMTD would have benefited greatly on many levels from the proficiency of a well-established urban transit system like RMTD.
But, thats not the direction that was taken, for whatever reason, Wombacher accepted. Youve got an RFP [request for proposal], and so now you have to deal with the RFP, which means you have to negotiate with Careavan until you reach a point where you decide whether you want to enter into a contract with them or not.
Sosnowski agreed, saying the Steering Committee had discussed RMTD, but opted for the RFP process instead. Negotiations with Careavan, Inc., must play out, according to Sosnowski, before any other service provider can be considered.
Why not RMTD?
Although happy to provide the SMTD with a quote, the RMTD, by regulation, cannot respond to RFPs.
Steering Committee representative Sharon Hecox argued Rockton Township, for one, favored RMTD and that the SMTD board skipped a step by not first hearing the committees recommendation before entering into negotiations with Careavan, Inc.
Sosnowski was quick to remind Hecox the SMTD Board is now the governing, decision-making body.
Assured the board would still hear the committees advice, Hecox snapped, Well, after the fact.
Hecox argued Steering Committee members are the ones whove done the research to recommend the best course of action.
Then, all of a sudden, its not in our hands any more, and youre giving it to a board that doesnt have any background on it, doesnt have any history on it, Hecox added. It doesnt seem, to me, very logical.
U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-16) secured a Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) grant to purchase four mid-sized, fully-accessible buses. The buses are to be part of a regional transit network that would offer dial-a-ride service in addition to regular routes connecting with Rockford and Beloit transit systems.
A $40,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and $10,000 in local matching funds made possible the Stateline Area Transportation Study (SLATS), which indicated a need to establish transit service in north-central Winnebago County.
South Beloit, the only participating municipality designated as a recipient for IDOT and FTA funds, agreed to hand over its designee status to the SMTD.
The funds, available only as reimbursement, have not been utilized by the City of South Beloit since 1993. The SMTD would certainly like to get its hands on $40,600 for South Beloits non-existent mass transit system, which was spared in Gov. Rod Blagojevichs (D) budget cuts.
Until the governor approves the change of designee, however, the SMTD will not be eligible for state or federal funds. Contributions from Target, Wal-Mart and Beloit Memorial Hospitalall of whom would be served by the transit systemwill meanwhile keep the wheels greased. Beloit Memorial Hospital Vice President Dave Bolen serves as chairman of the SMTD Board.
Rockton Village President Dale Adams issued a plea to Blagojevich in a July 25 letter urging the governor to approve the change of recipient. The request is one of many collecting dust on the gubernatorial desk, awaiting a signature.
In his letter to Blagojevich, Adams wrote: It is the conclusion of years of hard work by the local units of government to provide a needed service to citizens who dont have access to personal vehicles, including young people, the elderly and those who cant drive because of medical conditions. Also, it will be available to people who just want to use a method of transportation that reduces air pollution and is efficient.
According to a transportation study, the SMTD could have costs in excess of $600,000 during its start-up year, with revenues not likely to surpass $35,000. Once established after the first year, according to the study, revenues could exceed $140,000.
Rep. Dave Winters (R-68), who attended the meeting, hopes to keep the wheels moving by pressing his contacts at IDOT to urge the governors signing of the designee change.
Winters explained the SMTD would be eligible for a 55 percent reimbursement of its first-year costs.
In the future, once youre up and running, Winters noted, you can only increase by 10-percent a year and expect to get the full reimbursement from the state.
The SMTD Board also approved its job description for a yet-to-be-hired executive director. Thirty-six thousand dollars has been allocated for the part-time position.
from the Aug. 29-Sept. 4, 2007, issue