Library supporters refuse to shush

September 2, 2009

News and notes from the Aug. 31 Rockford City Council meeting

By Stuart R. Wahlin

Staff Writer

Dozens marched again Aug. 31 to Rockford City Hall, where they rallied in support of continued library funding as layoffs and other cuts are considered.

In the face of its own economic gloom, the city essentially wants the library to carry its own weight with pensions, despite the city’s continued contributions to those of other city employees.

During public comments, Gwen Lashock asked the council to reconsider proposed supplemental funding cuts to library pensions.

“I realize the financial realities facing the city, but I also learned following the MetroCentre saga that if the city council commits to the importance of funding what is considered a valuable city asset, there are creative ways to address the issue,” Lashock said.

She noted a balance of $35,920,372 for discretionary spending, citing the city’s comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR), as one possible solution.

“Because of the economic crisis many of our citizens face, we need library services now more than ever before,” Lashock stressed.

Zoe Norwood, a Rockford librarian since 1987, wholeheartedly agreed.

“Where do the unemployed go to learn about computers, update their résumé, and apply for jobs online?” she asked. “To the library for free computer classes, résumé guides and public computers.”

Arguing the library serves those of all ages and backgrounds, Norwood asserted, “I don’t see many organizations that bridge the cultural, socio-economic, racial, age and gender divide as demonstrably as the library.

“Forcing the library, which has been managing prudently without a referendum for 25 years, to pick up this [pension] fund will mean cutting vital resources and services to the public,” she added.

Meantime, the Rockford Public Library’s 86-employee union has until Sept. 14 to submit an alternative plan to the library’s board.

Ordinances passed

To modify terms of a development agreement with Wanxiang America Corp., which is about to break ground on a solar panel assembly plant at the Chicago-Rockford International Airport. The modification reflects $14,000 worth of additional excavation work that is needed for the project, payable from the Global TradePark Tax Increment Financing District.

Requiring homeowners to obtain permits for roofing projects, even if they’re doing the work themselves. Previously, homeowners only needed a permit if a contractor was performing the work. Aldermen Venita Hervey (D-5) and Karen Elyea (D-11) voted “no.”

Giving final approval to the city’s designation as a Recovery Zone, per the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, to participate in stimulus bond programs. Ald. McNeely voted “no.”

An amendment to the development agreement with the developer of the Bella Reserve II subdivision, CBro Development Ltd., for Shiloh Road improvements in the amount of $64,556.12.

Resolution

Ald. Thompson-Kelly introduced a measure urging the mayor to consider the racial, ethnic and gender diversity of boards and commissions when appointing members to ensure the diversity is reflected appropriately in each group. In a voice vote, Ald. McNeely voted “no.”

Aldermen passed committee reports recommending the following:

All bids received for Kishwaukee Street pavement repairs be rejected.

Rescission of a $296,625 bituminous patching bid awarded April 27 to DeKalb Paving, Inc., based on “non-compliance to specifications.” Aldermen voted to pass the contract to the next-lowest bidder, Stenstrom Excavation, in the amount of $342,800.

Work on the Meadows of Springbrook water main and sanitary sewer be awarded to Schlichting & Sons Excavating in the amount of $1,457,843.50.

An amendment to a professional services agreement with Tetra Tech EM, Inc., of Chicago, to provide Phase I and II environmental site assessments for Main Street’s National Guard Armory building at a maximum cost of $11,500, payable through an Illinois Historic Preservation Grant.

υ Approval of an amended development agreement with Hudson North Development, LLC (William Charles Investments) regarding redevelopment of properties in the North Main Street/Eddy Avenue Tax Increment Financing District. Because of poor economic conditions, the completion deadline for the condominium project has been extended to 2013.

Proclamation

The week of Aug. 31 was proclaimed Workforce Development Week.

Absences

Aldermen John Beck (R-12) and Bill Robertson (I-14) were absent.

From the September 2-8, 2009 issue

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