Council sells bonds, plans to issue more TIF debt
• News and notes from the Sept. 14 Rockford City Council meeting
By Stuart R. Wahlin
Rockford aldermen were briefed during the Sept. 14 Rockford City Council meeting regarding the results of a $7,995,000 bond sale earlier in the day.
The bond purchaser, PNC Capital Markets, of Philadelphia, offered an interest rate of 5.595 percent. The only other bidder, Milwaukee-based Robert W. Baird, offered a rate of 5.6 percent.
The ordinance authorizing issuance states the bonds are “for the purpose of refunding certain previously issued and outstanding general obligation bonds.”
Ald. Doug Mark (R-3) abstained, and Ald. Linda McNeely (D-13) voted “no.”
Later in the night, the council approved committee reports seeking authority to issue an additional $2.7 million in general obligation bonds for “financing various economic development and government projects.”
Those matters will come up for another vote before final approval.
Of the $2.7 million, $2,350,000 is earmarked for Spring Creek Development Group’s 50-acre development on West State Street, between Pierpont and Springfield avenues, within the Springfield Corners Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District.
During the development’s four phases, the city is committing $5,438,937 to the project, which is headed by developer John Anderson.
The $65 million endeavor is expected to result in the construction of up to 19 structures—275,000 square feet for a variety of uses—and the creation of hundreds of jobs.
The remaining $350,000 of the anticipated $2.7 million bond issuance is related to a development agreement with ADV Partners, LLC, within the newly-created East River TIF District. Per the agreement, the city will provide $345,000 in TIF funds to assist with the rehabilitation of the former Johnson & Tillson Building, 202 N. Madison St. ADV’s total investment is expected to be $1,336,875.
Condos delayed by economic conditions
Aldermen approved a four-year extension to a development agreement with Hudson North Development, a William Charles Investments limited liability company, for a proposed condominium project that’s been slowed by the economic downturn.
In 2007, the Hudson Place agreement was amended to downsize from three-bedroom units to two.
Hudson North Development will now have until 2013 to complete the project. Ald. McNeely voted “no.”
Aldermen approved a partial property tax abatement for Absolute Fire Protection, which is relocating from Loves Park to 5729 28th Ave. in the Eastrock Industrial Park.
Eighty percent of Absolute’s property taxes payable in 2010, for three-and-a-half months of 2009, will be abated. Taxes will be abated at the rates of 80 percent, 60 percent, 40 percent and 20 percent over the four following years, respectively. Ald. McNeely voted “no.”
The company plans to invest $425,000 into its new Rockford home. Because the property was previously owned by non-profit Rosecrance Health Network, it was tax-exempt. Despite the five-year abatement, the property will now generate property tax revenues.
The Winnebago County Board approved a similar abatement for Absolute Sept. 3.
After a motion by Ald. McNeely, aldermen agreed to the layover of a report recommending an agreement to participate in a prescription benefit plan for city employees offered by St. Louis-based Express Scripts/Flex Scripts.
McNeely requested the delay after learning Express Scripts was alleged in 2004 to have withheld up to $100 million worth of prescription drug rebates, instead of passing them along to the State of New York, by whom it was contracted.
McNeely said she wanted fellow aldermen, who may not have been aware of the alleged infraction, to have time to review the information. But Legal Director Patrick Hayes indicated staff was already aware of the lawsuit at the time Express was recommended for the award.
“We were aware of these types of issues throughout the industry at the time we selected this vendor,” Hayes acknowledged.
The matter will be on the floor again for a vote Sept. 21.
Another vote aldermen will take during that meeting comes as a result of an audit that discovered Comcast’s predecessor, Insight Communications, had underpaid the city for franchise fees over a number of years.
Because Comcast now holds the cable franchise, the settlement arranges for the city to recover the $440,000 underpayment, which Comcast subscribers are likely to bear by way of an additional 35-cent charge per bill for the next three years.
Feasibility of interchange at bypass and Kishwaukee Street to be studied
HNTB Corporation, of Chicago, was awarded a contract worth up to $110,281.46 for a feasibility study related to a Kishwaukee Street interchange at Bypass 20. Ald. McNeely voted “no.”
Former alderman remembered
A moment of silence was observed in remembrance of Christie Cacciapaglia, a Democratic alderman who served on the council for nearly 20 years. Cacciapaglia, 63, passed away Sept. 12.
JT’s Bourbon Street Grille owner Anthony Foreman, whose restaurant at 1407 N. Main St. was the subject of restrictions imposed by the city after two shootings in a nearby parking lot, again pleaded his case to aldermen.
“To be honest, I feel like I am being discriminated against,” he said. “Rockford is a city of 150,000 people. There are no African-American establishments in Rockford that is open after 12:00 (midnight).”
Foreman indicated that hasn’t always been the case.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that, suddenly, there is none,” he added. “If Rev. Jesse Jackson had came to any of you and asked you, ‘Where could I go in Rockford to an African-American establishment and have a catfish dinner and a glass of wine?’ you would probably have to laugh in his face, ’cause this city has closed ’em all down.”
Meantime, area businesses have received relocation packages to make way for a roundabout at North Main and Auburn streets. Foreman’s building is among the properties slated for eminent domain.
“It is very difficult to run a business with the restrictions that I am placed under,” Foreman explained. “If I lose my business, the city will just take that property, and I feel like it would be theft.”
Foreman concluded, “I truly feel that if I was a retired blond-haired, blue-eyed Marine, I would probably be getting assistance from the city.”
Jim Buckingham Sr. urged the city to get fire and police personnel back under contract.
In January, Buckingham was one of several residents rescued in a downtown fire. He’s since spoken to the council in support of maintaining a minimum staffing level of four firefighters per truck.
Buckingham explained, through a series of examples from his personal experiences, the importance of public safety.
“As long as we have these things going on,” he said, “we’re going to have a dire need for our police officers and firefighters.”
Later in the evening, aldermen went behind closed doors to discuss collective bargaining negotiations.
John Weaver suggested recent visits from high-profile “outsiders,” while not unappreciated, will not solve the community’s problems.
The recent shooting death of an unarmed black man in a church daycare by two white police officers drew the attention of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), both of whom visited Rockford recently.
“We in this community are the ones who must take the lead to address the local issues,” Weaver asserted. “The task of fixing Rockford has to be done by the people of Rockford.”
Weaver also argued the east and west sides have been treated as though they are two different cities.
“Our standards must always be the same on both sides of that river,” he added. “We must admit that it has not, and it has not been for a long time. We must take measures to correct it; not at some distant time in the future, but a plan must be put in place to fix it and stick to it. Doing the right thing is sometimes very hard, and it’s always easier to give up.”
Weaver argued that lip service alone isn’t cutting it, and he encouraged all faith-based leaders to get involved.
“If we have the courage to unite for common goals, let us have the wisdom to put faith and trust in each other, and move forward,” he said. “The largest barriers we have to overcome to rebuild trust in this community is ourselves.”
Weaver invited the public to attend a Coronado-Haskell Neighborhood Association unity march against crime, drugs and violence Sept. 16 at 5 p.m., commencing from Stepping Stones at 701 N. Main St.
The week of Sept. 14 was proclaimed Direct Support Professionals Week. Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 was proclaimed Hispanic Heritage Month. Sept. 17-23 was proclaimed Constitution Week. Sept. 21 was proclaimed International Day of Peace.
Aldermen Venita Hervey (D-5) and Bill Timm (R-9) were absent.
From the September 16-22, 2009 issue
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