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Water rate hike proceeds, garbage fee increase delayed

October 6, 2009

News and notes from the Oct. 5 Rockford City Council meeting

By Stuart R. Wahlin

Staff Writer

Aldermen narrowly approved a committee report recommending a 3-percentage-point water rate increase during the Oct. 5 Rockford City Council meeting, but laid over a vote to decide whether garbage collection fees will also go up.

After an indecisive voice vote, the motion to raise water fees prevailed 7-6 in a roll call. Aldermen Joe Sosnowski (R-1), Lenny Jacobson (D-6), Ann Thompson-Kelly (D-7), Karen Elyea (D-11) and Linda McNeely (D-13) cast dissenting votes.

The measure still requires final approval in the form of an ordinance, but would take effect Dec. 1. Water fee increases since 2006 are attributed to the city’s $75 million water system upgrades.

Just before the water and garbage rate issues were on the floor for discussion, aldermen went into a closed session for about an hour to discuss collective bargaining negotiations.

Fire and police personnel have been without a contract since January, and arbitration has begun. Oct. 2 was the layoff date given to nearly 30 city employees, about half of whom are public safety workers.

Following the close vote to raise water fees, Ald. Carl Wasco (D-4) quickly moved to lay over the garbage fee matter, seconded by Ald. Frank Beach (R-10). Under council rules, the layover only required a motion and a second, but Beach later withdrew his second in an attempt to reconsider the layover.

Ald. Wasco, however, would not withdraw his motion, which was then seconded by Ald. Elyea to again force the one-week delay.

City officials say the garbage rate increase would help avoid further layoffs.

As presently proposed, the rate hike would increase monthly garbage fees from $11.20 to $14.20 per month. Until now, the city has paid the $3 difference. If approved, residents would pick up the extra $3, and the city would divert an estimated $1.8 million to public safety in 2010. If passed, the garbage fee increase would take effect Jan. 1, 2010.

Ordinance

Aldermen approved an agreement between the city’s Head Start program and Circles of Learning for child care services. Ald. Elyea voted “no.”

Aldermen passed committee reports recommending:

Rock River Disposal be awarded a $19,860 contract for disposal of waste from municipal facilities.

Super Mix, Inc., of Belvidere, be awarded an agreement to supply concrete materials.

Kids Around the World be awarded a $10,580 contract for playground equipment for the Head Start program. Ald. Beach, who is on the board of directors for Kids Around the World, abstained.

Stenstrom Excavation be awarded its $229,529.50 bid for drainage improvements at Spring Creek Road and Camellia Court.

Homer L. Chastain & Associates be awarded an engineering agreement worth up to $30,000, payable with motor fuel tax (MFT) funds, for West State Street corridor project management. A related resolution to authorize the use of MFT funds was passed later.

Public comments

Carl Meiborg, a blind man accompanied by a guide dog, asked the council to consider installing a traffic light at the intersection of North Rockton and Van Wie avenues, where he reported oncoming traffic does not stop for pedestrians attempting to cross Rockton Avenue. He noted a number of disabled individuals in the area who would also benefit from the safeguard.

“It’s just not for the vision-impaired, because they just don’t slow down,” he said, noting concern for his $40,000 canine companion. “She’s irreplaceable.”

Even when they’re in the middle of the crosswalk, Meiborg added, cars will not stop or reduce speed.

“What I would like to have is like an old school light, where you push the button, and it goes red,” he explained. “And then, after you cross, it’ll go back to where it’s not even lit up.”

Auditory cues, like beeping, would be a plus, he said.

“I don’t want to have to be pinned in my house,” Meiborg concluded. “I’d like to be free, walk around, just like everybody else does.”

To illustrate his plight, Meiborg urged council members to visit the intersection, and try to cross North Rockton Avenue blindfolded.

Proclamations

October was proclaimed Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the week of Oct. 5 was proclaimed Fire Prevention Week.

Closed session

The council went into closed session to discuss collective bargaining issues.

Absence

Ald. Bill Robertson (I-14) was absent.

From the October 7-13, 2009 issue

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