Other news and notes from the Oct. 8 Winnebago County Board meeting
By Stuart R. Wahlin
The board approved an increase, from $4.50 to $10, for the children’s waiting room fee.
Board members also voted to increase the law library fee from $13 to $19 in 2010. In 2011, the fee will be increased to $21.
• Authorizing execution of a renewal agreement with Blue Cross/Blue Shield for a preferred provider organization (PPO) plan and third-party administrator services. With no increase from 2009, employees will pay $40.27 per month.
• Authorizing execution of a renewal agreement with Northern Illinois Health Plan for a third-party administrator and administration of benefits at no increased cost from 2008 and 2009.
• Authorizing execution of a renewal agreement with Hines and Associates for pre-certification and medical case management services at no increased cost from 2008 and 2009.
• Executing an agreement with Personal Care for a self-insured health maintenance organization (HMO) insurance plan. The plan is offered to employees at a cost of $35.41 per month, a 4.9 percent increase from 2009.
• Authorizing execution of a renewal agreement with National Insurance Services/Harleysville for life insurance at the rate of $2 per month, and for accidental death and dismemberment insurance at the rate of 40 cents per month. The rates reflect no increase from 2008 and 2009.
• Awarding a $163,350 bid to Hinsdale-based Hipskind Technology Solutions Group for a storage area network.
Forest preserve business
Convened as the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District Board of Commissioners, board members passed the district’s 2010 budget and $4,088,115 levy. The owner of a $150,000 home will pay $42.70 in property taxes devoted to the forest preserves, which is 25 cents less than the 2009 fiscal year ending Oct. 31.
Forest preserve commissioners also amended the 2009 budget to transfer $85,000 from contractual services to capital outlay for the purchase of a of 2.29-acre tract of land adjacent to the Rockford Rotary Forest Preserve. The seller, Niki Seaton, agreed to the district’s offer to match the $85,000 appraised value.
Mike Castronovo, owner of Studio B Digital Recording, 6812 Harrison Ave., presented board members with a handout documenting recent accidents at the newly-rebuilt intersection of Perryville Road and Harrison Avenue.
He noted both lanes of westbound traffic on Harrison must shift to the right, or the vehicle in the left lane will be forced into a median.
“If the car on the outside lane does not shift, the car in the inside lane has nowhere to go but into the median or oncoming traffic,” Castronovo said, adding the intersection was safer before being rebuilt. “In July, I stood before you and warned that the new design of the road and median on Harrison was an accident waiting to happen. Well, now it’s been three months, and the official records have seven accidents in just one of the problem areas.
“Last year, when talking about my cut, a senior rep from the Highway Department told me that when someone gets killed, then we’ll look at removing the median,” Castronovo reported. “Well, I hope our good chairman appreciates the importance of appointing highway officials that are more concerned with citizens’ safety than building dangerous concrete median monuments.”
Castronovo warned accidents at the intersection are bound to increase as winter descends. He asked board members to consider drafting a resolution to remove the median between Perryville Road and his business before winter, and to take input from residents as options are explored for a better design.
Referencing a recent $15.5 million hit the county took, resulting from civil lawsuits related to a fatal traffic accident involving a sheriff’s deputy, Castronovo said of the median’s removal, “It may cost a couple of thousand now, but sadly, it could end up $15 million later.”
Asked to refer the matter back to the Public Works Committee for review and a recommendation, Chairman Scott Christiansen (R) responded, “We’ll refer this to that committee for Engineer Castronovo.”
After having been denied an opportunity to address board members during a Forest Preserve Executive Committee meeting a day earlier, Frank Schier, editor and publisher of The Rock River Times, lodged a complaint.
“It is my opinion that my fellow taxpayers, including all public employees and myself, are having our right of free speech violated,” Schier asserted.
As the committee meeting neared adjournment, Schier recounted, he raised his hand to be recognized. After a motion by Kay Mullins (R-8) and a second by Bob Kinnison (R-10), the committee voted whether to allow Schier three minutes to speak.
Kinnison and Mullins were outnumbered in the vote by Doug Aurand (D-3), Bob Hastings (D-13) and Tom Owens (R-1), and Schier was not permitted to address the committee.
“Aurand called me this morning and said: ‘I thought I’d call you to take a verbal beating instead of just taking it in print. We all knew what you wanted to speak about. I had another meeting to go to,’” Schier paraphrased.
“I’m sorry that the three minutes would have delayed arrival at [Rockford Area Economic Development Council President] Janyce Fadden’s party,” Schier retorted.
“I was not asked, nor did I say, what I wanted to speak about,” he noted. “I’ve never heard of that happening before to any would-be speaker before our wonderful Forest Preserve District. It was rude, purposeful, personally insulting, a low-blow snub, a cheap shot poorly executed. I don’t take poor manners from any elected official, nor should any taxpayer.”
Arguing committee members were only guessing what he’d planned to speak about, Schier noted his comments could have been on any number of subjects related to forest preserves.
He then turned his attention to what he feels is a lack of public input regarding zoning matters, such as the proposed wind farm ordinance.
“But you see, I can’t talk about laying over a certain ordinance for more environmental consideration, because it’s a zoning issue, and the public can only speak about zoning issues at maybe one or two Zoning Board of Appeals meetings,” he continued. “This gag rule where any taxpayer is verboten from giving his or her opinion about a zoning issue to the full county board is a violation of our free speech. I don’t underestimate your intelligence. I know you can still consider opinion and rightful public input, and differentiate that from evidence on the basis of which to vote.”
Schier concluded, “Give us back our right of free speech to talk to you about our land we live on.”
October was proclaimed Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Randy Olson (R-1) and Karen Hoffman (D-11) were absent.
From the October 14-20, 2009 issue