By Stuart R. Wahlin
At Mayor Larry Morrissey’s (I) urging, the Rockford City Council delayed a vote regarding the city’s 2010-2014 capital improvement plan (CIP).
The 2010-2014 plan earmarks about $280 million for roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects, but aldermen crafted a number of changes at the committee level to counteract cuts to the residential streets program.
Morrissey expressed apprehension about a proposed change that would divert $600,000 from Churchill Park flood control bond payments to the neighborhood street program in 2010.
“We committed in 2007 to support the folks living in the Keith Creek flood basin, who had been, obviously, flooded—two 100-year floods in less than a year,” he said of the $10 million flood program.
Morrissey is optimistic the city may be eligible for state grants that would free up the budgeted bond payment, but he doesn’t want to rush into the CIP assuming that will happen.
“Ideally, the state could come through and cover our entire commitment that we made, what we’ve got outstanding,” the mayor acknowledged. “If that doesn’t happen, however, I know we’re all concerned that we have dollars in our budget to cover those costs, and not be caught blindsided if we have to make those payments.”
Other proposed changes include $125,000 from the arterial sidewalk program and $50,000 from city-wide bicycle lane marking and signage program, to be diverted to the neighborhood streets fund for 2010.
Meantime, city leaders will give the CIP further review before the matter comes to the council floor for a vote.
In other news, the council’s Code and Regulation Committee took no action Nov. 16 on a proposed resolution to appoint a citizen board to investigate police matters, namely use-of-force incidents and allegations of police brutality.
Norma Joseph, president of the Rockford branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), presented the resolution to aldermen during the Nov. 2 meeting, suggesting such a board would help bridge the gap between police and the community.
The resolution proposes a council-appointed panel consisting of three representatives from minority organizations, three neighborhood association members, one law enforcement official and two at-large members of the community.
The board would work independently of other investigations, and would have the power of subpoena, but for now, the resolution has been tabled at the committee level.
Meantime, Ald. Ann Thompson-Kelly (D-7) explained, the NAACP will meet with the Morrissey administration, as well as police and fire officials, to discuss race relations.
“We need to,” Thompson-Kelly asserted, “to talk about things in this community, to talk about trust, to talk about what we need to do to improve the relationships in the community.
“We need to openly discuss it,” she added. “We need to openly discuss the things that people normally shy away from.”
Mayor Morrissey responded, “I think we have a good group of folks throughout the community willing to sit down and have good discussions on that, and I’m looking forward to continuing that discussion, and hearing some of the recommendations on how we can sustain that conversation with our community.”
Ald. McNeely protests expenditure for mayor’s trip to Italy
Pointing to a particular expense, Ald. Linda McNeely (D-13) voted “no” to approving vouchers, which represent the city’s bills for the week.
The $1,068 line item is associated with Mayor Morrissey’s trip to Italy for an international economic development forum.
McNeely told The Rock River Times it wasn’t the amount that bothered her.
“I was under the impression that we were attempting to reduce our budget, reduce departments, and that’s an item that I believe that we should not incur at this particular time,” she said.
According to a statement by the mayor’s office: “The Regional Government of Lombardy itself will be organizing the event, providing full room and board, free transfers and complementary programs for visiting delegations. Mayor Morrissey’s expenses included his airfare and one-day’s hotel stay.”
Morrissey was invited by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s (D) office to join the state’s delegation to the forum in Milan, which will focus on sub-national governments’ roles in the global economy. The mayor left for the conference Nov. 17, and is expected to return Nov. 24.
Aldermen adopted a resolution authorizing the use of $43,806.15 from Motor Fuel Tax funds for sidewalks at Church and Chestnut streets. Ald. McNeely voted “no.”
The council also passed a resolution “expressing official intent regarding certain capital expenditures to be reimbursed from proceeds from an obligation.” Finance Director Andres Sammul explained the resolution is legally required to ensure reimbursement of expenses incurred now in advance of the spring bond sale. The bonds will cover the remainder of the city’s $75 million water system renovation project, which is expected to be complete in April 2011. Ald. McNeely voted “no.”
• Amending the city’s Nuisance Noise and Operation of Certain Vehicles Code to grant police the authority to impound all-terrain vehicles driven illegally on city streets. Ald. McNeely voted “no.”
• Authorizing the sale of vacant properties at 612 and 616 Eighth St. for a minimum bid of $2,800, favoring the adjoining property owners.
• Approving an intergovernmental agreement with the Greater Rockford Airport Authority for aircraft rescue and firefighting services.
• Increasing the 2009 levy for streets and bridges from .06 percent to .1 percent of equalized or assessed value. Ald. McNeely voted “no.”
• Approving the levy and assessment of taxes for 2009.
• Approving a $20,000 sole-source contract with Global Emergency Products, of Aurora, for the purchase of used 1988 and 1991 Spartan Pumper trucks for the Fire Department.
• Awarding a $114,995 bid to Northern Illinois Service Co. for demolition of 129 and 149 Morgan St.
• Awarding Schlichting & Sons Excavating an $83,155 bid for work related to a multi-use path at Interstate 90 and East State Street. Ald. McNeely voted “no.”
• Approving a $40,200 change order for TCI Concrete for additional curb and gutter repairs.
• Approving a new older than-65 retiree health plan alternative underwritten by United American Insurance Co. and administered by the AmWINS Group, Inc.
• Approving a Declaration of Regional Policy on Economic Development, which is essentially a pledge by local municipalities to work together for economic development in the region. Community Development Director Reid Montgomery explained: “It is to keep the door open, and discuss when it’s appropriate to use incentives. But it’s also a marketing tool to show that we do have collaboration in the region.” Ald. McNeely voted “no.”
• Recommending a sub-recipient agreement with the Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center for a waste-to-profit network focused on diverting items from landfills and turning them into a profit, while also creating jobs. Of the city’s approximately $1.5 million in energy efficiency and conservation grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, Director Montgomery explained, about $80,000 will go toward the waste-to-profit program.
Vicki Krueger was appointed to the Historic Preservation Commission to fill the unexpired term of Sally Faber, who resigned. Her term ends December 2010.
Aldermen Doug Mark (R-3), Bill Timm (R-9) and Karen Elyea (D-11) were absent.
From the November 18-24, 2009 issue