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City to treat contaminated drinking water

November 25, 2009

News and notes from the Nov. 23 Rockford City Council meeting

By Stuart R. Wahlin

Staff Writer

The Rockford City Council agreed to pay up to $203,689 Nov. 23 to Calgon Carbon, of Pittsburgh, for granular activated carbon (GAC) removal at three groundwater processing facilities.

The agreement comes on the heels of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s (IEPA) Nov. 20 notification that trichloroethylene (TCE)—widely considered to be a carcinogen—is in the city’s groundwater and treated water supplies. However, the TCE levels detected in test samples are still considered to be within federal and state standards for drinking water, according to the IEPA.

GAC is said to be an effective method of removing TCE from drinking water.

The source of the contamination has not been identified, but the TCE is not believed to be associated with a June train derailment and ethanol spill.

Meantime, the city’s ongoing $75 million water system overhaul is expected to be complete in 2011.

OSF, RMH to share city training contract

Aldermen unanimously approved a three-year contract with OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center for emergency medical services (EMS) training and licensing of Rockford firefighters and paramedics.

Because OSF is eyeing a spot for an EMS training facility within Spring Creek Development Group’s mixed-use project adjacent to an existing fire station on West State Street, it was initially suggested OSF should be awarded the contract without a bidding process, and that the agreement simply be rotated from hospital to hospital every few years, as had been done in the past.

Although not required for services costing less than $20,000, the city ultimately decided to request bid proposals so that all three area hospitals would have a fair shot.

Rockford Health Systems partnered with OSF to land the new contract, which costs the city nothing, but after another bid was rejected, competition was non-existent.

SwedishAmerican Health System has served as the city’s EMS resource hospital for seven years, at a cost of $15,000 for 2009, but the contract expires at the end of the year. The health system was disqualified for allegedly failing to include Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) records prior to the proposal submission deadline.

Rockford Health System, which will cover training on the west side as its part of the contract, wasn’t likely to make that mistake again. SwedishAmerican first won the contract in 2003 after Rockford Health System failed to submit the same EEO forms.

Ald. Bill Robertson (I-14), who served as Rockford’s fire chief until retiring last year, thanked SwedishAmerican for the level of service provided for the last seven years. Robertson was clearly disappointed the hospital was out of the running for the contract, however.

“A bit silly,” he said of the bid rejection. “Sometimes I think common sense takes vacation around here.”

Reportedly, after learning the EEO file had been absent from their proposal, SwedishAmerican attempted to submit the forms, but they would not be considered, because the deadline had passed.

“I don’t think we need to ask how many times have they been drug into federal court because they didn’t meet some equal opportunity employment—that just didn’t happen, and it doesn’t happen with them,” Robertson asserted. “I think we all know that SwedishAmerican is very compliant in that arena. And from that standpoint, I feel bad that they got tossed out without having their day. But they did, and that’s living within our rules, and I guess that’s the way things happen.”

Robertson has also served on the SwedishAmerican Health System Board of Directors.

Committee reports

υ Approving the city’s $280 million 2010-2014 capital plan, which earmarks dollars for road projects and other infrastructure improvements. After cuts from the residential streets program, which provides funds to individual wards for such projects, aldermen altered the capital plan to infuse a few more dollars back into neighborhood streets. Among the changes, $600,000 previously allocated for Churchill Park flood control bond payments will instead go toward residential streets. It is hoped the $600,000 bond payment for 2010 could be grant-eligible. If that doesn’t happen, it’s unclear where the $600,000 will come from. $125,000 originally slated for the arterial sidewalk program, and $50,000 from city-wide bicycle lane marking and signage earmarks, will also be diverted to the neighborhood streets fund for 2010. Ald. Linda McNeely (D-13) voted “no.”

υ Awarding a $30,009.35 bid to Loves Park-based William Charles Construction, formerly Rockford Blacktop, for work related to the Reed Avenue sanitary sewer. The funding source is Southeast Affordable Housing Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District funds.

υ Approving a $23,000 settlement in the case of Oliver v. See. According to City Legal Director Patrick Hayes, the case alleges Rockford police illegally entered a residence to arrest a subject for allegedly driving under the influence. Hayes indicated a judge ruled the officer lacked probable cause to arrest the subject, and charges were dismissed. “The criminal court ruling exposed the city to liability on the false arrest claim,” Hayes explained. “The city determined settlement at this amount to be preferable to the potential of a larger verdict after a trial, and settled the matter.”

Resolution

In a voice vote with some dissent, aldermen passed a resolution supporting the federal government’s proposed purchase of the Thomson Correctional Center. The prison could be used to house detainees and terror suspects presently held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Council support for the plan was largely based on the thousands of jobs that would be created.

Public comments

Retired Rockford police officer and former Winnebago County Board member Bruce Roberts addressed recent talk of offering incentives for officers to live in high-crime areas.

He indicated, however, such a program would mean an officer would be perceived by neighbors to be on-duty 24 hours per day, which could lead to problems.

“You would also have a liability consideration if they decided to go home and have something to drink,” Roberts noted, “because if something were to come up in the neighborhood, that would be an impingement into their being able to successfully operate as a police officer.”

Referencing a recent editorial in the daily praising Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) for suggesting the idea, Roberts offered, “I have seen circumstances where ‘innovation and change,’ after a while, time showed they weren’t really good ideas.”

Roberts also asked the community to remember its police officers and their families this Thanksgiving.

Absences

Ald. John Beck (R-12) was absent. Ald. Nancy Johnson (D-8) presided while Mayor Morrissey was returning from an economic development forum in Milan, Italy.

From the November 25-December 1, 2009 issue

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