Board agrees to purchase federal courthouse, fund alternative programs

December 16, 2009

News and notes from the Dec. 10 Winnebago County Board meeting

By Stuart R. Wahlin

Staff Writer

The Winnebago County Board unanimously agreed to purchase the federal courthouse at 211 S. Court St., which will be vacated around the start of 2011 as construction of the new federal courthouse at Church and Chestnut streets is completed. Until then, rent of $1 will be paid to the county while finishing touches are put on the new facility.

The move is expected to save the county “an enormous amount of overhead,” Chairman Scott Christiansen (R) asserted.

“We’ll move our juvenile court, juvenile probation, possibly the juvenile assessments, into that facility,” he explained, noting the structure is more modern and energy efficient than the Public Safety Building. “It’ll pay for itself very soon by getting out of the vast majority of the PSB.”

Funding to acquire the courthouse, which had an appraised value of $3 million, was first approved by the board in November 2006. Christiansen was reportedly able to negotiate the price down to $2 million.

In other public safety news, the board unanimously approved funding for its Dec. 1, 2009-Nov. 30, 2010, alternative programs, which are aimed at reducing recidivism.

More than $1.2 million has been earmarked for 18 programs offered by various local agencies, only three of which—Carpenter’s Place, Rockford Rescue Mission and the Literacy Council—received the funding amounts requested.

The five largest awards, however, went to programs offered by Rosecrance Treatment Centers in the amount of $283,876, PHASE/WAVE in the amount of $123,419, Rock Valley College’s Higher Education Alliance for the Rock River Region in the amount of $114,609, the Salvation Army in the amount of $104,945, and the Patriots Gateway Center in the amount of $104,663.

The Public Safety Committee worked for months to streamline and reduce overlapping services. The hard work paid off with no debate or proposed amendments on the board floor.

“This year, it was like serving people, 52 people, Hamburger Helper without the hamburger to try and get this done,” joked Dave Fiduccia (R-4), the committee’s chairman, referencing the dozens of people who’d helped in the process.

Doug Aurand (D-3) agreed, “These are very difficult times, and I know we all would have liked to have done a lot more.”

Human Services Administrator Dave Peterson indicated: “Every contract will have in it a clause based on our economic ability to pay. So, should we fall on more difficult times, then we would be able to terminate the agreement.”

Additionally, as a measure of success, participating agencies are required to report to the county’s Probation Department monthly to prove that criteria are being met.

“That’s very important, because there is not standards,” Christiansen added. “This is really cutting edge. This is very unique to Winnebago County in terms of the whole nation, frankly.

“We continue to hone them down, finer and finer, to measure these results, because we’re not funding agencies—we’re funding programs within those agencies,” he noted.

Public hearing opens door for bond sale

A brief hearing regarding the issuance of up to $1.2 million in bonds went quietly, without comments or questions from board members or the public, after public notice was given Nov. 19 in the Rockford Journal.

The bonds will serve in a refinancing capacity for a $2 million bond issue in 1998 related to a daycare facility project at 5711 Wansford Way in Rockford. At the time, the non-profit daycare operated as Orton Keyes Day Care Center, Inc., but is now known as Circles of Learning.

The issuance will essentially serve as a loan from the county to Circles of Learning, and the bonds will mature Dec. 1, 2018. Beginning Feb. 1, 2010, Circles of Learning will be responsible for monthly payments on the new bonds.

Riverside Community Bank will serve as trustee, paying agent and bond registrar. Kyle Logan (R-3), who serves as commercial portfolio manager for the bank, abstained from the vote.

Barking dog ordinance

repealed, deemed unenforceable

Although many board members say the most common calls they receive are regarding nuisance noise caused by incessantly barking dogs, there’s little the county can do, aside from having sheriff’s deputies ask the owners to quell their dogs. Beyond that, as a non-home-rule community, no further action can be taken if the barking continues to be a problem for neighbors.

But that could change when the new legislative session starts in January at the state capital. Leaders are considering including the issue as part of the county’s legislative agenda provided to its lobbyist.

In related news, with three-year rabies vaccinations for cats and dogs now commonplace, the county will offer three-year registrations in conjunction with the inoculations. Pet owners will still have the option of one-year registrations, however.

Failure to register a cat or dog results in a $500 fine, plus a doubling of the registration fee.

Resolutions

Authorizing the administrator of River Bluff Nursing Home to enter into agreements regarding restorative therapy services, respiratory products and services and consultation contracts. Among the agreements, Nihan & Martin will be awarded $15,840 for pharmacy services, Health Technologies will be awarded $34,112 for dietary services, Dr. John E. Roska will be awarded $16,200 for medical direction, Clinical Records Consultants will be awarded $2,240 to oversee records, Mark Milani, DDS, will be awarded $3,000 for dental service, and Comprehensive Therapeutics will be awarded $1,104 for social services, as well as $1,488 for activities.

Authorizing execution of an adoption agreement with Great West Life and Annuity regarding modifications to the county’s deferred compensation plan, related to a change in federal law.

Acknowledging the roles of Gary Burdett, retired project director, and Sally Claassen, purchasing and risk management director, “in the construction and continuing issues surrounding the Criminal Justice Center.”

Rejecting a $199,133 bid by Pease Construction, Inc., of Ringwood, for Lakeside Drive culvert reconstruction in Rockford Township. County Engineer Joe Vanderwerff indicated the rejection is the result of design changes requested by the township, homeowners association and the State of Illinois. Once the changes are made, the project will be reopened for new bids.

Rescinding a $74,224 award to Rock River Internet for wireless services related to court and case management software and equipment. The new system is expected to go online in April. The board awarded Rock River Internet the contract June 26, 2008, but the company has allegedly failed to provide details requested by the county. The county is expected to request new bids.

Absence

Bob Kinnison (R-10) was absent.

From the Dec. 16-22, 2009 issue

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