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Aldermen: UL300 scare a false alarm

December 23, 2009

News and notes from the Dec. 21 Rockford City Council meeting

By Stuart R. Wahlin

Staff Writer

One week after adopting a resolution requesting that Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) and the state fire marshal extend the UL300 compliance deadline by one year, aldermen breathed a sigh of relief when they learned the new fire suppression standard does not apply as widely as once thought.

The UL300 standard set by Underwriters Laboratories requires liquid-based fire-smothering systems in grease-using commercial kitchens, as opposed to the commonly-used dry-chemical suppression systems. The notion that any such establishment would have to make tens of thousands of dollars in necessary upgrades by Jan. 1, 2010, in a down economy was unwelcome to aldermen and businesses alike.

Council members learned, however, many existing systems having passed inspection are deemed sufficient under a grandfather clause.

“This is a good piece of news for the folks in our community, for the restaurants, for the churches, for the establishments,” a relieved Ald. Lenny Jacobson (D-6) asserted after a conference call with state officials. “For some misunderstanding, some miscommunication, we had a lot of people going out and putting a lot of money.”

Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) clarified: “There’s two different systems at issue. One is fire suppression systems that are being required to put in. The other issue has to do with duct work and all of the ventilation system that would be attached to the suppression system.”

Todd Cagnoni, deputy director of construction and development for the city, explained: “Previous communication that was relayed by the [state fire marshal’s office], not only to the City of Rockford and the Fire Department, but also to the contractors that are licensed to work on fire suppression systems, required hood and duct systems to come up to speed with the current requirement [American Fire Protection Association Standard 96]. The revised opinion from the state fire marshal’s office does not automatically require the hood and duct systems to come into compliance with NFPA 96. And the revised opinion recognizes existing hood and duct systems, which were installed in conformance with the code previous to the one that exists now.”

Ald. Doug Mark (R-3), who led the crusade along with Jacobson, felt much more at ease once the misunderstanding had been cleared up.

“I think it kind of puts everything into the proper perspective, and the enforcement is done here locally,” Mark noted. “We have the ability to work with the people to get them where they need to be.

“Just because you have a hood that needs to be upgraded, it is a separate issue that there may be some compliance issues with that,” Mark added. “But if they’re operating as they were installed at that time, they certainly are allowed to continue with that.”

Ordinances

Aldermen approved a $15.5 million promissory note in an effort to keep cash flow from stalling in 2010. The note includes $500,000 for a line of credit agreement for the MetroCentre, which will be used to book acts up-front.

In related news, council members also approved a $2 million taxable promissory note primarily intended to refinance $1.2 million of MetroCentre Authority debt. An amendment noted the city is regarded as the sole borrower from PNC Bank.

In both cases, which are the result of a MetroCentre subsidy agreement approved in July, Ald. Mark, a MetroCentre employee, abstained, and Ald. Linda McNeely (D-13) voted “no.”

Aldermen also approved a $455,000 intergovernmental agreement with the Rockford Park District related to the riverwalk and museum campus projects. Ald. McNeely voted “no.”

The council also gave final approval to an intergovernmental agreement between Rockford Public School District 205 and the Police Department for additional police officers in schools. As a result, the number of officers stationed in Rockford schools will increase from nine to 12.

Aldermen approved an agreement with UDL Laboratories to install fiber optic lines along right-of-ways throughout the city to allow connection by Rockford Public School District 205.

Committee to consider opting out of video gambling, FOIA changes implemented

Citing DuPage County as a model, Ald. Pat Curran (R-2) introduced a resolution that would leave Rockford out of the state’s expanded video gambling, which is intended to support the state’s $31 billion capital plan. The resolution was referred to the council’s Codes & Regulations Committee for consideration.

Aldermen approved the appointments of Kerry Partridge and Angela Hammer, city attorneys, as the city’s Freedom of Information officers as prescribed by a state law taking effect Jan. 1, 2010.

Committee reports

• Rejecting previously submitted bids for snow removal and recommending that new bids be taken. The re-bidding comes in the wake of the 17th Judicial Circuit Court’s ruling to throw out the city’s contract with Rabine Paving after the lowest bidder, Palka Trucking, filed suit. Meantime, the city is reviewing its bid specifications for various contracts.

• Renewing a two-year agreement with St. Louis-based Safety National Casualty Corp. for excess coverage for workers’ compensation at a rate of 13.5 cents per $100 of payroll. The city’s estimated premium is $79,701 annually.

• Awarding a one-year health insurance stop-loss coverage contract to ING, based in the Netherlands, at a rate of $13.79 for single employee coverage, and $40.99 for family coverage. The city’s estimated administrative and premium costs total $527,073.12 for 2010.

• Approving a $29,800 task order for MWH Americas, Inc., of Broomfield, Colo., for hydraulic analysis related to water main improvements.

• Approving a sole-source contract with Hines & Associates, Inc., of Machesney Park, for utilization review at an estimated cost of $21,780 per year, plus hourly fees related to case management, physician reviews and nurse consultations. The hourly fees are projected to be $57,000 for 2009, with the total expenditure for the year estimated to be $79,000.

• Approving a $20,183.25 engineering agreement with Tennessee-based SEC, Inc., for scour assessments of local bridges.

• Approving an amendment to an intergovernmental agreement with the Greater Rockford Airport Authority. According to Ronald Schultz, a city attorney, the amendment allows Wanxiang America, Inc., to place solar panels in a flood plain owned by the authority.

Public comments

Dyanna Chandler praised the success of the west side’s Weed and Seed program, which is aimed at reducing crime, while improving community services to that end.

“During this past month, group A and B criminal offenses and activity is at the lowest level since the inception of the Weed and Seed designation in June of 2006,”Chandler asserted. “This is possible because of the effective implementation of community policing and the deployment of police personnel.”

Chandler also outlined numerous accomplishments during the past year by the Ellis Heights United Neighborhood Center.

Despite the progress, Chandler urged continued support by the city and community.

“While we are ecstatic with the progress in our neighborhoods, the overwhelming growth of the Weed and Seed project is a continuing engagement and involvement of residents in the process of neighborhood involvement and crime reduction,” she said.

Absence

Ald. Ann Thompson-Kelly (D-7) was absent.

From the Dec. 23-29, 2009 issue

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