By Stuart R. Wahlin
On a motion by Ald. Doug Mark (R-3), members of the Rockford City Council agreed to a one-week layover of the city’s proposed $110 million spending plan for 2010.
Although the proposed budget is balanced, aldermen will continue discussing additional adjustments, such as the possibility of raising fees and fines related to liquor licenses.
Positions left open in 2009 will remain open in 2010, and capital expenditures have been eliminated as the city continues to struggle with slouching revenues.
The deadline for passage of the budget is March 31.
→ Approving an agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) for improvements along East State Street, between Seventh Street and Fairview Boulevard. Of the estimated $2,323,000 project cost, the city’s share is $48,760.
→ Approving an agreement with IDOT for Phase II engineering and land acquisition related to the roundabout project at North Main and Auburn streets. The state is providing $425,000 for engineering and $1 million for land acquisition. Ald. Ann Thompson-Kelly (D-7) voted “no.”
→ Approving the sales of the city’s four remaining Shopstead program units at 1708, 1712, 1718 and 1720 W. State St. The units will be taken over by tenants operating businesses in the strip mall.
→ Awarding Northern Illinois Service $5,340 and $10,970 for demolitions of 2224 N. Court St. and 1609 Clifton Ave., respectively. The report also awarded J.D. Mark $10,100 for the demolition of 1505 Clifton Ave.
→ Awarding $330,589.82 to William Charles Construction, of Loves Park, for the second phase of Day Avenue reconstruction.
→ Awarding $352,024.52 to William Charles Construction for Hecker avenue reconstruction.
→ Rescinding a previously-awarded bid for commercial garage labor, and awarding the bid instead to Fran Kral for a labor rate of $70 per hour.
→ Approving the sale of vacant lots at 416 and 420 N. Avon St. for a minimum bid of $7,800.
→ Awarding Carahsoft Technology Corporation, of Reston, Va., a $24,349.20 bid for a three-year Symantec anti-virus renewal for city computers.
→ Approving the extension to April 1 of an intergovernmental agreement with Winnebago County Animal Services for animal control. The city continues contracting with the county on a month-by-month basis while a long-term contract is being negotiated.
Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen (R) announced Jan. 27 an ongoing investigation at Winnebago County Animal Services regarding an allegation of the mishandling of funds.
River District Association Executive Director Kimberly Wheeler Johnsen thanked aldermen for approving $332,715.24 March 1 to McClure Engineering Associates for design and construction engineering related to the riverwalk project.
During the March 1 meeting, Ald. Pat Curran (R-2) was unsuccessful in his attempt to delay the project to seek an alternate design for the bridge portion of the endeavor. Aldermen chose to plod ahead with the project, citing a need to complete the riverwalk in conjunction with an expansion project at the nearby museum campus.
“This is a significant step in moving the project forward at a crucial time,” Johnsen said. “A delay would result in a negative snowball effect on multiple organizations, efforts and expenses.”
Johnsen also defended other downtown expenditures related to streetscaping and a study of one-way streets as important factors in attracting new investment, as well as to create jobs.
Dr. Alan Brown, executive director of the Burpee Museum, delivered similar sentiments.
Brown reported that during the museum’s PaleoFest the prior weekend, visitors expressed excitement when viewing conceptual drawings of what the riverwalk will look like once completed.
“I remember one person from Wheaton saying, ‘We’ve been coming here every year, but we will always continue to keep coming back,’ because the impact that they see this facility and riverwalk having on our community,” Brown asserted, noting the museum expansion project is expected to be completed in June. “The riverwalk is just going to enhance what we’re trying to do there.”
Community activist Prophet Yusef offered a number of suggestions for the revitalization of downtown, including more lighting, movie theaters, cooperation between charitable organizations for a downtown bingo hall, weekly events spotlighting veterans at Memorial Hall, keeping the library open seven days per week, ice cream and pizza parlors, and walking beats for police officers in the neighborhood.
Local businessman and downtown property owner Jeffrey King described the downtown area as being rich in opportunities.
“But unless this community makes a conscious decision to also invest, it will make it much more difficult, not only for me to make further investments downtown, but to put the time and energy into the investments I already have, to improve them,” he explained. “I know it takes courage to move forward on projects when a vocal minority is out there—and I hear it strong, very strong. I truly believe that now is the time to rally behind a long-term action plan. To continue to show our community what we want to make Rockford—a sought-after destination for both living and working—I would encourage you, our leaders of our community, to continue to invest your time, your energy and our tax dollars into the downtown corridor.”
King assured aldermen that private investors will follow their lead.
Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) proclaimed Irish Marching Society Week in honor of the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Aldermen Joe Sosnowski (R-1), Pat Curran (R-2) and Linda McNeely (D-13) were absent.
From the Mar. 10-16, 2010 issue