City hopeful for $1M grant toward Keith Creek flood recovery

April 7, 2010

By Stuart R. Wahlin
Staff Writer

Rockford City Council unanimously adopted a resolution directing the Public Works Department to apply for a $1 million grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) for disaster relief.

In recent weeks, Keith Creek Neighborhood Association President Mike Brackett has implored aldermen to move ahead with plans to demolish vacant homes the city purchased after the back-to-back, hundred-year floods of 2006 and 2007.

Brackett said the boarded-up homes have drawn gangs, prostitution and other ills to the neighborhood.

In February, aldermen stopped short of authorizing a $9 million spring bond issuance related to the Keith Creek Flood Mitigation Program’s acquisition and demolition of homes impacted by the floods. The proposed bond issuance was intended to pay off a $10 million line of credit for the program, because the Associated Bank note was to come due in June, but a 60-day extension was later granted.

The bonds were to be backed by the 1-percentage-point sales tax approved by voters three years ago. Unless renewed by another referendum, the tax increase has a five-year expiration date. The only other means identified to back the bonds was the already-struggling general fund, prompting council members to send the issue back to the committee level to try to find alternatives.

If Rockford is approved for the grant, 36 of the vacant homes could be demolished.

According to Storm Water Program Manager Brian Eber: “The city has committed to removing 112 homes in the Keith Creek neighborhood in order to develop green space and a more sustainable storm-water management plan for Keith Creek. This would drastically reduce the flood risk to the remaining homes and businesses.”

Meantime, the city is also reportedly in talks with YouthBuild Rockford to discuss the possibility of deconstructing flooded houses, which would divert much of the debris from the landfill, and at a lower cost than demolition. Carpenters Local 792, however, has filed a federal lawsuit against Comprehensive Community Solutions, Inc., the nonprofit parent organization of the YouthBuild Rockford program, arguing such publicly-funded deconstruction projects should be subject to prevailing wage requirements. But if prevailing wages are applied, leaders say, deconstruction becomes unfeasible.

Ordinances

→ Extending by one year an intergovernmental agreement with Winnebago County for animal control services at a cost of $453,000—$125,000 less than last year. The city had previously been approving month-by-month extensions while a new long-term deal is being negotiated. The negotiations will continue during the yearlong contract. Meantime, an investigation into the alleged mishandling of funds by Winnebago County Animal Services is ongoing.

→ Revising the city’s Special Events Ordinance to reflect permit fee increases agreed upon during the council’s recent budget approval.

Committee reports

→ Awarding a $16,323 bid by Ken Lugibihl Auto & Truck Services, of Bluffton, Ohio, for the purchase of a reconditioned 1997 GMC digger/boom truck.

→ Recommending the award of bids related to traffic signs and posts. IBIS Signs, of Butler, Pa., was awarded $9,454 for U-posts and $37,296.80 for finished signs. Allied Municipal Supply, of Taylorville, was awarded $11,070 for square posts. Traffic Parking & Control Co., Inc., of Brown Deer, Wis., was awarded $439 for blank signs.

→ Awarding an estimated $30,000 process improvement consulting contract to Collaborative Solutions Initiative, Inc., payable through a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

→ Awarding a $65,113.28 design engineering and construction observation contract to Carroll Engineering & Associates, of Belvidere, and Rosario S. Tarara Land Survey for work related to city-wide alley reconstruction.

→ Approving a redevelopment agreement with Stiltz Holdings, LLC. Under the agreement, the city will provide up to $176,000 on a pay-as-you-go basis from the River District North Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District fund toward the redevelopment of 815 N. Church St., a stilted office building that has been vacant for nine years.

Proclamations

April was proclaimed Fair Housing Month and Great American Cleanup Month. The week of April 12 was proclaimed Architecture Week.

Absences

Aldermen Doug Mark (R-3), Lenny Jacobson (D-6) and Bill Timm (R-9) were absent.

 From the April 7-13, 2010 issue

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