By Stuart R. Wahlin
One week after being sent back to committee for review of how the city should proceed with funding business organizations amid the economic downturn, a proposal to approve a $40,000 work plan and fee-for-service contract with the River District Association returned to the council floor for a one-week layover April 26.
For the past three years, the city has made allocations in the amounts of $20,000 each from the city’s East Side and West Side tax increment financing (TIF) districts toward the budget of the River District Association, which markets downtown locales and events, while also luring investment in the city’s core.
During the April 19 Rockford City Council meeting, the report recommending the funding was returned to committee after a motion by Ald. Ann Thompson-Kelly (D-7), who garnered just enough support to keep the $40,000 proposal from a vote by the full council.
Thompson-Kelly explained the River District Association is just one of many groups that will be coming before the council to request TIF funding, but that there simply aren’t enough dollars to go around during poor economic conditions.
Meantime, aldermen are also considering continued funding in the amount of $30,000 from the city’s East State and Alpine TIF District, which has been requested by the Miracle Mile Rockford business organization.
Local architect and River District Association Board member Gary Anderson urged aldermen to renew the city’s annual $40,000 in funding for the River District Association.
“The River District is really the glue that holds together our downtown businesses,” he said, noting the association advocates for both existing and new businesses in the city’s core. “We’re the go-to, one-stop-shop to those who are not only interested in becoming stakeholders in downtown, but those who are also interested in making changes, improvements and expanding.”
Anderson noted the thousands of volunteer hours the organization’s members have put forth in the interest of the area, as well as the additional responsibilities the group has taken on in recent years.
“Our staff is essential in networking all of these interrelationships into a cohesive business opportunity,” he stressed. “We are part of the grassroots that strengthens our neighborhood and relates to our local governance, which is you, the City of Rockford. We need each other to not only maintain our momentum, but to secure and invest in our future.”
Jason Chance, a business owner, high school teacher and soccer coach, also implored council members to approve the funding.
Chance argued the association drives economic development at a bargain for the city’s traditional $40,000 subsidy.
“Now, more than ever, we have a definite, positive momentum going for downtown. Multiple groups are working together, and the RDA’s experience and expertise is needed at the table to reach success,” he asserted. “The funding to the RDA is an investment. This investment made in the RDA creates a greater return through its facilitation and planning efforts than the dollars…placed in any one project.”
Chance concluded: “The question when you vote on funding the River District should not be whether the support of the funding is necessary. The question should be, ‘Why aren’t we increasing the funding?’”
Funding for the River District Association and Miracle Mile Rockford are expected to be voted on May 3.
→ Granting a special-use permit for the installation of three wind turbines at 920 First Ave.
→ Authorizing the sale of city-owned property at 430 Concord Ave. for a minimum bid of $1,040.
→ Transferring a corner parcel at Meridian and Safford roads to Winnebago County for right-of-way expansion.
→ Approving an agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation for improvements along Sixth Avenue.
→ Authorizing the submission of an application for a Community Development Assistance Program grant, administered through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
→ Awarding a $204,844.40 contract to Hawkins, Inc., of Joliet, for chlorine and hydrofluosilicic acid for water treatment. The same report also awarded a $226,022.10 contract with Carus Corp., of Peru, for manganese sulfate and sodium permanganate.
→ Awarding $11,700 to KLM Excavating, of Markham, for the demolitions of 424 Welty Ave. and 118 N. Hinkley Ave.
→ Awarding a $66,960 contract to Larson & Larson Builders, of Loves Park, for modifications to Well House U35. The project is partially funded by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
→ Ratifying a $453,612 contract with Exelon Energy, the parent company of ComEd, based in Kennett Square, Pa., for street lighting.
→ Approving a $10,000 task order for MWH Americas, Inc., with offices in Chicago, to develop a drought response plan.
→ Amending an engineering agreement with SEC Group, Inc., of McHenry, for an additional $50,000 for work related to bridge inspection, design review and agency advocacy related to the city’s bridge programs, the total for which is not to exceed $100,000.
Rockford Fire Department Division Chief Matt Knott was appointed to replace recently-retired Division Chief Frank Schmitt on the Electrical Commission. The term will expire June 2012.
Jeff Glass, an attorney and Rockford Public Library Board trustee, spoke in favor of a proposed festival ordinance being considered by the council’s Codes and Regulations Committee. The ordinance would permit open containers of alcohol to be consumed during street festivals at the Rockford City Market on Water Street, between Jefferson and State streets, and along the reopened two-block stretch of Main Street, formerly a pedestrian mall, for special events.
“Somebody compared them to [New Orleans’] Bourbon Street,” Glass noted. “That’s not what we’re talking about. These are family-friendly events.”
Although both proposed festival zones are located downtown, Glass asserted such an ordinance would benefit the entire city by luring young professionals to live in Rockford.
The newly-formed Rockford Area Venues and Entertainment (RAVE) Authority fully supports the proposal, according to RAVE Chairman Mike Dunn.
April was proclaimed National Donate Life Month. April 30 was proclaimed Arbor Day. May was proclaimed Stroke Awareness Month.
Ald. John Beck (R-12) was absent.
From the April 28-May 4, 2010 issue