Demolition of flooded homes to begin
• News and notes from the July 6 Rockford City Council meeting
By Stuart R. Wahlin
Northern Illinois Service Co. was unanimously awarded its $390,593 low bid to begin the first phase of demolishing homes along Keith Creek that were flooded in the back-to-back 100-year floods in 2006 and 2007.
The city, through nonprofit Rockford Local Development Corporation (RLDC), used a $10 million line of credit for the 112-home buyout, leaving little in the way of funds to raze the structures, which neighbors in Churchill Park say have attracted crime.
In April, however, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) announced more than $1 million in state assistance toward efforts along Keith Creek. It is estimated the grant would cover the cost to demolish about 36 of the structures.
Quinn noted the grant would also secure a $3 million match in federal funds for hazard mitigation. The city’s long-term vision for flood mitigation is likely to exceed $30 million, according to Mayor Larry Morrissey (I), so the city continues exploring grant opportunities as a means to gradually transform the area into recreational green space.
Midtown funding requesting delayed again
Midtown District President Jim Phelps, who first began requesting funding in February for the volunteer group, will have to wait at least one more week to find out whether Midtown will have the city’s support to keep momentum alive along the Seventh Street corridor.
Earlier this year, city leaders began backing away from issuing tax increment financing (TIF) district funds for groups that have historically depended on them. The change of course can be attributed to the fact most of the city’s TIF districts are not performing up to expectations. Midtown has typically received dollars from the Seventh Street TIF District, which has been an exception to its failing neighbors throughout the city.
Instead of reinvesting the revenue from the TIF into the neighborhood that generated it, however, the city is viewing the Seventh Street TIF District coffer as a means to cut deficits in the TIFs that would otherwise end their 23-year lives in the red.
The city reportedly looked into grant funds, as has been done in response to similar financial requests recently, but the $30,000 Midtown request ultimately moved forward as an expenditure from the Seventh Street TIF. After months of being snubbed by the Planning & Development Committee, Midtown’s request was finally heard by aldermen last week.
Despite overwhelming support at the committee level, a vote by the full council was delayed July 6 after a successful motion by Ald. Pat Curran (R-2) to lay the request over for one week.
• Awarding Head Start janitorial service agreements to Metropolitan Janitorial, of DeKalb, and Peterson Cleaning.
• Awarding contracts, payable with Illinois Department of Public Health grant funds, to Stenz Construction, SRS Construction, Rockford Contractors, Quittschreiber Construction and Quality Renovations as a part of the “Get the Lead Out” campaign.
• Authorizing a concrete and cement materials agreement with Super Mix, Inc., of Belvidere.
Prophet Yusef argued the need for the city to bring employment into the community, specifically pointing to Navistar International Corp. as a promising lead that could result in up to 900 jobs. Public pressure in the Village of Lisle kept the western suburb of Chicago from securing the Navistar headquarters deal in May, and Yusef is imploring aldermen to market Rockford to the company as a strong alternative.
Charlotte Gray described Rockford as a “multi-cultural city in need of a major overhaul, morally and financially.” Gray alleged not all races are treated equally in council decisions.
“All we ask is that you respect our dollars and our ideas as you do your own,” she said.
Christopher Sims responded to recent “Bar Wars” articles published in The Rock River Times, which described division among some downtown business owners after police were called to disperse a large crowd on East State Street in the River District last month.
“The underlying issue in this whole ordeal is race,” Sims asserted, noting downtown businesses are having a hard enough time staying afloat without infighting. “At the core of this black-versus-white dilemma is the failed reasoning and thinking that has plagued the city for decades. We are afraid of our own culture and ethnicity that makes up this city of immigrants and transplants.
“One lone bar downtown is catching slack for being the ‘ethnic bar,’ a place for blacks and other minorities to go to,” Sims added. “The lone bar I speak of has been targeted by knuckleheads and five-starrers who want their way, or no way. I encourage the city to look into this and realize who are causing the real problems in downtown Rockford.”
Ald. Venita Hervey (D-5) was absent.
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