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City provides $10k gift to OTW, courtesy of Midtown
Posted By Staff On August 18, 2010 @ 6:00 am In Online Exclusives | 1 Comment
News and notes from the Aug. 16 Rockford City Council meeting
By Stuart R. Wahlin
Aug. 16, aldermen approved a $10,000 allocation from the Redevelopment Fund, established in 1978 as a means to support MetroCentre operations, toward security for the On the Waterfront festival. The resolution prevailed after a failed motion by Ald. Frank Beach (R-10) to instead stipulate that the $10,000 eventually be repaid.
The move comes one week after Ald. Joe Sosnowski (R-1) persuaded colleagues to reduce funding for The Element by $10,000. The Element, a downtown-oriented group, had been expecting a $60,000 allocation that night from the Seventh Street Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District, but Sosnowski suggested the $10,000 reduction could cover the $9,600 deficit faced for festival security.
Legal Director Patrick Hayes indicated he did not believe such an expenditure would be a TIF-eligible expense, so city leaders got creative in the week that followed. Just as funding for The Element could legally be funneled out of Midtown’s successful Seventh Street TIF District into adjacent ones, thereby falling into downtown coffers, so, too, could those dollars be shifted into the Redevelopment Fund, which can be tapped for a variety of purposes.
Beach, however, has a problem with that practice.
“The money is coming from a TIF,” Beach noted, despite the assertion the dollars are coming from the Redevelopment Fund. “The TIF area—the money that’s there, that increment, is generated by the businesses in that TIF. And to just pick that money up and to give it away, I think, is really an insult to the businesses that have invested their monies to build that TIF and that increment.”
Beach suggested the allocation be labeled a loan instead. But others, like Ald. John Beck (R-12), remarked that On the Waterfront has made tremendous strides recently in being weaned off city subsidies.
“This year, we’ve basically gotten it down to a total of about $40,000,” Beck noted, “with the understanding that next year it will be down to nothing, with the exception of, maybe, some in-kind support that we are able to provide them that doesn’t result in direct cost to the city.”
Evidencing the city’s creative use of the fruits of Midtown’s labors, Beck explained: “While the monies do originate from the Seventh Street TIF, they are going into the Redevelopment Fund for a different expenditure that is being currently paid for by the Redevelopment Fund, which then frees up $10,000 from the Redevelopment Fund to go to On the Waterfront. So, it is legal. It is legitimate.”
Be that as it may, Midtown District President Jim Phelps says it’s just plain wrong.
“This shell game is an affront to the taxpayers and undermines the necessary trust that we need to give to our elected representatives to make government work for the people,” Phelps stated. “To game the system in this way sets the stage for further abuses of trust and continues to create the regressive, negative attitude of the people to progress. Why would anyone want to pay any more taxes to this municipal body? Why would anyone, given these conditions, be supportive of the ad valorem tax of home rule?
“It is a matter of ethics,” he added. “If your mother wouldn’t approve of it, for goodness’ sake, don’t do it.”
Ald. Ann Thompson-Kelly (D-7) seemed to agree.
“You know, it’s getting to the point where we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul,” she said, echoing previous sentiments expressed by Phelps. Redevelopment dollars are not intended “to finance a party,” Thompson-Kelly added.
“We’ve gone along with the decision of this administration, and it’s put us in the red, in the hole” she argued. “We have robbed our TIFs. They’re in the red. Now, we’re robbing the community development money. That’s going in the red. …This is not a free-for-all, and that’s exactly how we’re treating it.”
Thompson-Kelly agreed On the Waterfront has made progress in getting by with less, but that the giveaways must stop. She offered her support of Beach’s motion to lend the money instead.
Ald. Lenny Jacobson (D-6), however, argued the hundreds of thousands of people the event draws are worth the investment, because of the revenue the visitors generate for businesses. He also pointed to the churches and nonprofits that depend on the festival for fund-raising activities.
Ald. Doug Mark (R-3), whose ward covers a large portion of downtown, agreed, adding: “This group has saved, in one year’s time, over $200,000. They’ve reinvented themselves as a festival for the entire, whole region.”
Beach countered: “We’re only $5 million behind this year. Our employees are being laid off. Staff is being trimmed. We have a serious problem down here, and we have to get serious about our money.”
Beach asserted his approval of the annual event, but said: “They’ve got to pay their own way, like everybody else is paying their own way. And to lift it out of the TIF that was designed to redevelop our areas, and to say: ‘We’ll just take it right out of the Seventh Street TIF. Here it is,’ without any responsibility to the businesses that are paying that tax—because that’s exactly what it is.”
Beach’s motion to amend the allocation into a loan failed, with only Venita Hervey (D-5), Thompson-Kelly, Karen Elyea (D-11) and Bill Robertson (I-14) joining him in support. The original motion prevailed, despite “no” votes from Hervey, Beach, Elyea and Linda McNeely (D-13).
→ Awarding $1,098,063.44 to Loves Park-based William Charles Construction, formerly Rockford Blacktop, for emergency repairs to Sandy Hollow Road.
→ Awarding $29,000 to Coyle-Varland Insurance Agency for insurance brokerage services. The contract has four one-year extension options for subsequent years.
→ Awarding a $28,700 design engineering agreement to Arnold Lundgren Associates for work related to the Larchmont subdivision water main.
Aldermen approve 5 percent raise for interim HR director appointee
After 40 minutes of debate, mostly the result of confusion regarding procedure amid a rat’s nest of motions, aldermen voted 11-3 in favor of an amended motion that will direct the mayor to appoint an interim director for the Human Resources Department. The measure also allows for a 5 percent increase above the appointee’s current salary for the additional duties assumed. Aldermen Beck, Elyea and Hervey voted “no.”
In related news, aldermen voted 11-3 against the appointment of Deputy City Administrator Julia Valdez to the position, but Valdez is still likely to be appointed at the mayor’s discretion under the aforementioned action taken by the council. The mayor had proposed the appointment of Valdez would come with a $34,000 raise on top of her $80,000 salary. The previous HR director was paid a $124,000 salary. Beck, Elyea and Hervey cast the only “yes” votes.
LandWhite deal laid over
Ald. Jacobson successfully moved to lay over a vote on whether to approve a special-use permit that would allow construction of a 158-unit apartment complex in a commercial district at 1277 Asche Ave and 15XX Sandy Hollow Road, behind the Southgate Plaza shopping center. Jacobson opposes the development as a quality of life issue, arguing the residential development would be too dense, and that the area is intended for commercial. LandWhite Developers, however, say they need the project to be approved to qualify for federal funds they will need to make their planned rehabilitation of the former Church School, 1419 Blaisdell St., a reality as well. The two developments, with a combined scope estimated at more than $25 million, depend on one another to obtain the necessary loans and tax credits, they say.
Meantime, an agreement for LandWhite to purchase Church School from the city was also laid over.
The Rev. Earl Dotson Sr., Alberta Jones and Glen Patterson argued during public comments that Church School should be redeveloped as a community learning center, not as a senior living facility, as the developers plan. LandWhite has also promised to make improvements at Southgate Plaza if the development is approved.
In May, after the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) recommended denial of their request, meaning a supermajority vote in favor would be required for approval by the City Council, LandWhite withdrew its petition to start the process over. The ZBA’s initial recommendation for denial was because the petition required four favorable votes. Two ZBA members were absent, and only three of the five present voted in favor. During LandWhite’s second pass through the ZBA, enough votes were obtained to garner a recommendation for approval to aldermen, meaning that a simple majority vote is all that is needed for the special-use permit to be issued.
The week of Aug. 16 was proclaimed Black Family Reunion Week. Aug. 22 was proclaimed West High School’s 70th Anniversary.
Ald. Hervey presided in the vacationing Mayor Larry Morrissey’s (I) absence.
From the Aug. 18-24, 2010 issue
Article printed from The Rock River Times: http://rockrivertimes.com
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