By Stuart R. Wahlin
During its Aug. 26 meeting, the Winnebago County Board will conduct a public hearing regarding the proposed issuance of $4,090,000 in bonds “for the purpose of buying real property and paying expenses associated with certain renovations/remodeling of the building to be used by the Winnebago County Health Department and incidental thereto, to pay bond discount, capitalized interest, reserve requirements and legal, other financing and related administrative fees and costs.”
The bond issuance could be forced to a Nov. 2 referendum, however, if at least 7.5 percent of eligible county voters file a petition with the county clerk within 30 days of the public notice, which was published in the Rockford Journal in the middle of August.
The issuance of debt is related to the board’s December decision to purchase the City Plaza, 555 N. Court St. in Rockford, for the building’s $775,000 market value as part of a plan to consolidate three Health Department facilities in one central location. Remodeling and upgrades to the building, much of which has already been approved by board members, will cost millions of dollars, however.
Earlier in August, McDermaid Roofing was awarded a $167,397 bid to replace the building’s roof. $245,500 for architectural services related to remodeling was awarded to Richard L. Johnson Associates, Inc., in March, followed by a $2,425,000 contract to Rockford Structures Construction for the physical work. In July, $405,464 was allocated for Trane, of Madison, Wis., to replace the four-story building’s heating and cooling systems.
Steve Schultz (R-2) and John F. Sweeney (R-14) are the only board members to have consistently voted against the expenditures, including the initial purchase of the building.
According to Mike Bacon, public health administrator, 60 percent of the purchase price would be covered by grant dollars. Property taxes and increased fees are expected to knock out the remaining 40 percent. The honoring of existing leases should be enough to cover debt service payments, officials anticipate.
Also during the Aug. 26 meeting, board members will vote whether to increase fees for the Health Department’s Environmental Division.
For a full report of the Aug. 26 meeting, see our online edition.
Zoning request involving septic to face a vote in September
In other upcoming board news, a petition to rezone approximately 10 acres at 56XX N. Main Road in Owen Township from agricultural to commercial is expected to return to the board floor Sept. 23 after having been laid over several times since July at the request of the petitioners.
The board’s Zoning Committee voted 4-3 to recommend denial of the request, despite a unanimous recommendation for approval by the Zoning Board of Appeals. The request is in conflict with the county’s 2030 land-use plan, which discourages new developments on septic systems.
Because the development is not planned for connection to public infrastructure, the City of Rockford has filed as a legal objector, which would mean the petition would require a supermajority—at least 21 of 28 votes in favor—for approval.
Todd Cagnoni, deputy director of the city’s Community Development Department’s Construction & Development Services Division, explained, “This property is within the city’s future urban development [area], and we want to ensure that the property develops in a positive manner on this important gateway to our community.”
When the issue came to the board floor for a vote Aug. 12, Zoning Committee Chairman John F. Sweeney (R-14) explained he’d received a letter from the petitioner’s attorney, Barton Henbest, requesting that the matter be laid over until the Sept. 23 meeting as negotiations continue among the city and petitioner.
“We are currently in discussions with the property owner and evaluating solutions that meet both our concerns,” Cagnoni indicated, noting that, for now, the city’s objection still stands.
From the Aug. 25-31, 2010 issue