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Revelations at Rockton Village Board Meeting to continue
Posted By Jim Hagerty On July 13, 2011 @ 6:59 am In Local News, News | No Comments
Editor’s note: Issues brought up at the July 5 meeting will be addressed at next Tuesday’s, July 19, meeting, according to Village Board member Zach Baker (R-2), “Basically, what I’m going to put on the agenda is a single title, ‘Public Comments from July 5 meeting.’ That will leave it open to discussion and any action the board wishes to take legally on the topics that were discussed.”
By Jane Carrell
Coordinator, Northern IL Tea Party
The July 5 Rockton Village Board meeting was well attended by local residents, many of whom were aware that the Citizen Comment portion of the meeting would feature more than the normal special requests and promotions.
Residents pulled chairs from the hallway into the board room to listen to the first citizen, Gary Sands, of Sands Nursery, who recounted how the mayor of Rockton had dealt with him concerning his land at the south end of the sports field on Old River Road. Sands had used his retirement savings to buy land that was zoned agricultural. Mayor Dale Adams approached Sands and told him that he would not be able to sell plants on the property without a change in zoning, which Adams said he would oppose, preventing approval by the board. Sands needed to drill a well, which Adams said he would not be allowed to do, nor would Sands be allowed to access his property through the park. Sands told the meeting, “I believed his (the mayor’s) lies for a long time,” but others told Sands that the mayor hoped to acquire the land for municipal purposes.
Sands, whose nursery sponsors the Sands Nursery White Sox ball team, asked the board, “If our use of this property is so undesirable, what will be desirable?” The property owner offered the scenario that a large village equipment facility might be located there, with trucks pulling in and out of the property. Would that be a better alternative than a nursery business, growing and selling plants? Currently, Sands sells plants on Ralston Road, Machesney Park, grown on family lots elsewhere. He looked forward to growing and selling on the same property, planning to erect temporary structures to house plants. Sands does not want to sell his property and will fight to keep it.
The next citizen speaker was Hononegah High School track coach and history teacher, Tom Polaski, who cautioned the board that they needed to have alternatives ready, when things went wrong in the Cannell Subdivision, recently approved by the Winnebago County Board, after two rejections by the Rockton Zoning Board of Appeals. Polaski noted that newspaper accounts had no information about who would be held responsible when septic failed in the subdivision. If the property owners’ association failed to grapple with the problem, would Rockton taxpayers be held responsible? The Hononegah teacher feared that long-term issues had not been addressed for the subdivision.
The third speaker, Dean Mohring, is a trustee on the Rockton Township Board. Mohring raised three issues, which he found pertinent to the current village attorney’s request for a significant increase in its legal fees. The complete statement is attached, but Mohring felt the handling of the two TIFs, Tax Incentive Financing, granted to Fat Wallet and Chemtool, were examples of poor legal work, since they had no “clawback clause” to recover funding, if the parties did not comply with their responsibilities. Fat Wallet moved to Beloit, Wis., after the recent tax hike by the Illinois legislature, having failed to hire the number of people promised, or to put up a building or make the site improvements promised.
But the issue most troubling, Mohring believed, was the attorney’s cooperation in the lawsuit to take over the provision of electric and gas utilities now supplied by Rock Energy Cooperative. Mohring noted that Rockton could not have afforded to purchase the utility, given the village’s debt limit. But the village racked up half a million dollars in court costs and attorney fees in the useless suit.
A fourth speaker, Rory Mulligan, spoke for the preservation of a 160-year old-brick and masonry home on Center Street, calling it the “most significant on the street.” He cited the revenues from tourism and the need for a Historical Preservation Ordinance and a Historical Preservation Commission.
The meeting of board members following the public comment period was uneventful, with votes on several funding issues, including purchase of a new police car for the village. July 14-17 were declared “Class of ’71” days for the Hononegah High School Class of ’71. All votes were 6-0 in favor. Members of Northern Illinois Tea Party were among the residents and interested parties attending.
Public Comments from July 5, 2011 Rockton Village Board Meetting
Public Comment by Gary Sands
Good Evening, My name is Gary Sands.
My wife and I own the property at the south end of the sports field on Old River Road.
I’m here tonight to tell you that it has come to my attention within the last couple of weeks that I have been lied to and you the board members have been lied to by the Mayor…Mr. Dale Adams.
I was told I can’t sell plants on my property without commercial zoning.
I was told I can’t legally access my property through the public access to the park.
I was told I can’t drill a water well.
I was told the property can’t be used for anything, that I have no property rights because the village board dictates what the land can be used for and the mayor controls the board therefore Mr. Adams strongly encouraged me to work out a deal with him to find other property.
You the board have been told that I really regret buying my property and want to sell it as soon as possible….. nothing could be further from the truth.
I do not want to sell my property, I never wanted to sell it and I will not sell my property. I only began to consider making a deal with the mayor after being bullied and coerced by him.
The mayor told me that if I put my property on the open market that it could be on the market for ten years because it can’t be used for anything so I felt there was no other option but to consider a deal he proposed.
The mayor has been working against me from the beginning, and I was gullible enough to believe his lies for a long time.
I’m not here to cause trouble. I just want to be treated like an American Citizen and be permitted to grow landscaping plants on my own land and hopefully sell some.
I used my retirement savings to buy property zoned Agriculture to develop a very small business to supplement my Social Security.
The property is paid for/it belongs to me and my wife.
The taxes are paid in full.
We have acquired permission from the Canadian Pacific Railroad and are completing installation of an electrical hook up.
We intend to acquire permission to drill a water well.
We intend to erect a few temporary structures to protect plants.
We intend to be a proud member of Rockton’s business community.
We belong to the Rockton Chamber of Commerce.
We sponsor the Sands Nursery White Sox of the Stateline Pony League.
We will gradually turn our property in to the most beautiful place in Rockton.
Let me ask you this, if our use of this property is so undesirable, what in the world is desirable? Maybe a public works building with big trucks with the addition of a water well that can be drilled by the Mayors direction but not by a man on his own private property.
I ask that the Board please consider and respect the value that we offer the community, and most of all respect our personal property rights as American citizens.
Public comment by Dean Mohring
My name is Dean Mohring.
According to the newspapers, the Nicolosi Law Firm is requesting a significant increase in their legal fees for the Village of Rockton because hourly fees have not been increased for a number of years. The quality of their service should also be a consideration when the board votes on this issue.
The Village Board should consider the following issues:
The Village of Rockton vs. Rock Energy CoOp, regarding the failed Court attempts to force Rock Energy to sell their distribution system for gas and electricity. A note for $500,000 at 4.6% interest, ($20,995 due quarterly), was secured to finance a feasibility study. It was stated that the Village could provide lower cost and better service than Rock Energy. According to the Village’s latest financial statement on page 39 it states that “The Village of Rockton is subject to a debt limit of 8.625% of its assessed valuation of $154,639,235. As of May 31, 2010 the Village had $7,198,904 of remaining legal debt margin.”
If this is true, Rockton could not finance the purchase of Rock Energy assets within Rockton. Why then did the legal representatives continue to pursue court action? In reviewing past Village Board minutes, I can find no roll call votes of the Trustees authorizing any legal action. The Village has spent $533,034 in pursuit of the utilities according to Adams, but in reality the total has to be nearly $1,000,000 since the taxpayers pay for both sides of the argument. Electric and gas bills reflect those legal costs incurred by Rock Energy. The franchise fee imposed by the Village goes right back into your utility bills as well.
Wagon Wheel TIF – Fat Wallet said he would have 100 people working there when he moved into the Rockton facility; when he moved to Beloit, Wis., his employment was 54 people. He came to the board meeting with a story board showing a beautiful office building. Neither of these came to pass. He is gone, and there was no “claw back clause” for non-performance. Currently, there is a $564,000 note at 4.06% from the First National Bank, unsecured and callable at any time. $20,828 of interest and principal is due semi-annually.
Chemtool TIF – Mr. Athans came to the Village with a story board showing a beautiful office building that was to be his headquarters. His operations were to be consolidated at the Rockton facility. Numerous construction jobs were to result from this move. Four hundred to 500 employees were to be at this site. A beautiful park was to be given to the Village. He said he needed a TIF to come to Rockton, but he is financing his own TIF.
There are two $1,000,000 notes and another $6,500,000 note. The interest rates are 6% and 8%, which seem excessive. The Village of South Beloit got 4.5% on a half-million note at about the same time. Contractors were hired from outside of this area, new workers are hired out of a Rockford employment service, no park, and no “claw back” provision for non-performance. Neither of these TIFs currently represents what was proposed when they were initiated. Rockton taxpayers are being shortchanged.
Interview with Rockton Mayor Adams
Editor’s Note: Following is an interview with Rockton Mayor Dale Adams by The Rock River Times Editor and Publisher Frank Schier.
Frank Schier: I understand you had a very interesting comment period tonight. A fellow [Gary Sands] wants to start up a nursery on Old River Road and feels that you have another design with the city for that, and that you are being obstructionist in regard to his going forward with that project. What comment do you have on that?
Dale Adams: Well, we’ve been talking to Mr. Sands for probably a year now. The Village Board members didn’t think that that would be a good location for a nurser. I can show you. (The area was) originally purchased from Alliant before Rock Energy got the electric utility.
Schier: For a substation.
Adams: It was built originally for an electrical substation. The original access for the substation was way up and down with an easement. Since then, we’ve petitioned the Illinois Commerce Commission and got approval from the railroad to put a rail crossing in (at an) considerable expense of ours. I think it was like $2 – $300,000. With the stipulation to be for recreational purposes for this Rockton Athletic Field, a 60-acre athletic field site. We didn’t know when the original conversation was with Mr. Sands because it’s zoned Ag. That he would be allowed to have like a fruit stand-type thing, and an Ag zoning thing. I didn’t think there was any commercial activity allowed in an Ag zone thing. So it was after the fact that we found that out. But it’s still primarily a recreational area there, and we would like to keep it some sort of recreational area.
Schier: But he has purchased the property, and it is zoned Agricultural.
Adams: It is zoned Ag, and he has purchased it. He’s been talking about drilling a well there. Now, we don’t control it. It’s the Winnebago County Health Department that controls where wells are drilled. We have a water line, a municipal water line that’s pretty much adjacent. It’s just on the other side of the tracks from this property. So I don’t know if the health department will let him drill a well with municipal water supplies so close or not. That’s– you know, that’s kind of out of our hands.
Schier: They have no sewer there, either?
Adams: No water or sewer, that’s correct.
Schier: Do you anticipate any legal action or formal action by the Rockton Board?
Adams: I don’t know what it would be. I mean, we’re not going to change the zoning. It’s zoned Ag. I would still like to continue to work with Mr. Sands and find a better location for his nursery operation. In fact, we found a better location for him, and the last time I talked to him, which was a couple weeks ago, he was fine with it. It’s up on McCurry Road, here, where we are.
Schier: Right here.
Adams: This is already zoned Commercial, pretty good access to 251. The seller has agreed to sell four acres here to him.
Schier: How many acres does he have here?
Adams: It’s actually seven acres, but again, there’s some Ag. He’s got seven acres. This is shovel-ready; it’s got water right here. Sewer is available, but I don’t think in a nursery operation, sewer is necessary.
Schier: What’s this path here?
Adams: This is Highway 2. There’s no access. The state won’t allow any access off Highway 2, so the only access, other than this farm crossing, is the recreation crossing.
Schier: Wasn’t their access right off River Road?
Adams: The only access is the recreational crossing or the farm crossing. Only two points of access.
Schier: In other words, you say that’s all curb but no curb cut?
Adams: No, it’s railroad tracks.
Schier: Interesting. But there is public access through that station? The public can get access there now, and you could get to his property from that spot?
Adams: You could, although I don’t know what that would do to what’s actually going to be in our grant. We paid for this, and we have to do a little research to see if that’s restricted only for recreation purposes. I don’t know if Commercial is going to be allowed or not.
Schier: Grandfather easements.
Adams: Well, you can’t landlock anything.
Schier: In common usage.
Adams: I mean, at the very least, even if he wouldn’t be allowed to use this, he’d have to use that – we call it a farm crossing up here, it’s pretty true.
Schier: So, you can’t landlock it?
Adams: Again, what we would really like to is negotiate with him, purchase his property, extend our park down. We’d be able to get another–probably a ball diamond, maybe a soccer field in here. Find a better place for him with better visibility, better soil. You know, again, if he adamantly wants to use that property.
Schier: What property was purchased by Rockton from Ray Ferguson?
Adams: This was all Ray Ferguson’s property at one point. And that was probably back– I don’t know, ‘97, ‘98 maybe.
Schier: And that was the only piece of property that was purchased from Ferguson or was there other property?
Adams: It was either Rock Energy or Alliant actually. Alliant Energy bought this and paid quite a bit for it, as I remember. And then we got a DNR grant for $600,000 and bought the 60 acres. Actually, it was a 50-50 matching grant, I think we had to come up with $300,000– making up the $300,000 for the 60 acres. And this was seven acres. So it would be a total of 67 acres. And I think that’s the only parts that we ever bought from Ray.
From the July 13-19, 2011 issue
Article printed from The Rock River Times: http://rockrivertimes.com
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