Guest Column: Real problems and real solutions for the Roscoe Sports Complex

August 15, 2012

By Sue Duhigg, Jackie Russell and Sally Wallace
Hononegah County Estates Residents

First and foremost, our concern regarding the Roscoe Sports Complex has been for the Roscoe Township to create a separate entrance to the park to alleviate heavy traffic concerns and maintain the integrity and safety of the neighborhood.

As we sat through the Roscoe Township Board of Trustees’ meeting Aug. 8, we listened to the businesslike, rather disinterested tone of voices as the trustees and supervisor discussed the various items on the agenda. It was not until the update on the Old Stone Bridge that their voices became warm and took on an interested tone. Trustee Tom Hawes gave an emotion-tinged account of the work being done to restore the bridge.

The trustees questioned the progress of the repairs to the bridge, never mentioning cost. Hawes commented that the new stones, which are machine cut, must be carefully selected to match in color and then hand chipped to match the existing stones, which were cut in 1882.

Sadly, the warmth and attention of the bridge discussion was in complete contrast to there appearing to be a lack of interest when neighbors made their public comments about the contaminated groundwater and entrance/traffic situations at the proposed Roscoe Sports Complex.

During the public comment section of the meeting, one of the neighbors, Jamie Johnson, was asking questions about the plans and asked the trustees if they had contacted the Catholic Diocese (because they own adjacent land), and she was not given a straight answer. She then asked for the name of the person they called, and was rudely cut off by Trustee Todd Piper. Additionally, another neighbor, Dave Yeske, was rudely cut off by Piper when his three minutes was up.

Also, at the Aug. 8, Trustees’ meeting, Hawes couldn’t even show us the common courtesy of facing us. He kept his back to the audience during the entire meeting, even when concerned citizens were making their public comments. We felt this was a pretty poor showing of public manners and leadership on his part.

It saddened us that the trustees appear to be more interested in stone and mortar than the quality of life of the citizens they represent.

This lack of interest in the concerns of the citizens is so frustrating. We collected 322 signatures from our neighbors asking the township to create an alternate entrance into the sports complex, which would relieve the neighborhood of the burden of an incursion of several hundred to a 1,000 extra cars per week. We personally delivered to the trustees a copy of the petition and photos of the exposure of the neighboring homes to the park. We received no response, and no mention of this information was made at the August meeting.

In working toward a solution to the entrance problem, Steve Schultz, Roscoe’s county board member, met with Wayne Lenell, the CFO of the Rockford Catholic Diocese, to seek a solution to the problem. Lenell expressed the Diocese’s willingness to grant an easement to the township for a driveway across the Diocese property located on Hononegah Road, going so far as to create a map showing the new entrance along with their future plans.

A further meeting took place between Schultz, Mrs. Renee McNitt, Roscoe Township Supervisor, and David Yeske, former county board member, to discuss the township willingness to work with the Diocese. As of Aug. 9, McNitt had not gotten back in touch with Mr. Lenell. This was verified when we called Lenell Aug. 9, and spoke with him about the proposed plan. We have heard no further discussion by the township regarding the proposed plan.

At the July 11, board meeting, many concerned citizens expressed concerns about water and drainage issues. Many of the concerns dealt with the fact that this sports complex is located within a groundwater contamination superfund site.

The township repeatedly asserts that the park is not in a superfund site and at the July 11, meeting, McNitt spoke to WREX and stated that the water was completely safe, but the trustees agreed to perform VOC (volatile organic chemical) testing on the well. We were told they would share the results with us when they became available.

As a result, we filed a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request with the Winnebago County Health Department Aug. 1, for the well permit and upon its receipt, discovered that the non-potable irrigation well had nine restrictions. The most concerning of these restrictions include no human contact with the water, no cooling showers or mist sprays, and no food service without an alternate potable water supply. At the August board meeting, McNitt acknowledged the testing had taken place, but they would be testing the water for whatever the water expert said the water should be tested for.

In conversations with Bill Ryan, site manager for the Evergreen Manor Superfund site, he agreed that VOC testing should be performed now and periodically in the future. Another concern is for the homes on the three streets in Evergreen Manor, which are still on private wells. How will this irrigation well affect their water supply?

Our fear is that this well will awaken a sleeping giant by drawing contaminated water into the irrigation well. If this occurs, there will be only one responsible party for the contamination, and that responsibility will rest solely with Roscoe Township.

There are viable solutions to both the parking and the water problems.

The Diocese has agreed to an easement along the west side of their property, which would create a shared entrance. The proposed driveway is not that much longer than the driveways currently proposed by the township. If the township would stop spending the money on the planned driveways and spend it on the new driveway, it wouldn’t cost that much more to create the proposed driveway. Grants could be found to pay for this.

The estimated number of cars that would be coming through our neighborhoods to bring kids to practice and attend games is huge. We don’t think it is too much to ask that our neighborhood be treated just like everyone else’s neighborhood. The other people living in Roscoe or Rockton or South Beloit wouldn’t want an extra several hundred to 1,000 cars coming into their neighborhoods on a weekly basis. Why should the residents of Hononegah Country Estates and Evergreen Manor have to suffer this incursion of traffic?

A better solution to the water problem would be to stop drilling the wells. Save that money on drilling wells, maintaining the wells, VOC testing, and put in public water. That way, the kids can have drinking fountains, cooling showers and spray mists to keep cool during practices, and there can be concessions. None of that can happen the way things stand right now. The North Park Public Water District offered to allow the township to connect an extension to an existing water supply instead of looping the water main through the property. This plan would be substantially cheaper than the $200,000-plus cost the township has quoted as their reason for not seeking public water for the sports complex.

Roscoe Township needs to act on our concerns. They are the elected stewards of our community. They were elected by the citizens of Roscoe Township to represent ALL of the citizens of Roscoe Township, not a select few, and especially not to further their own personal interests.

This million-dollar sports complex deserves to be built the right way the first time. We want to work with the Roscoe Township to make these solutions a reality.

As late-breaking last words, per Todd Marshall, the pollution control supervisor at the Winnebago County Health Department, his department is going to test the water from the current well for VOCs and any other contaminates at the proposed Roscoe Sport Complex. This decision bypasses Roscoe Township’s inaction and provides another solution.

From the Aug. 15-21, 2012, issue

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