Labor Day parade stays put, city acquires former school headquarters

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

The annual Labor Day parade through Rockford will happen again this year, after aldermen voted Monday, Aug. 11, 9-2 to host the event downtown.

Although parade permits usually come with little discussion, this year’s vote came after an almost hour-long debate resulting in two leaders shooting it down.

Last week, the council objected to a $100 fee for politicians to join the Labor Day March and that each be required to have a labor union sponsor alongside. The measure was sent back to committee after some leaders said the fee should be waived as the City of Rockford picks up a more-than $11,000 tab for extra police and security barricades for the parade. Organizers also threatened to move the event to another city.

The item came out of committee last night and all but Seventh Ward Ald. Ann Thompson-Kelly and Ald. Venita Hervey, D-5, voted against it. Both said the event’s union sponsorship excludes non-union workers.

In other city business, aldermen voted Monday to demolish the former Rockford Public Schools Administration Building at 201 S. Madison St.

According to an agreement between District 205 and the City of Rockford, the school district will raze the building and give the land to the city to use for parking for the upcoming Ingersoll building sports complex. In turn, the city agrees to pay for new sidewalks at Froberg Elementary School and tear down six houses near East High School to make room for a new fieldhouse. The city will also give the district 500 tons of road salt and plant trees on RPS property as part of the in-kind trade.

The former district headquarters was built in 1885 as Rockford High School. It was Rockford’s single high school until 1940, when East and West high schools opened. The city has already voted to purchase the old Rockford Watch Company complex to make way for the sports complex. The city will spend $580,000 on that building.

Construction on the Rockford Watch Company building, at 319-325 S. Madison St., was completed in November 1875. The company built handmade time pieces at the location until 1915.

There was no vote on the city’s chicken ban Monday. Leaders are expected to discuss the measure at the committee level before mulling a change. As it stands, it is illegal to keep chickens in the city. Those who want the ban lifted say it will help accommodate a growing trend of hatching farm-fresh eggs. Opponents agree with the ban and that allowing the practice of raising chickens will only come with noise, smell and possible health risks.

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