By Jim Hagerty
CITY HALL — Rockford City Council Monday approved an annexation agreement connected to the construction of the $505 million Mercyhealth Women’s and Children’s Hospital and Medical Center.
The measure, however, passed without the disputed provision for $200,000 in road repair inspection fees. That part of the agreement was temporarily removed and will be set for future debate.
“The proposed amendment removes the adjustment of the fees set forth in the original annexation agreement (between Mercyhealth, City of Rockford and City of Loves Park). We understand there were questions in the previous language,” City Administrator Todd Cagnoni said.
That language has sparked a debate about whether the $200,000 in estimated fees were included in the previously approved $900,000 fee for the building permit. The cap was negotiated from the initial building permit cost of $1.8 million. Mercyhealth claims the $200,000 was always under the cap.
Officials say tabling that part of the debate will allow the $505 million project to commence without further delay.
“That conversation is continuing,” Cagnoni said. “But it is quickly coming to a point in time when we want to keep the road construction advancing. We thought it was best to move forward with the remaining portions of the agreement set forth in the process and procedure relating to the Illinois Department of Transportation grant. And will be bringing the awarded bid forward in coming weeks.”
Alderman Venita Hervey, D-3, has long opposed the hospital project, claiming it will leave a significant portion of west-side residents without access to health care when a reduction of services is seen at Rockford Memorial Hospital. She objected to the annexation agreement because she fears the city may be taking a big risk as state economic problems threaten future road repair projects.
“There are two provisions in here that are problematic,” Hervey said. “In the event that the General Assembly does not appropriate money for this project, IDOT has an agreement to desist. They’re done. They’d have no further obligation. That is concerning because I am not sure where the state is with their allocations. The way (the agreement) reads, the City of Rockford will be undertaking the expenses and contracting pending the receipts of these funds.”
Under the annexation agreement, which also involves Winnebago County, $10 million in state grant money for road construction would pass through the city. With a more-than- $6 million deficit looming, spending city money when IDOT could potentially walk away from the table is something Hervey said she will not support.
“We cannot be stuck with $10 million,” Hervey added. “I want to make sure IDOT has the money and that the comptroller is authorized to release that money upon our presentation of construction invoices,” Hervey added.
Cagnoni said under the agreement, Mercy would be responsible for paying to develop Lyford Road and Interstate Boulevard, but that a finalized agreement is forthcoming.
Hervey attempted to add an amendment to clarify the proposed amendment but was stopped by City Legal Director Kerry Partridge because an amendment must be introduced in writing per state law.
Hervey, Ann Thompson-Kelly, D-7; Karen Hoffman, D-8; Bill Rose, D-9; and Linda McNeely, D-13; voted “no.” “Yes” votes came from Aldermen Tim Durkee, R-1; Chad Tuneberg, R-3; Kevin Frost, R-4; Frank Beach, R-10; Tuffy Quinonez, D-11; and Joe Chiarelli, R-14. Jonathan Logemann, D-2, was absent.
The Rockford City Council meets on the first and third Monday of every month. Council committee meetings are held on the second and fourth Monday at City Hall. R.