Belvidere Planning 2
By Bob Balgemann
BELVIDERE – Boone County and the city of Belvidere have operated a joint planning department for 40 years or more. Now, the county wants to look at having its own department and has given the city 90 days’ notice that it intends to terminate the long-standing agreement.
In an 8-4 vote Feb. 17, the county board approved giving notice.
Board member Sherry Giesecke, who supported the motion, said the action would give the county 90 days in which to explore its options.
“This is a bad agreement,” she said of what was proposed to be terminated.
Later in the meeting she said she didn’t know how some people knew how many would be hired by the county and what they would be told to do. “Those aren’t facts,” she said.
The department currently consists of Interim Planning Director Kathy Miller, who is retiring soon; Associate Planner Gina DelRose and Administrative Assistant Catherine Crawford.
There were two other, related 8-4 votes during the board meeting.
Board member Cathy Ward’s motion to table the resolution failed by that vote, while an amendment to remove language from the agreement passed by the same count. Wording that was removed stated that in concert with terminating the agreement, the county would offer planning services to Belvidere city and four villages in Boone County.
Belvidere Planning 1Board Chairman Bob Walberg and members Giesecke, Jeff Carlisle, Denny Ellingson, Karl Johnson, Raymond Larson, Cory Lind and Brad Stark supported all of the actions. Dissenting were Sherry Branson, Kenny Freeman, Craig Schultz and Ward.
Debate starts early
There was plenty of debate over the issue and Ward actually started it Feb. 15, when she appeared before the Belvidere City Council to let aldermen and Mayor Mike Chamberlain know about the county board vote.
She said the split was being led by Chairman Walberg and that it was all about defeating a wind farm in the county. She predicted a 10-2 county board vote “in favor of this divorce. Kenny Freeman and I are the only ones who don’t think this is a good idea,” she said.
Her comments were similar during the county board meeting.
In addition, she said it had not been shown that the county would save money by having its own planning department. She said she would miss Kathy Miller’s expertise and that she had not heard anything about the county retaining DelRose.
Board member Branson questioned voting on the issue that night, saying the county didn’t know how much a new planning department would cost. Board member Schultz wondered where the money would come from.
Ninety percent of the work done by the planners is for the city, board member Stark said. Splitting the department would eliminate the subsidy the county had been providing the city for so many years.
“An employee can only have one boss,” board member Ellingson said. “Kathy Miller has said how difficult that is. The county and city (comprehensive) plans are so different.”
Back and forth; a letter
There was an exchange between Walberg and Freeman, when the board member read from statement he received from a constituent.
It began with the resident saying Walberg had always been against the planning department. That caused the chairman to interrupt, saying personal attacks were not appropriate.
But Freeman countered, “You are not the king; you are not the emperor.” He added that if he could not speak on behalf of a constituent, he didn’t need to be there.
“All I can ask is that you be civil,” Walberg concluded.
Later, he said he was disappointed by “all the animosity” and that he thought a split actually could help the city and county work more closely together.
His thinking about working together was reflected in a letter he wrote to Mayor Chamberlain on Feb. 18. It read, in part:
“I know we disagree on the future direction of the department but I believe each government having its own employees will improve our working relationship related to planning matters.
“This doesn’t have to be a negative in our intergovernmental relationship. On the contrary, having employees with clear lines of direction and authority will improve the services we deliver to our residents.”
Walberg and County Administrator Ken Terrinoni reportedly met with Mayor Chamberlain on Feb. 18 to discuss the county board action.

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