By Bob Balgemann


Boone County Board Chairman Bob Walberg has changed the way the public addresses issues during board meetings.

In the past, speakers had the option of expressing their views at the beginning of the meeting or when the agenda item they were interested in came up for board discussion.

Now, public comments will be limited to the start of the meeting, with speakers having two minutes each.

Chairman Walberg said he had received a lot of criticism for the lack of discipline during the public comments portion of the monthly meeting.

“It goes on and on,” he said. “When it’s [commenting] put in the middle of the meeting, there seems to be a different atmosphere than is supposed to happen. So, we’ll do all the public comments at this time. Everybody will get two minutes.”

He has attempted to bring order to meetings with emotionally-charged topics. However, some of those in attendance have ignored his requests.

For example:

He has asked that there be no applauding when something is said that people like. In many causes applauding has continued.

He has asked that comments not become personal. Sometimes that doesn’t happen, with board members having been told they will be remembered when they’re up for re-election.

He has asked that speakers conclude their remarks when their time limit has been reached. That request often is ignored.

Sherry Bartelt led off the public comments portion of the July 20 meeting and said that after looking at the board that night she would go home and have a shot of whiskey “because you are so disgusting.”

The board represents a group, not the people of Boone County, she claimed.

Her issue was the public safety sales tax, which was on the agenda as a discussion item only. She didn’t like the way the county spent money to meet shortfalls and to pay off the county jail, which she said was promised to be done by 2018.

Pamela Gustafson wasn’t happy, either. Her issue was the county not returning rumble strips to Squaw Prairie Road, as it approaches the intersection with Poplar Grove Road from the west.

Opponents don’t live at the intersection, as she and her neighbor do, and they aren’t affected by the accidents that occur there, she said.

Apparently, the noise caused by vehicles approaching the intersection is more important than safety, she added.

She concluded that it’s too bad that it can’t be shown how many accidents were avoided over the many years that rumble strips were at that location.

Former county board member Marion Thornberry accused the current board of lying to residents about the public safety sales tax.

“It was clearly stated in 1999 that the [tax] money was to be used to pay off the [jail] bonds only,” he said. “That’s what was put out there for the people to vote on. It’s a promise that board made.”

However, later in the meeting current board member Brad Stark read from the referendum question that was on the ballot that year. There was no mention of the jail or paying off the bonds by 2018.

Belvidere City Alderman Dan Snow also addressed the sales tax issue.

He said there is a surplus in that fund so he could see no reason to increase it from the current one-half percent to a full percent, as has been discussed.

“I think it would be better for you to wait for the economy to turn around,” he said.

Concerning the bus service provided by Rockford Mass Transit District, he encouraged the county to increase its financial support to more than $5,000, as was being proposed.

“I think we’ll find mass transit has been used more widely than we thought,” he said.

The board later that night voted 10-2 to commit $5,000 to the Boone County Council on Aging, to keep scaled-back bus service within the City of Belvidere. Board Chairman Walberg and board member Stark voted no.





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