By Bob Balgemann

A $15,000 grant has been received from the National League of Cities (NLS) is geared to help Hispanic and Latinix entrepreueurs start, grow, and sustain their businesses in the city.

Budget and Finance Officer Shannon Hansen brought that proposal to a recent Committee of the Whole meeting, explaining how the city had partnered with Growth Dimensons to apply for the funding, through the NLC’s City Inclusive Entrepreneurship Program. She said this was a short-term grant that provided materials, mentorship, and outreach to, and engagement with, Hispanic and Latinix entrepreneurs.

Growth Dimensions is a public-private organization that serves as the marketing arm of the city, Boone County and its four villages.

The organization’s executive director, Pam Lopez-Fettes, told the committee April 25 that this was the third time the city had requested NLC’s Kauffman Foundation grant.

“The first one was fast-track training, which we continue when we get sponsorships to provide and deliver this training,” she explained. “The last one was for source finder, which we call Compass locally, in which we provide an assessment of services that re available in our region, as well as those that businesses can use throughout their period of time in business.

“This one ($15,000) is to focus on services available to businesses. The mayor wanted to make sure we looked at all businesses, but our focus is also on Hispanic businesses and identifying some of the barriers we’ve talked about and how we can address those programs.”

Hansen said that between now and the end of August, Growth Dimensions would partner with the Small Business Development Centers, Rockford Regional Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and The Workforce Connection to provide materials, in English and Spanish, and to deliver business education workshops and training in an effort to enhance business opportunities, increase access to capital and position participants to receive grants and loans.

The committee recommended accepting the grant, which will be a pass-through from the city to Growth Dimensions, in a unanimous voice vote. City council then gave accepting the grant final approval in a 7-0 vote at its May 2 meeting.

Buying a dog

The city recently received an anonymous donation of $15,000 and will use that money to buy a second dog for the police department’s canine corps, plus provide training for the handler.

Of that amount, $7,000 will be used to buy the dog from FM K-9 in Berrien Center, Mich., with $5,500 going to Cedar Creek Kennels for a 10-week training class for the handler.

The only question came from Alderman Wendy Frank, who asked if the department would have a full complement of two dogs once this one was purchased?

“Yes, we will,” Police Chief Shane Woody replied. “We have one (Solo) currently that’s on active duty. This will be a second one.”

The most recently acquisition is to replace Shep, who was retired because he could not adequately recover from recent surgeries to his legs.

The committee without further discussion recommended approval of Woody’s request in a unanimous voice vote. On May 2 city council, without discussion or questions, voted 7-0 with three absent for final approval.

Purchasing policy

Simply stated, “The city of Belvidere lacks a formal spending policy.”

That’s how City Attorney Mike Drella introduced his amendments to the municipal code to codify “what we’ve been doing already.”

Traditionally, he said department heads were able to spend up to $1,200 on budgeted items without council approval. For the mayor, that limit was $2,500. Changes subsequently were made to increase those ceilings, to $2,500 for department heads and $15,000 for the mayor.

Danny Anderson, superintendent of the water, sewer and street departments, said the change would help order certain parts for the sewer plant.

“If I have a pump go down, I need it now,” he said of parts necessary to make repairs. “I don’t have the luxury to wait for two meetings to get something approved.”

For the sake of assurance, Drella said the bills-payable process was not changing: “If council doesn’t like the spending pattern of a department head, you have the ability to change the ordinance,” he said of continuing flexibility.

A comparison of spending policies in nearby cities had been provided to the committee. After reviewing it, Alderman Tom Porter reported seeing that in an emergency, the Woodstock city manager was allowed to exceed his $25,000 maximum. He wondered about providing Mayor Clint Morris with that leeway in case this city experienced a major problem of some kind.

“That could be done by changing the ordinance,” Drella said. “But I don’t think it’s necessary.”

Morris agreed, saying he was comfortable with the proposed spending limit of $15,000 for his office.

Ultimately, the committee recommended amending the municipal code, to reflect the revisions proposed by the attorney, in a unanimous voice vote. City council on May 2 gave the change final approval, without discussion, in a 7-0 vote.

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