By Bob Balgemann

The Rock River flood of June 2008 devastated many properties along and near Shore Drive.

In the wake of that natural assault, many affected property owners gave thoughts to moving to avoid the possibility of such problems in the future. In response to those concerns and others, the village set up a voluntary, buy-out program in an effort to mitigate flood-prone areas along the river. Buoyed by millions of dollars in state and federal grants, efforts over the subsequent years included acquiring residential properties in those areas, through voluntary participation by residents, and converting them indefinitely to open, green space.

According to Ordinance 27-22, the village already owns more than 100 parcels in that vicinity and most recently approved buying three more properties through the Winnebago County Trustee. They are at 6 Marquette Road, 24 Marquette Road and 14 Liberty Blvd.

The enabling ordinance states in part that this acquisition will help meet the goal of reducing the risk of flood damage within the village.

During a presentation to the advisory administration and finance committee (A&F) on June 6, Finance and Human Resources Manager Michelle Johnannsen added that keeping those properties as open space, similar to many others owned by the village, was preferable to a buyer at the county tax sale, trying to purchase them and build structures within the floodplain.

This purchase from the county was made before those parcels went to the tax sale.

After being recommended for approval by A&F, the ordinance went to the June 20 village board meeting where it was placed on the consent agenda. That meant being included with other agenda items that had received positive recommendations and being approved under one motion. No discussion is allowed.

This ordinance was being considered on first reading. But because it was a time-sensitive matter, Trustee Joe Seipts asked that it be removed from that agenda and placed at the end of the regular agenda. That action would waive the usual two-week layover before it could be approved on second and final reading. His request was approved, leading to the ordinance being passed, 7-0.

Earlier, all items remaining on the consent agenda were approved, also in a 7-0 vote. 

The background 

Manager Johannsen in her report to A&F explained how village staff was notified by the Region 1 Planning Council in Rockford about three lots located within Machesney Park, currently owned by the county trustee, and were about to go to a tax sale. The trustee offered to sell the lots to the village, for $500 each. But given that 6 Marquette was just a sliver of land, it was agreed the county would waive the cost for that one, which set the total acquisition price for all three lots at $1,000.

The village has a flood mitigation fund, where state and federal grants are held and where a variety of expenses are budgeted each year.

For 2022-23, the budget has estimated grant income of $1.775 million in federal funds and $557,300 from the state Department of Natural Resources, for a total of $2.313 million.

Projected expenditures are $93,600, for legal costs, appraisals, closing costs, project management and administrative expenses.

The Capital Outlay budget, from which the $1,000 would be taken, has $1.569 million in federal dollars and $444,200 from the state for buying properties; $48,000 for relocation of homeowners displaced by the sale of their property; $376,275, federal, and $105,000, state, for demolition of buildings and property restoration, for a total of $2.542 million.

If all that happens in the 2022-23 fiscal year, which began May 1, the fund will have a deficit of $323,011 on April 30, 2023, end of that fiscal year. To make that fund whole, the village’s 2022-23 budget allows a transfer of the $323,011 from the general fund (GF).

The general fund has earmarked $1 million for transfers to cover any overages in other, covered funds. GF is healthy, with a projected fund balance of $15.291 million on April 30, 2023, the same as in 2021-22.

New fire station

The North Park Fire Protection District (NPFD) is planning to build a new fire station on three lots it purchased on the south side of Harlem Road, between Elm Avenue and Scott Lane.

As part of that project, village water and sewer service must be brought to the station site from the north side of Harlem, to the south side of Harlem.

To accommodate that necessity, the village has entered into an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the fire district, outlining responsibilities for both parties in that work.

In a memorandum to the A&F, Village Attorney Tom Green explained, “It is much more cost effective to provide for the relocation of the sewer and water service while Harlem Road construction project is under way.”

Resolution 36-R-22 and the IGA state the village will relocate the water and sewer lines for the new fire station site, and will provide for the appropriate curb cut on Harlem Road, allowing ingress and egress of the district’s fire equipment. The district will reimburse the village for the cost of relocation and for the curb cut, either at the time of construction of the new fire station or no later than the end of five years, whichever comes first.

The IGA states, in part, that final construction costs will be determined once the Harlem Road project is completed. If payment is not made as noted, 5 percent interest will run retroactive to the date of completion of the water and sewer project through the date of the ultimate payment.

A&F recommended approval of the resolution, which was forwarded to the July 5 village board for final action.

Trustee concern

At the end of the July 5 village board meeting, under public comments, Trustee Erick Beck asked for a representative of Commonwealth Edison to appear at an upcoming board meeting, to discuss a problem that recently was brought to his attention. The complaint, he said, was that ComEd, provider of electric service to the village, “has fallen down on the work they do.”

He continued, “Myself, this past weekend, twice I went without power at my house due to an improperly fastened neutral wire at a major location. So we need to get somebody from ComEd in here and get them to understand they’ve got to start servicing the equipment they provide for the village.

“If they’re going to provide for us, they need to take and maintain it. I think it’s high time to call them on the carpet and make them pay attention. Thank you.”

No one commented on his closing statement.

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