Winnebago Forest Preserve a “Good Ol’ Boys’ Club”?

Chuck Sweeney of the Rockford Register Star is beginning to feel sorry he ever supported an elected Forest Preserve Board for Winnebago County.

First thing out of the box, [county employee and Forest Preserve Board Chair Randy] Olson supported pouring tax money into fixing up golf courses to the tune of $1.4 million. They’d always had always had [sic] to pay for themselves from players’ fees in the past. Golf, however, is a declining activity. Did you know the director of golf for the forest preserve district makes $90,000?

Then Olson engineered a deal with fellow Courthouse Party member Donald J. Gasparini, former sheriff, to buy Gasparini’s three fishing holes on 18 acres adjacent to the popular Four Lakes Forest Preserve. Never mind that the district has said for years that it didn’t have the money to buy new land, and that the Gasparini property has never been identified as land the district wanted to acquire. They took the $216,000 out of the Operations Fund! The priority should have been dredging Four Lakes, but never mind.

Now, Olson wants to postpone for a year the annual culling of deer at the forest preserves. Is this a result of a conservationist’s study of land use management? Oh, no. Randy Olson went to the Plug & Pellet shooting club recently and the hunters there suggested it. Not enough deer in the preserves, they said. So, if we let the deer build up their numbers for a year, there will be more to hunt next year!

Continue reading Winnebago Forest Preserve a “Good Ol’ Boys’ Club”?

Rockford Moves to Seek Bids for Ambulance Service

…and street sweeping. Rockford Register Star:

The City Council Finance and Personnel Committee and City Council approved a controversial request involving ambulance service at meetings Monday night.

The committee’s aldermen voted unanimously to let city staff develop a request for proposals from the private sector for citywide ambulance response. The Rockford Fire Department provides the service, but city leaders have been discussing the possibility of outsourcing the function for the past year.

Rockford’s consultant and its Budget & Finance Advisory Committee consider the functions “potential outsourcing recommendations” but they won’t know for sure until proposals come in.

Rockford Firefighters Get 6% Pay Raise

An arbitrator awarded a 6% pay raise to Rockford firefighters.

City officials said the award will cost taxpayers an estimated $618,000 in 2011 and more than $1.2 million in 2012 when the 6.1 percent wage is in effect for a full year.

Arbitrator Robert Perkovich rejected the city’s offer of a 2 percent wage increase this year. [IAFF Local 413 president Lt. Brad] Walker called the salary hike overdue.

“There were no raises in ’09 and ’10,” he said. “We went 26 months without a general wage increase.”

Walker said the wage hike keeps the city’s firefighters in the same ballpark as other Illinois fire departments of similar size.

“We were just trying to stay close to our comparable cities,” Walker said of Aurora, Bloomington, Champaign, DeKalb, Joliet, Peoria and Springfield.

Rockford already faces a deficit of $4 million in the coming year. At least one alderman is calling for outsourcing ambulance services in response to the crisis.

Rockford Approves Funds for Legal Second Opinions

Here’s an interesting nugget from a Rockford Register Star report:

ROCKFORD — Aldermen have adjusted the 2011 spending plan that they approved last week to give themselves $50,000 to hire attorneys or consultants in the coming year.

The idea, which was approved tonight with a vote of 8-5, stems from last summer’s bitter disagreement over whether the mayor has the power to appoint a department head and set a salary without the council’s consent.

Code interpretation
During that debate, a handful of aldermen disagreed with Legal Director Patrick Hayes’ interpretation of city code and sought their own legal advice. Ald. Carl Wasco, D-4, obtained a second opinion from Chicago law firm Klein, Thorpe and Jenkins, but there was no fund like the one created tonight to pay for the firm’s services.

According to a related article, it’s common for aldermen to request second opinions on legal interpretations. What’s unusual is bypassing city staff to obtain them. Continue reading Rockford Approves Funds for Legal Second Opinions

New Synthetic Skating Rink for Rockford

[Update Nov. 28: The rink, a project worth about $350,000 but completed at no cost to taxpayers thanks to many volunteers and a corporate sponsor, opens Dec. 3.]

Rockford Area Venues and Entertainment (RAVE) is putting together a skating rink for Davis Park with the help of union volunteers.

Volunteer laborers began to prime and paint 500 plywood boards inside the vacant former Ingersoll building along the Rock River on Friday. The 16,000 square feet of weather-resistant wood will form the base of a unique synthetic rink to be installed in Davis Park in coming weeks. Continue reading New Synthetic Skating Rink for Rockford