Organizers have one year to come up with funding
by BETH ALTENA
After passing last month on contributing city funds to development and maintenance of a public dog park on a former ball field at Richardson-Sowerby Park, Rockford City Council voted this month to dedicate the land for that use for one year. Organizers are confident they can raise the money needed to develop the 180-by-160-foot property into a dog park.
In their May 9 meeting, City Council had considered helping to fund the park’s estimated $20,000 cost, perhaps splitting the difference with volunteers who have been hoping to forward the project. Bringing water to the property was $5,000 of the estimate, with the remaining $15,000 representing the cost of purchasing and installing fencing. City Manager Michael Young said it was possible to use Rockford Department of Public Services staff to do the work, which might have lowered the expense to $12,000. According to Young, volunteers had a commitment from Rockford Ambulance to raise $3,000 toward the project, and they had been working with pet supply companies in hopes of receiving more funds.
Councilman Brien Dews last month questioned the speed at which the project seemed to be moving forward, considering other proposals, such as a skate park, were making no progress. Members of the audience also commented—one asking if the City couldn’t locate a dog or skate park on the property where Burch Body Works had been located. Another asked about liability and safety issues of a dog park.
Young pointed out that the City does not own the Burch Body Works property and is not likely to budget the hundreds of thousands of dollars that would be required to purchase that land. “The idea before you is: Do you want to pledge money for development of a dog park,” Young reminded council. “There isn’t a skate park group asking for money.”
Councilwoman Mary Eadie said she was firmly against seeing a dollar of tax money going to a dog park and that she would vote against any City money going to the project.
Dews also pointed out that City staff had been asked this year to freeze wages, including negotiated raises, and they had made that sacrifice. “I think maybe in these economic circumstances I’d like to give them [dog park organizers] the opportunity to raise it all,” he said.
Council let the issue pass by taking no action on it.
In the June 13 meeting, council made a point to show support of a dog park on the property, although without City funds. Councilmember Jerry Coon, who was absent for the meeting, provided a letter in which he voiced his strong support of the proposal, comparing it to other projects the City has embraced, such as the White Pine Trail, the farm market and the dam.
Councilman Rich Moll proposed a resolution dedicating the park property for the purpose of a dog park and giving the organizers one year to raise the money. He asked that council be kept apprised of the progress of the fundraising efforts.