‘Baptism by fire’ new manager’s description of past month

by BETH ALTENA

“It’s amazing to think it’s been a month since we met last month at my first meeting,” said Rockford City Manager Thad Beard during the Council’s October 9 regular meeting. “It’s been a baptism by fire, a very, busy active place.”

Beard also spoke about grants to the City of Rockford and surrounding fire departments for Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA). The grants allow the departments to replace aging equipment without cost.

The Michigan Law Enforcement Accreditation  Program gave a major presentation for a statewide program recognition for the Rockford Department of Public Safety.

Lance Werner gave the annual presentation for Kent District Library and Jennifer German of Krause Memorial Library spoke about 38 percent increase in business for the library. “Don’t think the library is going anywhere because of technology, just the opposite.” She said the library is active in outreach to such places as Storypoint, Richter Place, Bishop Hills, the Towers, area schools and day care facilities. The library is 80 this year and plans a November 18 birthday party from noon to 2 p.m.

Kudos to Denise Bradley and her family on their annual Make It and Take It Scarecrow event, Historical Museum Director Al Pratt stated during public comment section of the meeting. This year the proceeds allowed her to donate $4,200 each to North Kent Connect and the Rockford Area Historical Museum.

Denise has been organizing the scarecrow event for three weekends in the fall for twenty years and in that time has raised a cumulative $84,000. What a woman!

Linda Southwick, Executive Director of the Rockford Chamber of Commerce, thanked the city for all the help with Harvest Festival, which suffered under less than ideal weather (like 100 degrees). “Crowds were down but profits were up. I don’t know how that worked.”

Chief Jones talked about how the insurance for the Corner Bar considers expenses to keep the public safe following the fire is the responsibility of the city.

Council voted to approve a franchise renewal agreement with Michigan Bell, now operating in the city as AT&T. As per the agreement the city captures five percent of gross revenues. Renewal comes up every ten years. Council woman and Mayor Pro Tem Cheryl Scales asked if the five percent was typical. Thad said it is the maximum the city can charge by law. Moved by Cheryl, seconded by Melissa Young.

The city voted to opt out of Public Act 152 which requires municipal employees to pay twenty percent of their benefits costs. City of Rockford employees pay twelve percent.

“This is something the city has done since its inception (Act 152). It comes down to a mandate a cap on the amount paid by employees. Mayor Steve Jazwic said in 2011 the state implemented the act to help while providing less revenue sharing. “We have the money to do this.”

Councilman Jerry Coon noted that the twelve percent amount is not any mandate but is the choice of the city. Jerry approved and Cheryl Scales seconded the motion.

Thad then introduced the plan to issue bonds for street repair in the amount of $4 million.

“We don’t expect to spend that much but it would be prudent to approve it.” Cheryl Scales said, “This is the first step in a big transformation of our city.”

Thad said the dollars are already at work and residents can see engineer marks out and around town.

Council voted to update the city fire code from a 1993 version to the latest edition of 2015.

The city is planning to implement a work tracking software that will be very efficient. It will help the city track what projects staff spend time on. Cheryl Scales said in her business it is required to track what you are working on every fifteen minutes. “With different groups, it has to be difficult.” City council also approved purchase of a Bob Cat Skid Steer as more fiscally responsible than leasing one. Two sections of railing near the dam need to be replaced and will cost $7,950.

Cleaning up the contaminated property on Monroe Street was again discussed. The identification of wetlands was discussed. Areas that are now dry can still be wetlands because of the type of species that survive there. Thad said although the wetland is now bone dry, the engineers are still securing a wetland permit just to be safe.