The Rockford Squire has recently learned that a group of residents are exercising their right to circulate a petition, which if it contains the correct amount of signatures, would require a super majority (4 out of 5 members) to approve an ordinance amendment being considered by the City. Last month, the Rockford Planning Commission recommended an ordinance amendment, which would amend the City’s Planned Unit Development (PUD) ordinance bringing it more in line with State law and removing a rezoning requirement for residential PUD’s within a residential district. We fully support the resident’s rights to be engaged in the governmental process and to circulate what is known as a protest petition, however, there is a “fact sheet” being circulated by the petitioners as they strive to collect signatures that contains erroneous information and is misleading. Three glaring misrepresentations jump out at us after reading the actual ordinance and comparing it to the “fact sheet” being circulated by the petitioners. The petitioners claim that if the proposed amendment is approved, PUD’s would no longer be subject to protest petitions. This is a false and misleading statement. The ordinance is very clear that only residential PUD’s within existing residential districts, would not require a rezoning to a PUD designation; and therefore not be subject to a protest petition. All other PUD’s would be subject to rezoning; and therefore subject to a protest petition. The “fact sheet” states, “PUD’s would no longer receive final approval from the City Council.” That is exactly how the ordinance is written today, so it seems misleading to suggest the proposed ordinance is changing anything with respect to final approval. The “fact sheet” also states that PUD’s would no longer require mail notification to owners and residents within 300 feet. This is a false and misleading statement because the ordinance is very clear that the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing “after notice is given.” The ordinance further states that the City Council will hold a public hearing “after notice is given.” State law requires notice by mail and publication. We at the Squire thought it would be very important to get the true facts out on what the ordinance would do if adopted, compared to what the petitions are claiming. Perhaps […]
Rockford City Council
Consider voting absentee in the November election by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL “We, the people” (the electorate) of the United States are so polarized by partisan politics and rhetoric that voter turnout in the General November 2012 Presidential election is expected to be huge. In Rockford, both sides of a full ballot will decide elective offices that will offer up choices from the Presidency of the United States right down to Rockford City Council. Topping it all off, voters will be asked to consider six separate proposed amendments to the Michigan Constitution. With all of this on our plates in the polling booth, is it any wonder on Election Day, Tuesday, November 6, that long lines will be evident at polling places across the country. If your time is valuable and you are one who does not like to stand in line, even in an election of this magnitude, there is an easier alternative. Consider casting an absentee ballot. One does not have to be a senior citizen to request an absentee ballot. A number of valid excuses allow any registered voter to receive and vote, at their leisure, an absentee ballot in the privacy of their own home. Receiving an absentee ballot is a simple process. First off, either in person or on the phone, contact your local Clerk and request an application form for an absentee ballot. When received, check an appropriate box, sign your name and return it to your Clerk. Upon receipt, the Clerk will mail an absentee ballot to your home address. How simple and easy! No standing in long lines, no need to fit election day into your hectic and busy life, no need to be late for work, and you can even have a cup of coffee while you ponder and exercise your civic duty. Your reporters have voted via absentee ballot for many years. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Heck, in the not-to-distant future it’s envisioned that everyone will cast their votes electronically from anywhere they choose on Election Day. For those of you who live in the City of Rockford, City Clerk Chris Bedford and the office staff at Rockford City Hall would be more than happy to service your request for an absentee […]
New leadership role defined for Rockford Safety Department by BETH ALTENA A “milestone development” in a new structure designed to save the City of Rockford and its residents over $200,000 annually took place Monday, July 9 during the regular Rockford City Council meeting. Three employees were promoted to the position of lieutenant and placed as leaders in their respective divisions of the Department of Public Safety. Rockford recently implemented a merger of staff trained to respond to emergencies—cross training former Departments of Public Works (DPW), Police and Fire to respond to fire calls and other emergencies. The merger is an unusual response to a decrease in funding that all municipalities are currently facing and which will sharply fall again if the Personal Property Tax is eliminated, according to City Manager Michael Young. Young said the idea to cross train staff was thoroughly considered prior to the gradual implementation of the new structure. Former Police Chief Dave Jones, now head of the combined Department of Public Safety, said, “I feel like a proud dad tonight.” Former fire captain Dan Vincent, Officer Dave Robinson, former DPW director Jamie Davies and officer Mike Miller all accepted promotions to lieutenant and leadership of their respective divisions within the new Department of Public Safety. Vincent will lead the paid on-call firefighters for the City of Rockford; Davies will continue his leadership of the Department of Public Works staff, who are now trained firefighters; and Lt. Robinson and Miller will together lead the combined police and firefighting staff, who also are or will be cross trained as police and firefighters. The merger is unique to Rockford, where staff developed the model to make best use of men and women who are already working for the City. All DPW workers were first trained as firefighters. This saves the City money because staff already out maintaining the City, hanging the banners, working on parks, and doing the other jobs required in town, are now trained to respond to emergencies. The restructuring, described as a merger of three formerly distinct divisions of police, fire and DPW, has been working flawlessly for several months. Currently full-time firefighter Robert Berkstressor is attending a police academy, after which he will be both a trained firefighter and police […]
City joins Cannon Township in agreement that is expected to save money, improve services by BETH ALTENA “This does not sound like an exciting item, but it is very exciting,” said Rockford City Manager Michael Young. Young was describing a proposal before the board for cost-sharing different elements of the North Kent Sewer Authority (NKSA), including maintenance of components such as pipes and lift stations and routine or emergency repairs. “A lot of people think we founded the NKSA in order to build the treatment plant. [Building the plant] was an exciting opportunity along the way and we took it, but that wasn’t why we formed the Authority,” he said Monday, July 9, during the regular monthly city council meeting. Young told the board the reason the NKSA was formed a decade ago was in response to what members considered less-than-adequate care of sewer infrastructure done by the County. “This is a big deal for us. It’s been a long time coming,” Young told council. “I am a firm believer in you can do a better job if you do it yourself. I highly recommend we approve this contract.” The board unanimously approved the 10-year agreement with a motion by Mayor Pro Tem Brien Dews and a second by Councilwoman Mary Eadie, who has served on the council for 35 years. Members of the NKSA include the City of Rockford and the townships of Alpine, Cannon, Courtland and Plainfield. Together the member communities formed the alliance in 1997 and together built a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant on Coit Avenue in Plainfield Township, which began operations in 2008. Included in the agreement are provisions for jointly held elements of the NKSA infrastructure, including pipelines used by all members, and individually owned parts, such as pipelines and lifts which are within township boundaries and used by each township. Staff at the PARCCside Wastewater Treatment plant have been working closely with Kent County Department of Public Works to seamlessly transfer operations from the County to NKSA. NKSA staff of four has increased by one former County worker familiar with the job and will increase by two more after hiring Gary Seger, utility services superintendent, and one additional staff member to perform the new duties.
On May 21, 2012, the Rockford City Council unanimously approved its 2012-13 fiscal year budget. The budget as approved represents a balanced budget and maintains the City’s millage rate at 10.9 mills, the third lowest for a city in Kent County that does not levy an income tax. “Our priority was to adopt a balanced budget and maintain our millage rate. We are very pleased we were able to accomplish that in this tough economic environment,” said City Manager Michael Young. The budget also includes modest increases in water and sewer rates of two percent to cover inflationary increases over the years. In a time where many municipal budgets are facing disaster, the Rockford City Council has made the necessary changes over the years to avert fiscal distress. “Using fund balance to plug financial holes is only a temporary fix and we chose to look at the budget structure and make adjustments to meet our needs,” said Young. Over the past three years, the City has reduced its full-time staffing by 25 percent. The recent public safety merger is a prime example of making tough decisions before the City faced a budget crisis. The overall consolidation, once phased in, will save the City over $200,000 a year annually. The great thing about the City’s public safety consolidation is not only going to save the City money, but City Council believe it provides a higher level of service by using existing City resources. The fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2012, is certainly not a bare bones budget and includes some very important capital expenditures. The City has a long history of investing in its infrastructure, and this budget is no different. The City is partnering with the Kent County Road Commission to repave Ten Mile from the bridge to Wolverine Boulevard. The City also invested in new sidewalk construction as part of the Ten Mile widening project that is nearly completed. “If you let your infrastructure go, you never get it back,” said Young. So the City continues to invest year in and year out. Additional road projects include repaving Gleneagle Drive and Rockview Drive, which will commence this construction season. The City also approved a water meter change-out program, where every water meter in […]