Rockford Council talks over proposed event center continue

BY LINDA HERKENHOFF

linda.herkenhoff@ecm-inc.com

The Rockford City Council covered a number of items at its June 26 meeting including survey results regarding a proposed event center.

This and other action took place at the meeting.

EVENT CENTER

The idea of a city-owned event center is one that has been batted around over the last several years, and of which there have been varying opinions throughout the course, on council and off.

The first serious council discussions regarding an event center stemmed from talks in 2006 related to the expansion of city offices. Concerns over space and the inability to expand in the existing cite. The idea to relocate city hall was one that surfaced.

Additional discussion, and community input, pulled in the idea of combining the city offices with a multi-use event center. The idea was eventually put on the back burner, but resurrected in 2008 when construction costs dropped. Preliminary sites and plans were presented to the council, along with estimates.

Again, taking into consideration concerns including a higher than average tax delinquency and other revenue uncertainties like LGA cuts, and preparing to move ahead on levee improvements in the downtown area, the council put the project on hold, hoping to revisit it in 2009.

The project received little momentum until 2011, when councilors Jeannette Graner and Renee Hafften proposed that council consider a commercial post frame structure that could be modified on the inside to meet the city’s needs as an event center. Located in Riverside Park, it could accommodate indoor groups of up to 200, and be accessible to the park. The existing structure, the Rockford Lions Building, has a capacity of about 25. It has been determined to be in very poor condition and not worth the cost of repairs.

With this latest proposal, the council approved sending out a survey to residents to find out how they feel about it. That information, which consisted of just over 100 retuned surveys, shows a close divide between supporters and opponents. The first question, "Do you believe there is a need in Rockford for an event center?" had 41 "yes" votes, and 64 "no."

A number of comments accompanied the survey, some questioning the need for a facility, while some were opposed to tax dollars funding one. Others were more supportive of the idea offering suggestions should the project move forward. Some of those answering the survey suggested the city make use of existing sites like the Rockford Mall.

The cost, estimated now at $850,000, is considerably more than first thought when this avenue was investigated.

The council appears to be in agreement that an event center would be advantageous to the city and will revisit the issue.

OTHER

In other news, the council passed a resolution changing the way city staff handled after hours calls for stray dogs. Previous to this, residents calling about stray dogs were rerouted by the Wright County Sheriff’s department to the public works employee on call. This will no longer be the case.

The city is also investigating mosquito control, something it will most likely limit to citywide events like River Days and Movies/Music in the Park.

The next regular meeting of the Rockford City Council is Tuesday, July 10, at 7 p.m. at the Rockford City Hall, 6031 Main St.

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