The Rockford City Council Sept. 24 covered an array of items including officer appointments for the city’s fire department and revisions to the city’s assessment policy.
Consideration over upcoming appointments to Chief and Assistant Chief positions for the Rockford Fire Department was addressed by the council with the expiration of these positions coming up within the year. The policy in place, as explained by City Administrator Nancy Carswell, calls for the positions to be open, and posted, for application over the first two weeks of October.
Discussion, which included input from the department’s chief, Ben Sanderson, as well as former Rockford Mayor and senior department member Mike Beyer, was congenial and informative. Both relayed to the council a working situation among department members that was supportive and amicable, as well as high and enthusiastic participation in ongoing training opportunities.
These assessments are good news and a welcomed improvement over department politics of past which resulted in an overhaul of officer installation.
Councilor Jeannette Graner proposed a three-year stint for the chief’s position, and a two-year assistant chief assignment.
Previously, the council appointed two assistant chiefs. One has since resigned. Graner suggested that one assistant would meet the need at this time, but asked that the council follow the directive of the department’s policy, and open the door to officer applications. Even though leadership in the department is considered to be strong among members, she stated that those who are considering a leadership role, and who may have been working toward that goal, be afforded the opportunity to participate in the application process.
This sentiment was supported by Beyer, a 20-year member, who said that the department had good leadership and was functioning like a well-oiled machine, but needed to follow council direction and department policy to keep it that way.
Notices will be sent out to department members with an Oct. 16 cut-off date for filling for an officer position.
The council, in full, agreed. A committee will be formed to review applications and arrange interviews if applicants emerge.
In department related news, Chief Sanderson relayed that, to date, the department has answered 291 emergency calls, a higher number of them considered “serious” over recent years. The department is 33 members strong and would like to hire three additional members.
With a number of street, water main and sewer improvements planned for 2014 and beyond, city staff requested that the council reconsider existing assessment policies.
The current policy addresses street improvements such as: reconstruction, mills and overlays, which would be assessed at 80% to property owners and based on linear front footage.
Administrator Carswell suggested that the council consider revising the assessment policy to either 60%, or 50%, of improvement costs, and base them “per unit” (no longer subscribing to linear footage).
Taking into account what other cities are assessing property owners for similar improvements, Carswell said that she found Rockford’s assessment policy to be high.
The sewer and water mains will be funded by user rates. The private water services are also paid by the water fund.
Some of the private sanitary sewer services may have to be replaced, or repaired, and may be fully assessed to the property owner. Replacing, or repairing, these private services would curtail infiltration into the system and other problems like tree roots.
Several improvement projects – street and water mains, or street and sewer lines – will be performed at the same time for efficient use of city resources, and to alleviate the possibility of tearing up street improvements to address main and line leaks as they occur (something that has been happening with increased frequency due to age and deterioration).
Council consensus was that the assessment policy should be changed in regard to Class C street improvements, which will be assessed at 50% and based on a per unit policy.
This policy change will come back to the council for a vote Oct 8.
The council intends on communicating assessments to affected properties for all projects in advance of work start.
In annual recognition of the city’s manufacturing community, Rockford Mayor Renee Haffton read a proclamation celebrating the efforts and successes of the city’s manufactures, their contributions including local employment, and an honorary nod that will include a breakfast meeting this month.
In other news, the Wright County Sheriff’s department reported that it would observe traffic on highway 55 closely for infractions, speed in particular, since school is in session and pedestrian crossways are busier in the afternoons. Skate boarders are reminded that they may not use roadways other than for the purpose of crossing, and must comply with the same restrictions bicyclists are held to.
Also, the council approved the licensing application of a city-based taxi service, which included background checks for three drivers. Staff and council agreed that this is welcomed service for a city that does not have access to public transportation.