Aldermen question prior administration's spending decision

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- A decision made in 2015 is raising some eyebrows by current city aldermen.

"When we're talking about the expenditure of tax funds, I can't see any kind of policy that allows that kind of expenditure without elected officials weighing in on it," said fifth ward Alderman Venita Hervey.

Hervey is frustrated with the way a project to turn a bridge over the Rock River into a multi-use path was handled.

The project, approved in 2015, was an agreement between the city and the state of Illinois.

"The initial grant that came to us was that the grant would cover 80 percent of the cost and the city would cover 20 percent," said Hervey.

The city would pay only $185,000. Hervey says that seemed reasonable.

However, during the bridge's design, a state requirement to extend the bridge's path added more than $550,000 to the construction cost.

Several aldermen say that change was not brought to city council for approval.

"It's common to have these added costs. It's when it's a half a million dollar bill, that's when it becomes a big surprise," said ninth ward Alderman Bill Rose.

A change order allows for changes in projects to be approved within certain guidelines without bringing them before city council.

"The ordinance states that the mayor has authority up to about $25,000. Change orders can take place and they should. But they have to be done within reason," said Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara.

Hervey says she wants to put city guidelines in place to stop this from ever happening again.

"So we've gotta strike that balance that says when a change order has to come to council or when we have to be notified that a change order has been requested," said Hervey.

Former Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey says the city council was fully informed of the issue. He says it was discussed at a meeting in October 2015 and council members were also provided with a memo outlining the changes.

McNamara says the funding for the bridge project will likely come from motor fuels tax, however, that decision has not been made yet.

The discussion will continue at the city council meeting next Monday.