In fact there seem to be more similarities than differences. Winnebago County and the City of Rockford spent several hours together basically discussing public safety. Ever since the one-cent sales tax passed in 2002, Winnebago County has had to really justify where our money is being spent.
Winnebago County Board Chair Scott Christensen says, "The sales tax itself is doing well and that tells us our economy is doing well."
In 2005, Rockford residents contributed almost $17 million. Winnebago County folks brought in almost $11 million so combined the sales tax receipt reads about $28 million. But it's Rockford that is on murder number 12 and has arrested 115 prostitutes. So the question comes into play of who needs that money more?
Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey states, “The city is a recipient. If you are a criminal and arrested in the City of Rockford, Winnebago County is putting county dollars generated and received from the city to their places to work on behalf of the City of Rockford."
In May, about 80% of the jail population was Rockford residents. The rest of the inmates are from Loves Park, Machesney Park and places outside our state. And the jail population is only going to climb. This summer a “MET team” otherwise known as Mobile Enforcement Team is coming to town to do some major sweeps on our streets. That's also going to pile on the work for county judges.
Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson says, "They are going to be overloaded even more with this 10 person task force and we're going to continually look at hot spots in the area and if they have an increased caseload. Now it's certainly going to be more at the pace we are going."
Winnebago County is in the middle of a GAP study. In the end the county should have a better handle on how to run a more efficient judicial system, trim down the number of inmates and keep us safe. The other hot topic is regional growth. Statistics show that we were a richer community back in 1973 than in 2000. Mayor Morrissey says good smart growth can only improve our economic opportunities and poor planning means poverty.