Council Gets Ball Rolling Once More on Downtown Sports Complex

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- The ball is back in the city's court to start construction on the sports complex along the river in downtown. On Monday, alderman gave the go ahead tonight for work to start on the parking for the complex.

Several members on the council are worried about spending more than $12 million in tax payers money for the project, possibly at the expense of things like better streets, more snow plow crews and cops. A majority did agree to the parking plans for the complex, something many on the council call a crucial part of the overall plan. There will be 520 spots on Madison Street in the place of the former watch factory and District 205's former headquarters. The owner of the watch factory will get $580,000 for his building. The school district will get 500 tons of salt in the next 5 years, plus trees, sidewalks around Beyer School, and other services from the city in exchange for demolishing their building and giving the land to the city. That package is about $450,000.

The overall budget for the complex is a $24.2 million dollars. There’s about $1.9 million set aside in case of any unforseen costs. About $10 million will come from grants. The city and Rockford Park District will take out loans to pay for the build and some funds will come from the area's increased hotel tax.

Alderman Frank Beach, Alderman Ann Thompson-Kelly and Alderman Venita Hervey voted no on parts of the plan. They addressed the council saying they support the project but think it could stretch the city's budget too thin.

"My issue is show us and let us plan for how we're going to plan for these expenditures if not, our backs are going to be against the wall and then they're going to start taking about a utility tax or some other tax or raising fees on taxpayers and I’m not willing to do that,” says 5th Ward Alderman Venita Hervey.

Alderman John Beck abstained from the voting, he’s an employee with the Rockford Park District.

The Rockford school board will need to approve the agreement on their end next. The city still has to take out the loans for this entire project. That should happen in the fall.

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