Winnebago County looks to fight the blight with a new tool

WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Ill. (WIFR) - Officials from across the county spoke at Thursday’s board meeting supporting R-1's proposal to return distressed properties to the tax rolls.

In 1997 the county hired a real estate firm out of Decatur to manage a program to remove abandoned properties. Since then the firm has received $2.1 million for its work, which the county has missed out on. If the county votes 'yes' to this new proposal R1 would use an online portal to keep track of tax-delinquent properties. Then through a screening process find people willing to clean up the property and get it back on the market.

"Beyond aesthetics and property value I just want to say that this matter is very urgent for neighborhoods like the neighborhood I serve because of that public safety. These blighted properties are breeding grounds for a lot of crime," said Pastor K. Edward Copeland, New Zion Missionary Baptist.

It will benefit every taxing body I can tell you that as a former superintendent and now even more so. This surgical tool of getting those properties in our hand so we can continue the fight," said South Beloit Mayor Ted Rehl.

Thursday R1 previewed the trustee program and the county board will vote on it sometime in the coming weeks.

Things heated up at tonight's meeting when Winnebago County Board Member Fred Wescott asked Chairperson Frank Haney to resign for the second time.

This time, Westcott’s rezoning is that he believes Haney was irresponsible when he got into a car accident over the weekend in a county-owned vehicle. Westcott says Haney violated several county policies during the accident. Haney says this accident caused no injuries but he feels terrible for the inconvenience it's caused.

"The chairman’s driver’s license was not valid at the time of the accident, also a direct violation of county policy. The chairman did not complete an alcohol/drug test in the outlined appropriate time, also a direct violation of county policy. Insurance isn’t for negligent policy abuse, nor does it protect the taxpayer’s from legal action,” Wescott said.

“Sadly it is clear to many that Fred’s latest rant is not about a car accident. It is about vendetta politics and only serves as a distraction from real governing issues, such as blight reduction and neighborhood
Revitalization reform presented to the board this evening,” Haney said.