Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Belvidere Daily Republican: News in Brief

Comments to be limited at mobile home park meeting

Feb. 16, 2014

By Bob Balgemann


POPLAR GROVE - The next stop for the proposed 304-unit mobile home park on South Poplar Grove Road will be Feb. 24, before the village's administration committee.

As part of that evening's regular monthly meeting the committee, consisting of three village board members, will consider the two-part recommendation of the planning and zoning commission. During its Feb. 4 meeting, the commission recommended approval of rezoning the 71-acre property from LI, light industrial, to R-5, mixed residential district. But it recommended denial of the requested special use permit, which is needed for the project to happen.

Protocol allows visitors to address the administration committee at the beginning of the meeting. They must fill out a sheet, stating their name, subject, turn it in to the chairman and limit their comments to five minutes.

In this case, committee Chairman Ron Quimby said Feb. 9 that he would ask speakers not to repeat what was said during the P&Z meeting, which was a public hearing on the proposal.

"This is not a public hearing," he said. "It's not a debate or a forum. It's a meeting of the administration committee."

If new information is presented, he said the committee will have to decide whether to refer the issue back to P&Z for further discussion.

Once the public comments portion of the meeting is over, he said those in the audience would not be allowed to make additional statements while the committee is discussing the matter.

Transcripts and minutes will provide committee members with detailed information on what transpired during the P&Z meeting, he said. Beyond that, member Don Bawden was in attendance.

The committee will have three options on Feb. 24: make a recommendation for consideration by the full village board in March; allow the matter to die in committee; or send it back to P&Z for additional discussion.

Pritchard questions delay in state budget BOONE COUNTY - State Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Sycamore, is asking why Gov. Pat Quinn needs five more weeks to prepare his proposed 2014-15 state budget.

But he answered his own question with the following statement: "It is painfully obvious, however (that) he is afraid to tell voters before the (March 18) primary election how much he needs to cut spending to balance the budget. Or that he wants to continue the current income tax rates."

"We all knew this day was coming, when the income tax (increase) was passed with its provisions to roll back rates," he added.

Pritchard, who represents Boone County in the General Assembly, said if legislators were sincere about lowering the tax rate, the governor should have been trying to reduce spending rather than fighting efforts to manage programs more efficiently; reduce fraud, which has been estimated at over $1 billion; and help those who can to get off government programs.

The governor's Office of Management and Budget and the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability already have their budget estimates for the new year.

"Delaying the budget address and not revealing his fiscal priorities make it even harder on the House appropriations committees, as they draft the budget by May 31," Pritchard said. "Waiting until March 26 (for the governor's budget) delays the entire process, builds expectations in groups for more funding than is available and forces last-minute decisions."

A related consequence, he said, is that school districts across Illinois must announce staff reductions by the end of March due to cuts in state funding and have only a few days to make their decisions.

Of the delay, North Boone Community Unit School District Superintendent Steven Baule said, "it will require that we make deeper than normal reductions in force at the March board meeting. Due to the uncertainty of the state budgeting process and the potential of even greater loss of general state aid and other state funding, North Boone may be looking at making deeper than normal staff reductions at that time."


News in Brief Beverly Materials to seek early renewal of quarry permit

Feb. 13, 2014

By Bob Balgemann


BELVIDERE - Beverly Materials LLC isn't going to wait until January 2015 to request renewal of its special use permit to mine more than 200 acres at the Plote Quarry off Town Hall Road.

The Belvidere-Boone County Planning Department is working up material for that public hearing, which will be scheduled before the county zoning board of appeals at its March meeting.

Meanwhile, the county health and human service committee, in concert with the county health department, has agreed with a revision to the process for checking water quality, through samples taken from three monitoring wells on the quarry property.

First, Patrick Engineering, which is taking the samples for Beverly Materials, will have the reports professionally certified. That is not currently being done. Second, a county representative may accompany sampling personnel and take a split sample from the one collected by Patrick Engineering. The county then will have its sample sent to a different laboratory for testing. That cost is estimated to be $300, based on $100 for each well. Bill Hatfield, director of environmental health, sent those options and others to the committee at its Feb. 6 meeting.

The precautions are being taken on behalf of residents living near the quarry, who are on well water. They expressed concern about the quality of water through spokesperson Sherry Branson, during a public hearing last year on Beverly's request to extend the special use permit, which should have happened three years ago.

Branson was at the committee meeting and on behalf of residents who live near the quarry thanked members for agreeing to have split water samples, which would be independently tested. Samples are to be taken quarterly. But Hatfield said weather kept Patrick from taking the samples in December and January.

"The ideal situation is No. 3," said committee member Marion Thornberry, referring to the split samples. He agreed that Beverly Materials should pay for to have the county's samples tested.

Hatfield also provided other options, which the committee rejected. "I don't like (options) four or five because the county would be spending money," member Kenny Freeman said.

Board of Health re-elects officers BELVIDERE -

The Boone County Board of Health has re-elected officers for the coming year. Kent Hess, M.D., returns as president; Jim Cox as vice president; Allen Sisson as treasurer; and Kathleen Taylor as secretary. The votes, all unanimous, came during the board's Feb. 3 meeting, with seven of the 11 members present.

Dr. Hess' current term expires in 2016; Cox and Sisson in 2015; and Taylor in 2016. Board members are appointed by the county board chairman, with the advice and consent of the full county board.

The election had been on the board agenda for several months, but continuously was postponed for various reasons. "I hate to keep putting this off, but we barely have a quorum," Sisson said. A quorum is needed to do business and it takes six of the 11 board members.

Board member Dean May pointed out that only seven members were present while Taylor added, "Those who regularly attend are here."

The board of health oversees the county health department.


North Boone teachers one step closer to strike

Feb.13, 2014

By Tricia Goecks


POPLAR GROVE – The Poplar Grove United Methodist Church was the site of a rally of nearly 100 North Boone educators as they move closer to a strike. On Feb. 6, the North Boone Educators Association (NBEA) voted with a 97 percent margin to authorize the teacher’s union to set a strike date.

The union has been negotiating a contract with the North Boone Community Unit School District #200 school board since June. The parties declared an impasse and are currently working with a federal mediator to resolve the remaining outstanding issues.

The three major sticking points are merit pay, two tier salary schedule and the union’s demand for “just cause” discipline.

The NBEA’s talking points describe the merit pay issue as “based on administrative whims creates a toxic work environment, stifling creativity and teamwork and ultimately undermining student achievement.”

According to the Board of Education proposal, teachers who receive a needs improvement or unsatisfactory would not receive automatic step increases. According to the Board proposal, similar scales have been put in place in other area districts.

According to the Board of Education’s proposal, it “retains the intent of recent Illinois laws related to the ability to reduce the least proficient teachers as opposed to the newest teachers when reducing overall staffing.”

“We are concerned because the principal will rate you. It lends itself to be subjective,” said Poplar Grove Elementary School fourth grade teacher Heather True.” You wonder if it would be in their best interest for someone who is newer and paid less to give them better ratings.”

The teachers are rated according to the Charlotte Danielson framework for teaching that divides teacher responsibility into four categories: planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities. Teachers expressed concern that their job performance was rated on attendance of after school activities.

“The two tier salary pay scale pits people against each other. It is not something that builds the school district up,” said True.

The NBEA talking points asked “why would new teachers come to North Boone knowing they will permanently make less than their peers? Why would we alienate young teachers who represent our District’s future?”

The NBEA’s talking points on just cause state “when we feel we have been treated unfairly, disciplined without a good reason or ‘just cause,’ we want the right to challenge that decision.”

“We know there are some staff who have tenure and seniority, it would be cost effective for them to find fault,” added True.

“If someone should bring up a charge against a teacher, there would be a panel, the administrators, the union, to investigate to find out if it happened and if there were a reason to reprimand the teacher or let them go,” said True. “They want to eliminate that, and we would not be afforded that protection.”

According to the BOE’s proposal, it is willing to add just cause language in the event of a discipline issue that would result in a teacher’s termination. The BOE proposal states that teachers are currently protected under state law.

As of press time, the results of Monday night’s mediation were not determined.

“It has been a long process. Hopefully the positive that will come out is everyone can come back with something workable and we’ll go forward and be renewed,” said True. “I hope.”

Check on these and other BDR stories by clicking on the following:  rvpnews | Belvidere Daily Republican

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