City plans to file petition for contempt of court as Essex Wire site cleanup deadline approaches

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Six days ago, a Winnebago County judge set a one-week deadline for the clean-up of the Essex property to be completed. If by Wednesday, the owners —  A.W. Bennett — fail to comply, the City of Rockford plans to file a petition to have them held in contempt of court.

Concrete slabs, shattered windows and piles of trash still remain on site at the property off North Main Street. With so much work still left to do, it doesn’t appear likely that the owner will have it cleaned up by Wednesday’s deadline.

“It’s the city’s belief and its the city’s position that the failure to follow the judge’s orders should result in a finding of contempt,” said Rockford’s Assistant City Attorney Matthew Flores.

A.W. Bennett had agreed to pay $125,000 in fines accumulated since May of 2017 — but has only paid $50,000 so far. Flores says no progress has been made on the property since last week, also.

“The City and the owner [of the property] have worked through difficulties,” said Flores. “[They] have tried to find solutions that’s in everyones best interest to move forward. I just don’t think we’re at the end of the tunnel yet.”

Flores says the clean up of the Essex property is crucial to the betterment of the area.

“There’s development around it and this is a dark spot in a pretty bright area,” said Flores. “We’d like to see the North Main corridor improve.”

Due to the city’s enforcement efforts, A.W. Bennett has done some clean up. About 130 truckloads of debris have been removed from the property. Flores says their goal is to have the judge’s order enforced so the clean up can be finished.

“We’re just looking forward to turning the page and getting to the next phase of the clean up. And ultimately, moving on to the next chapter of what’s going to go there next.”

Flores says should their petition fail for whatever reason, the city would then start to look at other options to get the clean-up finished.

We reached out to Bennett for comment, but never heard back.

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