Winnebago County leaders want to take ownership of tax delinquent properties in fight against blight

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — It’s no secret that blight is an issue plaguing Winnebago County, but the question remains: how should leaders handle it?

Some leaders are pitching an idea that they believe will give them more control over the issue.

“We have twice the amount of blighted properties in Winnebago County as our peer county in Peoria,” Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney said Thursday.

Some of the region’s top leaders are working on a plan to take control of abandoned properties which owe back taxes.

“What we’re considering doing now is using Region 1 Planning as the agent, instead of paying those fees to…some outside company, instead to use those fees to cut the grass and maintain those properties,” said Winnebago County Board Member Paul Arena.

The Region 1 Planning Council is a regional public agency that helps local governments with long term planning.

“The mayor of South Beloit will be here [at Thursday’s board meeting], and spoke in favor of this change, because that’s something he deals with,” Haney said. “The mayor of Loves Park has spoken out in favor of this change, as have a number of our leaders.”

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara testified before the board in favor of the switch.

“We can fight blight together,” McNamara appealed to the Board. “So, I want to say again, I implore you to vote ‘yes’ when the vote comes out for the R1 proposal. To me, this allows our dollars to stay here. It allows local folks, like all of us, to have control over our neighborhoods’ destinies, as opposed to shipping this money and this responsibility out of this county.”

The question remains of just how they intend to make sure the tax dollars from the sale of homes in certain districts stays in those districts.

“I don’t want to see money that is intended to maintain the roads in Harlem Township being used somewhere else, so that’s one of the issues that we need to address,” Arena said.

The full board isn’t expected to vote on the measure for at least several weeks.

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