A letter has been drafted for review by Rockford City Council outlining a commitment of millions of dollars by both the City of Rockford and Winnebago County to begin restoration of the Barber-Colman building. The letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce was drafted to seek federal matching funds for the project.
In the letter from Mayor Tom McNamara, the city says it is willing to commit millions to begin Phase 1 of the project, which would involve the development of the Rock Valley College Technical Career Training Institute on the grounds of the former manufacturing site. (A copy of the letter and resolution before council is attached to the article).
When the project was first proposed last year, the total price tag for renovating the complex was estimated at $32 million. However, the letter indicates that Phase 1 improvements would be substantially less. “Total cost of the site improvements are estimated to be $9,724,946” the letter states with a federal match request of $3,209,232. The rest of the money would come from the city, Winnebago County, and Rock Valley College.
There is no mention of any plans or costs for future phases of the project in the draft letter and accompanying resolution.
However, the commitment comes at a time when Rockford, Winnebago County and RVC all face budget problems. Rockford dipped into reserves to balance the current budget, and will be looking at a budget millions in the red in the next budget year. Winnebago County is also coping with a large budget deficit, while Rock Valley College is still recovering financially from the lack of a state budget for two years and cuts in state funding.
Rockford has also recently committed $13 million in bonds to build a conference center for the Amerock Hotel Project.
Aldermen will consider the matching funds request at tonight’s city council meeting. ‘Eyewitness News’ will have a crew there with reaction to the proposal.