“Aye,” said twelve Rockford City Council members Monday night, as they voted in favor a measure that could bring improvements to the decaying Barber Colman campus off South Main Street.
The buildings have been vacant for over a decade.
“This would be for water, sewer hookups, lighting, parking lots, and certain portions of landscaping,” said Alderman Venita Hervey. Hervey and the council voted in favor of the redevelopment, sending a letter to the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA).
The letter asks the EDA to match the $3 million that both the City and Winnebago County are putting toward the campus’ renovation.
“The main benefit of this project is something we desperately need in Rockford,” Hervey said. “Especially in southwest and southeast Rockford, and that is a solid job training program for jobs that are currently existing,” she added.
The goal would be to house programs for the Rock Valley College Career Technical Training Institute on the campus, which includes training in welding and cold-form manufacturing. Those opportunities are things taht city leaders believe will bring more jobs back to the Rockford community.
“The majority of the programs can benefit kids coming straight out of high school that want that vocational and work preparedness,” Hervey said.
Alderman Kevin Frost also is in support of the project, but has concerns it might be too much of a financial burden if other supporting parties, such as Winnebago County and Rock Valley College, don’t follow their end of the bargain.
“I don’t want to see anything go from a $9 million project, to a $19-$20 million project with the City of Rockford being responsible for it,” Frost said. “So, I just want to make sure all parties are present at the table and we all have obligations going forward,” he added.
The Winnebago County Board and Rock Valley College are set to make a decision on their contributions soon.