Rockford leaders upset over unexpected $500,000 bill

City leaders now have to figure out a way to pay for a half a million dollar bill they didn’t expect for the Rails to Trails project. 

Back in 2015, the city and state both agreed to turn the bridge into a multi-use path but now, city leaders are learning part of that agreement meant the bridge had to connect to an existing path. It’s a stipulation city leaders didn’t know about. 

"To connect the Rails to Trails bridge to an existing path, we find out costs another $550,000 to $580,000," Mayor Tom McNamara, D-Rockford says.  

It’s an increase that did not have council’s approval. Now, several city leaders are wondering why they are just now learning about the extra cost. 

"Our ordinance says you can perform change orders as long as they are in the scope of the project and that the mayor has the ultimate say over that order if he or she believes it’s in the best interest of the city," McNamara says.  

The ordinance goes on to say the mayor must let council know about the change in cost in a "reasonable amount of time." McNamara says he was an aldermen at the time and never heard a word. Other alderman says they didn’t hear anything either. 

"I do believe that there are going to be other resolutions coming in to update language and the ordinance and the policies on how these things are handled going forward," Alderman Frank Beach, R-10th Ward says.  

Part of what city leaders want to see is specific language as to when the mayor has to let council know about changes and at what percentage of the total project cost. 

"I think we need to have that discussion and I’m eager to have it and I think aldermen are too," McNamara says.  

On Monday, alderman are set to vote on whether to spend the city’s motor fuel tax dollars to foot that bill.

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