Rockford City Council lays over casino decision

ROCKFORD (WREX) — Aldermen for the Rockford City Council voted to lay over the decision on where the casino would go until Monday, October 7.

But Mayor Tom McNamara and city staff members know where they want the casino to go. Earlier today, the Mayor recommended aldermen approve the Hard Rock International proposal, which he called “the strongest and most complete.”

The next step was for aldermen to approve the Mayor’s recommendation.

A special meeting took place Monday night. Aldermen were asked to consider the three proposals before them and direct any questions to the consulting company the city of Rockford hired to recommend a casino.

All three development companies were at the meeting and though none were asked to speak, representatives for Gorman and Company, who felt slighted by the Mayor’s public recommendation prior to the aldermen’s recommendation, voiced their displeasure.

“We still want the opportunity to move forward with that (casino) project, but we weren’t even given a chance to present the financials,” Rick Campbell, the would-be gaming operator for the Gorman casino project, said. “We were told today was the deadline and that’s the one we still want to stick with.”

In response, city officials told 13 News they didn’t have a sufficient basis for reviewing Gorman and Company’s proposal, in its entirety, because Gorman did not submit all of its materials in time.

Amid questions and concerns, aldermen decided to hold off on a vote until they had time to consider all three proposals.

Fifth Ward Alderwoman Venita Hervey told 13 News earlier today that she had not made up her mind just yet. On the other hand, 14th Ward Alderman Joe Chiarelli said he’s reviewed all the proposals and he’s ready to make a recommendation to the Illinois Gaming Board.

“It’s clear to me that the Hard Rock is the best option for the casino,” Chiarelli said. “Their financing package is in place, they have the strongest ability to raise the money to get this deal done and I believe the location is superior.”

Once the City Council makes a recommendation, it will go before the Illinois Gaming Board, which will have the final say in the approval process. The deadline for that submission is October 25.

Also tonight, aldermen approved the 911 call-taking agreement between the city of Rockford and Winnebago County.

The original agreement was signed in 2005 and, according to Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney, the county is up to date on its payments to the city of Rockford. The agreement expired and the county had to re-approve and then pass the deal through the Board.

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