Old tires and other potential health hazards illegally dumped at the old Rock River Elementary School have been cleaned up, but there are still loads of scrap wood, compost, chairs and other debris left behind.
City of Rockford work crews hauled off many of the potentially harmful materials shortly after the Register Star published photos of the property with a story about illegal dumping on Oct. 20, said Julia Valdez, director of human resources for the city.
Valdez said cleaning up the rest of the property would be a costly task.
“It’s going to be expensive, so we’re trying to figure out a plan pay for it,” Valdez said. “The owner has no assets, so that’s really not an option.”
The property at 2729 Kishwaukee Street is owned by Fountain of Life Church of God in Christ, according to records with the Winnebago County Supervisor of Assessments. The church’s pastor, Kenneth Dismuke, was convicted by a federal jury on Sept. 9 on four counts of bank fraud, three counts of bankruptcy fraud and one count of mail fraud.
Dismuke had paid $171,000 for the building on April 23, 2005 when it was auctioned off by the school district, according to Register Star archives.
In the six-plus years since the sale of the 45,815-square-foot building that served as a school from 1911 to 2004 has slowly crumbled. Its windows are boarded by plywood, which in some areas has been ripped open, and portions of the roof have collapsed.
The school has been lit by suspicious fires twice — January 2008 and June 2009.
The primary health concerns were because of the illegal dumping, which officials say commonly happen at random hours of the night making culprits difficult to catch.
Materials dumped on the property can serve as cover for rodents, which can transmit disease, officials with the Winnebago County Health Department said. Old tires, which were on the property before the city hauled them away last month, can fill with water and become a breeding ground for mosquitoes that could carry the West Nile virus.
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