Yes, they have stopped simulcasting on vhf and using the vhf. They are now fully switched to thier private 700/800 trunking system with the starcom 21 interface. Also latest info was all vhf was to be released and not used for backup.
Yes, you can hear it on the StarCom digital system, it is not encrypted. As for hearing it in Rockford, if you can hear the McHenry County sites from there then you should be OK (remember to put in Site 146!). Occasionally units will affiliate with the Boone or Winnebago county towers, but not always, so hearing them thru you local towers will be a hit-or-miss scene.