City council: $2.5 million bond issuance approved for downtown improvements
$50,000 contribution to Ogle County Economic Development Corporation approved
ROCHELLE — At its meeting Tuesday, the Rochelle City Council held a public hearing for and unanimously approved an ordinance authorizing the issuance of bonds not to exceed $2.5 million to finance future improvements to its downtown area.
The bond issuance could be made official by a final parameters ordinance at the city council’s first meeting in November. Residents will have 30 days to petition to have the bond issuance placed on the ballot for a vote. The debt service payments on the bond issuance funds will be paid out of the city’s downtown and southern gateway tax-increment financing (TIF) district revenues.
“I believe our current revenue in the downtown TIF is $292,000,” City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh said. “Based on the EAV estimates from the county, we anticipate revenues in this TIF next year to be $568,936. There has been some significant increased value in that area. This has been our fastest-growing TIF district.”
The funds will be spent on infrastructure improvements, which could include the purchase and demolition of property, property redevelopment, installation of infrastructure including streets, curb and gutter, water mains, sewer lines and storm sewers, installation of new street lighting and the installations and burying of electric infrastructure. The city desired the bond issuance to do projects sooner and hedge against rising project costs in the future.
“With project costs going up 4-6 and maybe even 10 percent on some of them, this will hedge against that,” Mayor John Bearrows said. “A big part of this is infrastructure and those projects will have to be done. A lot of the sewer and water lines are extremely old in this community. When they start going bad and you have water main breaks, that’s very costly, too. I think it’s a great idea to move forward with this.”
The city’s financial advisors anticipate interest rates on the funds in the 4.4 percent range and the debt service term will be no longer than 20 years. The anticipated debt service payments will be approximately $198,000 annually.
The council unanimously approved a $50,000 contribution to the Ogle County Economic Development Corporation.
The communities of Oregon, Mt. Morris, Polo and Byron, along with Ogle County, began the process of starting a county-wide economic development group in 2022 and recently made the organization official. The City of Rochelle and the Greater Rochelle Economic Development Corporation (GREDCO) have attended several of the meetings as well. The other county towns have made financial commitments to the OCEDC, which plans to hire an executive director.
Rochelle is currently the only community in the county with full-time economic development staff.
The council unanimously approved an ordinance adopting an updated comprehensive plan and map for the city. The comprehensive plan is the framework, or blueprint, for future development and revitalization based on a thorough assessment of existing conditions, trends, goals and objectives for the future.
The plan was reviewed by a committee along with the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission. It had not been updated since 2016.
Several updates were made in the new plan, such as the northern gateway TIF district, the establishment of the National Historic District in the downtown area, enterprise zones, and major investments to infrastructure. New development was also updated in the plan to include Wheatland Tube, the Rochelle Transload Center, Pilot Travel Center, Love’s Travel Stop, Starbucks, Majeski Motors, Hub City Self Storage, Kwik Star, Tesla Charging Stations, Benny’s Corner Market, Breakthru Beverage and several other projects.
“I was utterly amazed by the amount of projects that the city has done that we were hopeful to do in 2016,” Bearrows said. “It says a lot about the leadership of this community and current and former council members.”
The council unanimously approved a purchase and sale agreement for the purchase of 517 W. 4th Ave. for $30,000 to improve and foster development. The property is planned to be demolished, which could potentially cost $25,000-35,000. The purchase and demolition will be paid out of the city’s downtown and southern gateway TIF district funds.
Bearrows read a proclamation making Oct. 8-14 Fire Prevention Week in the city and presented it to Rochelle Fire Department Chief Dave Sawlsville and Administrative Assistant and Firefighter/Paramedic Angela Gillis.
The council unanimously approved the resignation of Diane McNeilly from the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission.
“Diane has been an extremely-integral part of the Planning & Zoning Commission for close to 20 years if not more,” Bearrows said. “She took her job as a board member very seriously and consistently visited the sites in question. It’s with great regret that we have her resignation before us and she surely will be missed.”