City council: Fairways Golf Course update presented
Fiscal year 2024 tax levy approved
ROCHELLE — At its meeting Monday, the Rochelle City Council heard an update on Fairways Golf Course from Course Superintendent Mitch Hamilton and City Director of Community Engagement Jenny Thompson.
Fairways has been jointly owned by the city and Flagg Rochelle Community Park District for the last seven years. As of Nov. 8, the course saw 15,920 rounds played in the 2023 season, up from 13,049 in 2022. Rounds were around 10,000 in 2019, before an increase was seen in 2020 due to golf not being restricted during the COVID-19 pandemic and numbers have increased in the years since due to retention of those new golfers, Hamilton said.
"COVID-19 was very good to golf," Hamilton said. "Because it was the one thing you could do. The year after we wanted to see if we could retain those golfers. And we are retaining golfers now that played for the first time during COVID-19. I believe the reasons why include the condition of the course, the rate we charge, and making it more inclusive and not just for longtime golfers. People listen to music out there now and stuff like that, and we don't shy away from things like that. As long as people keep to themselves and don't overdo it, we just let them enjoy it. It seems like it's been a little more lax and we're getting new golfers to pick it up and enjoy it now."
Since 2016, Fairways Golf Course has seen golfers from across the country play the course. For 2023, a total of 6,685 rounds were played by golfers inside the 61068 area code not including passholders to make for $139,316 in total revenue. 4,456 rounds were played by non-passholders from outside of the area code for a total of $92,876.
Fairways saw 4,779 rounds played by passholders in 2023, making up $51,040 in revenue. There were 103 total season pass holders in 2023, which was an increase from around 75 last year, Hamilton said. The pro shop saw $13,000 in revenue and $8,000 in revenue came from advertising and miscellaneous sources.
The course holds a number of community organization outings each year and has leagues on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Thompson said that when the golf course was taken over by the city and park district, the course was running at a $150,000 deficit per year. That number is now at a $40,000 deficit.
Potential upcoming projects at fairways include renovations to tee boxes, bunkers, the old pond and the pro shop, along with cart path updates, a hitting/warm up area, pro shop and course landscaping, tennis court renovation into a striped parking lot, and updating course signage.
The city plans to come to a new one-year agreement with the park district on ownership in the near future and to survey golfers on needs and create a capital improvement plan for Fairways before a multi-year agreement with the park district is discussed.
The council unanimously approved its fiscal year 2024 tax levy at the meeting. The city will collect $2,937,089 in property taxes, an increase of three percent. Based on the city's estimated equalized assessed value (EAV), the tax rate would decrease .071675 per $100 of EAV. The levy includes funding the Police and Fire Pension Funds as recommended by the pension boards’ actuarial studies.
Last year, the city's EAV was $283,176,819 and its property tax rate was 1.006360 per $100 of EAV. The city collected $2,849,778 in property taxes last year. For 2023, Ogle County has estimated the city’s EAV at $314,233,121, which is an increase of over $31 million.
The council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the purchase and maintenance of body cameras for the Rochelle Police Department's officers. Due to the state's new SAFE-T Act, RPD will be required to implement body cameras by Jan. 1, 2025.
RPD will purchase 25 body cameras for a total cost of $173,235.90 over five years. The total payment per year is $34,647.18. The police department has received two grants to help offset the total costs. The first is a federal grant for $50,000 the second is a state grant for $25,000. Once the first payment of $34,647.18 has been made, both of the grants will be issued to the police department.
The council also unanimously approved the purchase and installation of equipment for RPD's five new squad cars. The changes in equipment had to be made due to RPD replacing previous Dodge Charger squad cars with different Ford Explorer Interceptors. RPD Chief Pete Pavia said the new equipment will be able to be re-used in the future when the squad cars are replaced.
Mayor John Bearrows read a proclamation making Nov. 11 Veterans Day in the city. The proclamation was accepted by VFW Post 3878 Commander Joe Drought and members of the post. On Nov. 11, the city hosted veterans for a Veterans Day Breakfast event at the Rochelle Municipal Airport.
"Thank you so much for this and the council and city's continued support," Drought said. "Thank you for your efforts for this weekend's events and the breakfast. It was an absolutely fantastic event. We were very honored that it took place and appreciate everybody's efforts and support."