City council: Potential long-term railroad park improvements discussed

At Monday's Rochelle City Council meeting, a presentation was made on potential long-term improvements to the city's railroad park. This rendering by the City of Rochelle shows what the parks gift shop could look similar to after new siding and other renovations.

Power supply presentation made

ROCHELLE — At Monday's Rochelle City Council meeting, a presentation was made on potential long-term improvements to the city's railroad park.

In 2021, city staff began to explore potential upgrades to the park for a long-term improvement plan. Willett, Hofmann & Associates was contracted to create visual rendering and provide cost estimates. A survey and Zoom interviews of railfans were conducted and ideas were incorporated into the plan.

City Director of Community Engagement Jenny Thompson made the presentation on the improvements that could include renovating the gift shop and park area and construction on the unused southern portion of the property.

The potential gift shop improvements could include upgrades to the bathrooms, security, accessibility, pipes, siding and doors, the entrance, visibility and accessibility and a garbage enclosure, display monitor and a front yard sign. The total cost of all of those improvements would be $200,000.

"My first priority is the gift shop," Thompson said. "Right now the restroom is not handicap accessible. We're proposing the use of $60,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to begin some of these projects. The first one would be the restrooms. It would go from two restrooms to a single family bathroom with a wider, more accessible door."

Thompson said the city opted to look at the cost of all potential improvements and projects for future reference and said the only current city money earmarked for work at the park is the $60,000 in ARPA funds that have already been received from the federal government.

Potential projects in the park area that the city has looked at for the future include improvements to the west edge point, additional fencing, outdoor displays, accessibility issues, more lighting, improved camera locations for virtual viewing, expanded viewing areas, a display of the Whitcomb turntable, more electric outlets, a ceiling fan for the pavilion, an elevated tower and an enclosed heating area for winter viewing. The total cost of those improvements would be $265,000.

Potential projects for the property south of the park include parking for RVs and campers with electric hookups, additional parking for cars and sidewalk access to the gift shop at a total cost of $200,000.

"These are kind of the pie-in-the-sky, long-shot projects that I said, 'While we're going through all this pricing, let's just see what this would cost,'" Thompson said. "We've had requests for many years for RV parking and camper hookups at the railroad park. We've had many times where we could’ve used more parking."

Thompson said the city also plans to apply for a state tourism grant to fund future projects at the railroad park. Small pieces of the projects will be funded by the city's regular hotel/motel budget in coming years.

IMPA

Kyle Brouillette, a representative from the city's power marketing firm, the Indiana Municipal Power Agency, made a presentation to the council about Rochelle Municipal Utilities' position in the current power market.

Brouillette detailed how the city supplies its customers with power through three sources: its main baseload power from the Prairie State Energy Campus, its NextEra Energy purchase contract and the power RMU produces on its own.

The city and IMPA seek work to balance supply and demand when providing electricity to customers.

"Rochelle taking steps to hedge our power the way that we do has really protected us from the market volatility right now," RMU Superintendent of Electric Operations Blake Toliver said. "And that's why we've been able to keep our rates so stable. If you look all around us, rates are going crazy with these other utilities because they're buying. And we've been able to hedge."

During peak power days, the RMU generation plant runs in an effort to minimize the city's need to pay more for power off the market to supply residents with. Brouillette also modeled what a potential solar power resource might look like for the city in the future if it decided it wanted to add that to its portfolio.

Message board

The council unanimously approved the purchase of a digital message display board trailer for $15,394.50 for its public works department. 

The city has one other trailer like it that's 10 years old and it’s utilized for things like road work zones, city events, emergency repairs, detours and weather-related emergencies.

The city often has projects in multiple locations at the same time and adding an additional message display board will provide information at each end of a work zone or a separate location.

Retirement

Rochelle Police Department Sgt. Jason Bergeron was recognized after he retired last month after 22 years of service.

"The key I've discovered is with policing, it's not us versus them," Bergeron said. "It's us and the citizens versus people who want to break the law. We just have to remember that we're all together and we're all working for the same thing."

Swearing in

Rochelle Police Department Officer Nate Brass was sworn in at the meeting. He was hired earlier this year as a patrol officer and has experience with the Rockford Police Department and the Rock Valley College Police Department.

Good News

City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh presented two Good News awards at the meeting. The first was presented to City Councilwoman Rosaelia Arteaga and two volunteers for their work on Saturday's Cinco De Mayo Festival.

The second Good News Award was presented to the city's IT department for its work after a fire alarm went off at its location a couple of weeks ago.

"Those guys were there at 3 a.m. and stayed all day into the next day," Fiegenschuh said. “I wanted to recognize you not only for handling that call, but also for the fact that none of what we do happens without you guys. Our entire network is run by three individuals who are tops in my book."

Patriot marker

The council voted unanimously to authorize the Rochelle Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution to apply for and place an America 250 Patriot Marker at the Veterans War Memorial at Lawnridge Cemetery.

The marker is a bronze plaque that will help the DAR to celebrate America's 250th birthday.

Proclamation

Bearrows read a proclamation during the meeting making May Motorcycle Awareness month in the city.

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