City council: Railroad crossing engineering work approved

Monday's Rochelle City Council meeting included the approval of improvements to two railroad crossings, an amendment to a land lease agreement with Chicagoland Skydiving Center, a liquor license change for a downtown bar and an amendment to the city's development agreement with Salt 251.

Land lease agreement amendment with CSC approved

ROCHELLE — At its Monday meeting, the Rochelle City Council unanimously approved a proposal by Fehr Graham for the engineering and design of the replacement of city-owned railroad crossings at Caron and Steam Plant Roads.

The crossings are both 17 years old and are starting to deteriorate, according to the meeting’s agenda packet. The city’s railroad capital projects fund has over $1 million on hand and will cover the engineering and construction costs. The meeting’s agenda packet listed the expenditure to Fehr Graham as $18,900 for engineering design and $31,000 for construction services. Fehr Graham will manage the project once it’s awarded to a contractor. 

“They're 17 years old,” City Economic Development Director Jason Anderson said. “Last winter, they just started to fall apart. Once we have Fehr Graham put the work together we'll go out for bid. I'm hoping to get on this very soon this summer.”

CSC

The council unanimously approved an amendment to its land lease agreement with Chicagoland Skydiving Center at its airport. CSC requested the amendment to allow for repurposing of a small section of land at the airport to increase its current canoeing area.

The amendment also permits CSC to relocate a fence at its expense within its leased property area. The tent camp area will be separated from the flight activity area. 

"This is kind of another step towards this being a community airport,” Mayor John Bearrows said. “You have local residents that fly and enjoy the airport. CSC has made a big investment out there and it creates a lot of entertainment for local folks."

Liquor license

The council unanimously approved an ordinance deleting one class B liquor license for Da Place at 215 Lincoln Hwy. and created one class B license for Lisa’s Pub, to be owned by Lisa Schwarz, at the same location. The business is planned to change ownership and liquor licenses cannot be transferred from one business to another. 

Salt 251

The council unanimously voted to authorize City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh to execute an amendment to the city’s development agreement with Salt 251.

The city’s agreement with Salt 251 involves tax increment financing (TIF) and Salt 251’s owner has submitted receipts in excess of $250,000 that was agreed to by the city in 2016. Instead of waiting to be paid by the city over the life of the TIF, Salt 251’s owner asked instead to be reimbursed in two installments of $89,500, one in June 2022 and one in June 2023. The city has paid $40,000 towards the $250,000 in reimbursable expenses. 

“And then he'll forgive the rest, which is about a $30,000 forgiveness,” Fiegenschuh said. “It's just an opportunity to wrap up this development agreement and it saves the city $30,000 we would've paid over the life of the TIF.”

Ambulance billing

The council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the execution of an agreement with Northern Illinois Ambulance Billing, Inc. The city and Rochelle Fire Department do not do their own billing after the fire department transfers a patient in its ambulance and they use a company like NIAB to do it. 

The city entered into a contract with NIAB in 2014 to provide all ambulance billing services and renewed it in 2017. During the 2021 audit it was discovered the contract with NIAB had not been renewed. After talking with NIAB about renewing the contract, NIAB agreed to reduce its collection fee from nine percent to eight percent of total fees collected. The contract will run through May 2023 with an automatic renewal for an additional four years if all parties are in agreement.

The council also unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the city manager to execute an agreement between the city and the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority that will see the fire department paid $500 for every call it responds to on the tollway. 

The agreement does not prohibit the city’s ability to directly bill patients for ambulance services or companies for hazardous material spills

"It will offset the cost of running those calls and to ensure that the tollway is protected, they've offered to pay directly for every call,” Rochelle Fire Chief Dave Sawlsville said. “Every time we go onto the tollway for anything, they'll pay $500.”

Resort license

The council held a discussion regarding adding a resort classification to its liquor license structure.

In 2012 when the city’s liquor code was updated, a resort classification was deleted due to no businesses holding a license. Recently, the Comfort Inn & Suites Rochelle located at 1133 N. 7th St. and Holiday Inn Express located at 1240 Dement Rd. have each requested a liquor license. City Clerk Rose Hueramo said neither business plans to operate a bar and neither has a restaurant, therefore they don’t qualify for the city’s other liquor license classifications of bar (B) or restaurant (R). 

The city also has a current moratorium on bar licenses in an effort to limit the number of gaming machines in town. Bearrows said a resort license would not involve gaming. 

“Following tonight's discussion, the mayor and I will get together and try to make a proposal and bring it to a future council meeting,” Hueramo said.

Proclamation

Bearrows proclaimed May as Sound the Alarm month in the city. Rochelle Fire will be partnering with The Red Cross next month in a smoke alarm installation event on May 14 to prevent fires in the community.

Girl Scouts

Bearrows and the city council were presented with Girl Scout cookies from a local troop. The mayor posed with Rochelle’s girl scouts following the presentation.

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