City holds celebration for completed $13.8 million electrical substation

On Friday, the City of Rochelle and Rochelle Municipal Utilities held a celebration for their recently-completed $13.8 million electrical substation project at 1630 Ritchie Court.

‘This project is for today and for tomorrow’

ROCHELLE — On Friday, the City of Rochelle and Rochelle Municipal Utilities held a celebration for their recently-completed $13.8 million electrical substation project at 1630 Ritchie Court. 

The project broke ground a year ago in an effort to serve current customers and attract new industrial growth. The new substation will increase reliability for nearby industries and create the ability to have redundant feeds. This substation will also introduce a new voltage class for the city to be able to provide electricity to larger users and will be the first substation project split into two yards with the distribution yard owned and operated by RMU and the transmission yard owned and operated by ComEd.

In 2019, the city purchased just over 16 acres for construction of the substation to support growth in Rochelle’s southern corridor. Zekelman Industries, which will soon be opening next door to the substation in the former Nippon Sharyo buildings, will be one of the city’s largest power users. 

“This is an amazing project,” Rochelle Mayor John Bearrows said. “It takes care of not only our businesses today, but it also gives us expansion capabilities for the future. That's one of the things the city has always been good about, looking forward and seeing what we’ll need in the future, not just today. This project will be the catalyst for not only current service, but to promote expansion down the road.”

Bearrows called ComEd an “amazing partner to work with” on the project, which came together over 18 months ahead of schedule amid supply chain and workforce shortages. The mayor thanked City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh, City Attorney Dominick Lanzito, RMU Superintendent of Electric Operations Blake Toliver and staff members for seeing the project through. 

"You all played a big part in this,” Bearrows said. “Everybody with the city really is a team. We don't always agree, but we can reach a compromise that's good for everybody. Thank you all for being here."

The mayor spoke of the importance of having infrastructure in place to attract future businesses and growth. 

“This project is for today and for tomorrow,” Bearrows said. “And for decades. If somebody wants to come here, we have close to 1,000 acres that are shovel-ready. We have the power, sewer, water and everything it takes. I'm very proud of that. I want to thank our city council for being exceptionally supportive. They want the community to be on track and to grow. This is a great project, and it will be the catalyst for many great things to come.”

Toliver called being able to pull the project together on time in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty “a huge feat.” The new substation is the largest RMU has energized to date. He thanked project contractors BHMG Engineers, Whittaker Construction and Morse Electric for their work. 

BHMG Project Manager Jason Jackson said the substation will provide reliability to make sure RMU is known as a reliable power source. The city is planning to build another substation in coming years on the west side of town. 

“The electric department puts reliability first, and that's dedication,” Jackson said. “Existing customers come first here. The team worked diligently. The supply chain is brutal, but the team did a great job of staying cool and working through the progress. I think it was a very successful project and I look forward to the next one.” 

Fiegenschuh said the new substation is a product of reinvesting in infrastructure being a key part of the city’s strategic plan. When he first started as city manager over four years ago, he was informed of the need for a new substation and it became a priority. 

“This is a product of cooperation between the city and ComEd, our mayor and city council and the new industries that are coming to town and the current ones,” Fiegenschuh said. “I'll see you all in two years when we build our next substation."