City moves development department, plans to move engineering

Rochelle City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh said July 20 said that the city’s community development and building departments have moved from the Rochelle Municipal Utilities Building at 333 Lincoln Highway to City Hall.

Plan is set moving forward for new southside building, other locations

ROCHELLE — Rochelle City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh said July 20 said that the city’s community development and building departments have moved from the Rochelle Municipal Utilities Building at 333 Lincoln Highway to City Hall.

The city’s finance and utility billing departments are working together at 333 Lincoln Highway. Last year, the city purchased the former Johnson Tractor facility at 1030 S. 7th St. for $1.3 million and moved its water, water reclamation and electric departments to the facility and sold some of the properties used by those departments. 

The city now refers to 1030 S. 7th St. as the City of Rochelle (COR) Southside location. After looking at moving the RMU billing and finance departments and some city hall departments to COR Southside in the future, Fiegenschuh said the current plan is to keep those departments where they are, with the exception of the engineering department, which will move to the southside this fall. The geographic information system (GIS) department is currently at the location as well.

“Ultimately, we want to consolidate as much as possible and I really want to have more people working together and reduce our building footprint,” Fiegenschuh said. “And we're moving in that direction. We kind of changed things up. Finance and utility billing are located at 333 Lincoln Highway. We're going to leave that downtown. Some council members wanted us to keep that presence downtown. People will still go pay their utility bill downtown. But we wanted to have finance together with the utility billing department because such a large component of what we do is the utility side. We're a city with a $90 million budget and $60-70 million of it is utilities. Having them together is great.”

The city is planning renovations for the COR Southside location, but the final plans for them will be done in-house in an effort to save money and a contractor will be hired for the work. The city manager said more progress will be made on the plans in the coming months. 

A design firm was previously hired for the renovation plans, and the city will be working off that plan going forward. 

“The plan they developed was for when we were talking about moving utility billing to the southside,” Fiegenschuh said. “They did a great job. Ultimately we're scaling some of that back because we're not going to have as much public going through there because utility billing is going to remain downtown."

Fiegenschuh called the past few years “hectic” with moves for city departments and commended staff on working through it. Community development and engineering used to be housed across the street from city hall before Kennay Farms Distilling purchased the property and built its Rick House. Those departments then moved to 333 Lincoln Highway.

“I've told my staff, 'This is it. I promise. No more moves,'” Fiegenschuh said. “I think we've gotten to a point where everyone is happy and certainly we have people in the same building with coworkers they communicate with regularly and that they need to be working with."

Having staff members with similar positions in the same building allows for cross training to be done so people can perform multiple job functions. That has been a recent priority of the city council, Fiegenschuh said. 

For example, staff members in utility billing are cross trained to work in accounts payable and on the finance side.

“That's another reason I wanted all of those folks together,” Fiegenschuh said. “As more people leave the organization and we replace them and cross train them, it just makes sense for somebody with a finance background to also be working in utility billing and vice versa. It's just making sure that people with alike job descriptions are working together. I think that's more efficient.”

Fiegenschuh said it’s important for the city to have a presence in every corridor of the community and keeping its downtown locations sends a message about its investment in the downtown area.

“Certainly we need to have a presence, but we do in all corridors of our community,” Fiegenschuh said. “Not just a physical presence, but a supportive presence and we need to make sure we don't treat any of them better than the others. Our downtown is important, but so are the other corridors and we want to make sure we have a presence everywhere."

The city manager said it’s a priority for him to set employees up for success as much as possible in their work environment. Along with reworking staff locations, the city also recently started a continuing education program for employees called Rochelle-U in conjunction with Kishwaukee College.

“Part of that equation is making sure your staff has the ability to do things like continuing education or increasing or expanding their skill set,” Fiegenschuh said. “By expanding your employees' skills, they're bringing new skills back to the organization to make it better. I will continue to advocate for additional opportunities for our staff to reinvest in themselves.”