City working on improvements to its new southside location

The city paid $1.3 million for the building in 2021 and is working on renovating and upgrading it to fit its needs.

Renovations expected to be completed this year

ROCHELLE — The Rochelle City Council recently approved an engineering/architectural services agreement with Willett, Hofmann & Associates for phase two of its improvements to Rochelle Municipal Utilities’ building at 1030 S. 7th St. The city paid $1.3 million for the building in 2021 and is working on renovating and upgrading it to fit its needs. The building was previously Johnson Tractor’s old location. 

The engineering work, approved Jan. 23, will cost $158,500. Improvements will primarily include an interior addition to accommodate new breakrooms, locker rooms, bathrooms, showers and training facilities along with additional storage and interior office renovations and other related improvements. The work also includes developing more accurate cost estimates as the project develops. The total budgeted amount for the project is $900,000.

“It sounds like and is a lot, but when you think about your forever home, you're investing in a building that you're keeping forever,” City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh said. “It's a good investment. My hope is that going into this summer and fall, we'll have everything done and by next winter we can have a ribbon cutting and be done and that's it, that's our home. With the exception of just annual maintenance on the building, that project will be done, completed and behind us."

The 1030 S. 7th St. building currently houses RMU’s water and electric departments and the city’s engineering and geographic information system personnel. The city purchased the building in an effort to consolidate and reduce its building footprint in town. Fiegenschuh said he wants departments that often work together to report to the same location each day. 

The city manager said he was impressed with the first phase of improvements to the southside building. 

“It looks really nice so far,” Fiegenschuh said. “The offices look good and they're all connected so they can communicate. I like the fact that GIS is down there so she can work directly with engineering and utilities. We have our AutoCAD employee so she can work with GIS and communicate. People are together that need to communicate in person.”

The city previously considered moving RMU billing to the southside location, but then decided to leave it at 333 Lincoln Highway downtown after hearing from residents and council members that wanted RMU billing’s presence to remain downtown. 

Due to the purchase of 1030 S. 7th St. and being able to move RMU crews there, the city was able to sell some property that previously housed those employees. Fiegenschuh said the city is eventually going to try to consolidate more with buildings. 

“I don't know when, but over time I think there's an opportunity for more public works use there,” Fiegenschuh said. “We've talked about a centralized fueling station in that area. Having our linemen, water and sewer personnel together and eventually I'd like to see more public works people down there. They all work together and it's important to be in the same building.”

Fiegenschuh said he wants to utilize the space on the southside property as much as possible, and mentioned the idea of potentially parking police vehicles there indoors. Rochelle Police Department vehicles are currently parked outdoors in the lots surrounding city hall. 

“We have had some conversations with RPD leadership last year about eventually having a place where we can store our police vehicles overnight,” Fiegenschuh said. “I just think there's a lot of opportunities long-term to really utilize as much of that space as possible and not having property all over the place and vehicles exposed to the elements. Those vehicles are expensive. A police vehicle is $50,000-60,000, so we need to take care of them and not have them sit outside all the time.”

Fiegenschuh said that even after improvements to the facility are completed, the city will evaluate personnel and buildings each year for possible consolidation that makes sense. He said he’s happy with the investment in the building and looking forward to its completion for employees’ sake. 

“I really want to get it done,” Fiegenschuh said. “Quite honestly I want to get it done for the sanity of our water and electric departments. We don't have an effective break room yet. A lot of the facilities haven't been upgraded since the 1990s or before. We need to get those updated. I really want to just see our water, waste water and utilities people have a place to call home for good and know that's where they're staying.”