Looking ahead to 2023 work for the City of Rochelle

The City of Rochelle’s plans for 2023 include looking at the future of the vacant Hickory Grove site, making upgrades to electric infrastructure, completing its Rochelle Intermodal Transload Facility, a Well 8 rehabilitation project and hiring new police officers.

Fiegenschuh: ‘There's a lot of good things I'm looking forward to’

ROCHELLE — The City of Rochelle’s plans for 2023 include looking at the future of the vacant Hickory Grove site, making upgrades to electric infrastructure, completing its Rochelle Intermodal Transload Facility, a Well 8 rehabilitation project and hiring new police officers.

Rochelle City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh spoke with the News-Leader on Dec. 21 about what residents can expect from the new year.

After demolition of the Hickory Grove facility at 1127 N. 7th St. was completed in early 2022, Fiegenschuh said conversations will be had among city leadership in winter or early spring of 2023 on the site’s future and a potential development. 

"I plan to go back to the city council sometime this winter or early spring and see where they want to go with Hickory Grove and if we want to do something different or hire a broker,” Fiegenschuh said. “We're going to start having those conversations again. I'm not saying we need to make that decision right away, and it's ultimately up to the mayor and council. That's something we need to have a conversation about."

After completing a nearly-$15 million new electrical substation on Ritchie Road in 2022, the city and Rochelle Municipal Utilities plan to move forward with planning for their next substation on the west side of town. The electric department also has plans to tie all the city’s substations together to be able to increase reliability.

“We'll also have to navigate our wholesale electric costs going up,” Fiegenschuh said. “If we have to go out into the market and buy power, we're seeing pretty large price increases over where we were a couple years ago.”

The RITC project broke ground in November and will return intermodal services to the city and its local industries via city-owned railroad. The plan is to complete the project in 2023 and provide intermodal services at an opportune location away from the suburbs for local industries to reduce transportation costs.

Fiegenschuh said hiring new police officers for the Rochelle Police Department will continue to be a priority in 2023 as the department navigates retirements and promotions.

“A high priority for me is hiring at least three or four new police officers,” Fiegenschuh said. “I'd like to hire five if we could. We want to hire additional officers in anticipation of retirements."

In 2023, the city manager said he’s looking forward to two multi-family apartment housing developments planned for the southside of town in the area of Lake Lida Lane to help with Rochelle’s housing availability. 

After the completion of its Well 4 rehabilitation project in 2022, the city and RMU plan to start and complete their Well 8 rehabilitation project this year. Plans are also in place to continue to do street and sidewalk repairs. In 2022, 45,000 square feet of sidewalk and curb were replaced.

The city’s economic development department is working with Rochelle Township High School and Kishwaukee College to put on another job fair in 2023.

“We want to continue working with our industries on workforce development issues,” Fiegenschuh said. “I want to work with the mayor and city council to come up with creative ways to support our business community. They're the backbone of the town and we want to continue to help our small businesses succeed and continue to work with companies like Wheatland Tube, Americold, Rochelle Foods and all of our industrial corporate partners.”

City staff plan to develop a theme for the year in January and set broader goals for each department. 

"There's a lot of good things I'm looking forward to in 2023,” Fiegenschuh said. “I'm not sure what the theme will be. We've talked about getting back to basics and other ideas. Whatever we do, we're going to have a major emphasis this next year on supporting each other and helping each other be successful. Ultimately our job is to make the city successful, and when the city's successful, the mayor and city council and most importantly our residents are successful."