City approves tentative purchase of Johnson Tractor building for $1.3 million

Building is planned to house and consolidate utilities equipment

Jeff Helfrich
Posted 6/28/21

The City of Rochelle city council unanimously approved the tentative purchase of the Johnson Tractor building at 1030 S. 7th St. for $1.3 million at its Monday meeting.

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City approves tentative purchase of Johnson Tractor building for $1.3 million

Building is planned to house and consolidate utilities equipment


ROCHELLE — The City of Rochelle city council unanimously approved the tentative purchase of the Johnson Tractor building at 1030 S. 7th St. for $1.3 million at its Monday meeting. 

The plan for the building is to consolidate Rochelle Municipal Utilities equipment and supplies. The offices will also be utilized by city and RMU staff and the move will consolidate operations to a fewer number of buildings for the city and RMU. The appraised price of the building was $1.255 million. City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh advised the council to up the amount to no more than $1.3 million to cover potential closing costs. 

The purchase will be funded with a loan from Holcomb Bank and will be paid back for a period of no more than five years. The repayment of the loan will be shared amongst the various utilities using this property.

The interest rate for the purchase will be 2.1 percent, the lowest of the quotes the city received that ranged up to 2.96 percent from 4-5-year offerings of repayment. Fiegenschuh suggested a 4-year term of paying about $316,000 a year with total interest over the life of the loan of $64,583. 

Each department will pay one of the four years of payment including water, sewer, electric and the city’s general fund. 

“The whole idea is to consolidate operations into one location,” Fiegenschuh said. “We'll have the electric, water and water reclamation. I'd like to see some of the city side and potentially engineering down there. There's some opportunities to consolidate more operations into one location.”

Fiegenschuh said the plan is to sell the buildings that will be vacated by the move. Phase two of the purchase still needs to be approved later on and if there are any “significant findings” before then, the city won’t move forward with the purchase, Fiegenschuh said. 

“We'll make sure it looks nice because it's in the southern corridor of our city and that's one of the corridors we're starting to focus more time and attention on,” Fiegenschuh said. “It's a great location and I think it will be a good fit for all of our operations.”

The city has $87,000 in its building improvement fund from the sale of the property across the street from city hall to Kennay Farms Distilling. If improvements have to be made to the Johnson Tractor building, that money would be used. 

Mayor John Bearrows said he was in favor of the purchase due to the ease of departments to help each other and share equipment. He’d like to see the street department move into the location as well at some point down the road. 

“We may have to look at building on another building to bring them in,” Bearrows said. “By the time you move the rest of the stuff there, you'll have to have something else to put them in. It makes sense to have it in one location. If we have an outage, the RMU line trucks are trapped between the tracks if you happen to have a time when trains are on both. It's not conducive to good response time. I think it's a great move.”

Rail expansion purchase

The city unanimously approved the purchase of 18.85 acres of land for $35,000 an acre at a total cost of $659,750 to expand its industrial development capabilities and increase revenues the city derives from the rail system.

The city purchased the land from GREDCO on a 4-year payment plan at zero percent interest. Annual payment would be $164,937.50 which will be due one year from the date of the purchase agreement.

Sections of this strip of rail property have been purchased by the city over the past 18 years as the need for rail service grew with rail-served industries being developed in the southeast industrial corridor, City Economic Development Director Jason Anderson said. 

“One of the things that's been a part of the plan is we'll be able to park as much as three miles of train at a time. What makes our area very attractive is that we're going to have as much as three miles of track without a crossing. It will be very advantageous for us to market that. 

“We've found this to be true, the more track, the more revenue,” Anderson said. “The more track we have to hold trains and have trains serve industries, the more revenue. I'm excited about this.”

Citizens academy

Assistant to the City Manager/City Clerk Sue Messer made a presentation on the city’s new Citizens Academy program at the Monday meeting. 

The 10-week program offers the opportunity to learn about the city and its various departments. Participants will go behind the scenes to learn how the city works through hands-on activities, facility tours and more.

The sessions will be held every Thursday, Aug. 26 through Oct. 28 from 6-8:30 p.m. at various city facilities. Applicants must be 18 or older and agree to attend at least eight of the 10 sessions.  

The program is free, and sessions will include a complimentary meal. Applications are available at City Hall, on the city’s website at, and on its Facebook page. The deadline to submit an application is July 22, 2021. Class size is capped at 20 participants.

“Maybe it sparks an interest,” Messer said. “And that would be worth something. I know some of our most recent council members haven't had some of those opportunities. It would be great for somebody to stick their toes in the water and see if it's something they might like. It could increase our pool of volunteers for future community events.”

Good news

City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh recognized Director of Marketing, Public Relations and Tourism Jenny Thompson for achieving her master's degree of public administration with a Good News award.


The council unanimously approved Bearrows’ appointments to committees that included Mike Myers (planning and zoning term expiring in 2026), Mitch Montgomery (police and fire commission expiring in 2024), Jim May (stormwater advisory expiring in 2024), Dennis Stewart and Bob Johns (both golf course advisory board expiring in 2024) and Joel Thompson (trucking advisory expiring in 2024). 

“We still have some openings if anyone would like to apply for some of the other committees,” Bearrows said. “Planning and zoning, stormwater advisory, airport advisory and utility advisory all have openings.”