ROCHELLE — The Rochelle City Council unanimously voted to renew the employment agreement of City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh until May 2023 at its Monday meeting.
Fiegenschuh’s fourth anniversary as city manager was Sept. 11 and Mayor John Bearrows and city council members completed his annual performance review. Fiegenschuh’s new agreement runs concurrent with Bearrows’ current term ending in May 2023.
“I would say that over my term as mayor, which is 2.5 years now, and speaking for both council members new and old, most all of us have been with Jeff all the way along,” Bearrows said. “I'm extremely impressed with the leadership that he provides for the entire team in a lot of different ways. I want to publicly thank him for that. He's very on top of the game. When things need to be done, he's very proactive and I think the city and all the residents are extremely fortunate to have the leadership of the city manager that we do."
The city council approved an ordinance authorizing and providing for the issuance of $18 million in bonds to finance improvements to Rochelle’s electrical system. A similar ordinance was approved on Aug. 23, but it did not include language for the payment in lieu of taxes that the city transfers to the general fund.
Fiegenschuh said the bonds will be done in two issuances so local banks have an opportunity to bid. A second issuance would be done in January. He said he’s not sure about taking out the entire $18 million and the second issuance is still up in the air.
The city council unanimously approved the rental of an electrical distribution transformer which will cost $58,860 for month one, $22,000 for months two and three and $19,800 per month after four.
On Aug. 26 Rochelle Municipal Utilities received oil test results for the substation transformer at its diesel plant that showed high levels of flammable gas. RMU’s engineering consultants recommended it be taken out of service immediately.
The rental transformer has already been delivered and put online. At a July council meeting, a $628,500 purchase for a new power plant transformer was approved. Blake Toliver, RMU superintendent of electric operations, said the rental will have to be used until the new unit is delivered in an estimated eight months.
The council unanimously approved the preliminary and final plat of subdivision for properties located at 608 W. 2nd Ave., 127 N. 6th St., 522 W. 2nd Ave., 118 S. Washington St. and 512 W. 2nd Ave.
The reasoning for the two-lot subdivision is to combine eight parcels. The city plans to use lot one to construct wellhouse number four. Lot two is vacant for potential commercial development.
The city council unanimously voted to continue its small business permit fee waiver program. The program began on Dec. 9, 2019. The program was designed to assist small businesses with fees that are associated with opening a new business or expanding a business within the city that include electric, water, sewer and building permits.
To date, $6,748 in permit fees have been waived. The program was extended for five years until Dec. 31, 2026.
The findings of a survey done of visitors to the city’s railroad park were detailed at the meeting. Director of Marketing, Public Relations & Tourism Jenny Thompson said improvements are planned for the park like replacing siding, redoing the doors and upgrading the restrooms.
Some long-term ideas include more parking and an extended viewing area. The city plans to allocate $60,000 in American Rescue Plan funds towards improvements of the park.
Fiegenschuh presented Good News awards to Rochelle Police Detective Terry Inman and city Finance Director Chris Cardott.
Rochelle Police Chief Eric Higby said Inman took a call of theft of over $39,000 from CHS Ethanol on Feb. 22. Inman conducted an investigation that involved numerous banks, businesses, municipalities and law enforcement agencies across four states and several search warrants were executed for records. Inman’s work ultimately resolved the case.
Cardott was awarded after the city recently retained its A+ credit rating.
“The reason we were reaffirmed with the A+ was strong management with good financial policies and practices, strong budgetary performance, very strong budget flexibility and very strong liquidity,” Fiegenschuh said. “That says a lot about the council and staff. This award is for Chris and everybody else.”
Bearrows made a proclamation for Constitution week.
“Thank you for still commemorating this special week for the Rochelle DAR,” Sarah Flanagan, who accepted the proclamation, said. “The United States constitution stands as a testament to the tenacity of Americans throughout history.”