City Council: Rezoning for transload station expansion approved

Disposal of Hickory Grove sign approved

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ROCHELLE — The Rochelle City Council unanimously approved the rezoning of property located north of 1951 Steward Rd. at its Monday meeting with the purpose of expanding its transloading facility. 

The property is owned by the city and will now be zoned for heavy industry. At its June meeting, the city council approved additional money for the scope of its transload center due to changes in its future use. 

An opportunity was presented to the city to re-establish an intermodal service through the Rochelle Transload Center that the city lost in 2019 in Union Pacific's (UP) Global III Intermodal Terminal. 

“This and other parts of it became more important when Global III closed up,” Mayor John Bearrows said. 

Changes and construction include paving the entrance of the RTC and a concrete loading pad to allow intermodal containers to be loaded & unloaded from the RTC track. 

City Economic Development Director Jason Anderson said at that June meeting that revenue potential for the project is more than four times than what the original project would have generated.

Hickory Grove sign

The council unanimously approved the sale of surplus personal property owned by the city related to Hickory Grove, which is planned to be demolished this fall. 

Last year, the council authorized the disposal of property at Hickory Grove to help cover the 

costs of the future demolition. There are still items that can be disposed of including the sign located on Illinois Route 251.  

The city has seen increased inquiries about the sign and other items at the facility and City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh has been authorized to dispose of the sign and items. 

If the sign is disposed of, the city will plat an easement for a future community sign to be located in that area. The proceeds will be used to offset the costs of the acquisition and demolition of the Hickory Grove facility.

“Things are going to start moving more quickly on this project,” Fiegenschuh said. “It's been a while since the council approved the agreement with Comfort Inn, but we finally have that signed and executed and we should be finalizing the documents for the demolition and the bid. Once we get word from the state on our grant and notice to proceed, we're going to go out to bid on the demolition.”

VCCT parking lot

The city council held a lengthy discussion regarding the possibility of assisting the Vince Carney Community Theater with the paving of their north parking lot on the corner of South Main Street and 1st Avenue. 

Bearrows brought the idea to the council and said the VCCT did not ask for it. The cost of the parking lot would be around $40,000. Staff and council have had previous discussions about doing a similar project with a 5-10-year pay back by the VCCT.  However, based on conversations this may be difficult for it to afford, city officials said. 

“I feel personally as a city that this is a community development expense,” Bearrows said. “Supporting the arts is a key part of the community to round it out. They probably aren't going to be able to pay back in five years because they're just getting started. I think it's a great asset for our community. I know it's an expense. I think it's worthwhile to jump in and try to help them.”

The VCCT lot will be required to be hard surface when improvements eventually begin to it, but the lot is currently grandfathered into the city ordinance. Fiegenschuh said potential work wouldn’t begin until next year. 

Council members expressed reservations of doing and paying for the entire projects and discussed other ideas like a longer pay back, matching funds if the VCCT were to do a fundraiser and discussing it further with the theater. 

“It's whether or not the best use of city taxpayer money is to randomly pick our favorites of community organizations,” Councilman Tom McDermott said. “If we start giving to one, others are going to come. I don't necessarily agree it's the city's job to help finance these things or parts of them. I'd rather avoid it right now. I think VCCT is a great group. It's just not the city's job. At least not the tune of $40,000.”

Utility expenditures

The city council unanimously approved a change order for switchgear for its Prologis substation to contract with Powercon for an additional amount not to exceed $91,101 and a total amount contract of $2,588,282.

Blake Toliver, Rochelle Municipal Utilities superintendent of electric operations, said the changes include different relays, cameras and a security system.

The council also approved the retention of BHMG Engineers, Inc. for engineering services for its phase 2 electric systems upgrades. The engineering contract is $1.07 million for all four of the projects the city plans to use $18 million in issued bonds for. The projects include a new substation and transformer. 

Fiegenschuh said the engineering contract is about six percent of the total project and that’s typical for engineering costs. The city will know in two weeks if it can use the bonds to pay for the project.

“We had our public hearing two weeks ago for the bonds, there's a little over two weeks left before we'll know for sure if we'll be able to issue them,” Fiegenschuh said. We'll know two weeks from today and we'll move forward if you guys approve this. This is pending the approval of the bonds.”

The council also approved $124,000 for BHMG to design a new underground feeder line from its new electrical substation to the east building at 1600 Ritchie Court, which is expected to house “Project Jackpot,” a business that has purchased that property. 

BHMG has overseen all engineering aspects of the construction of the Ritchie Road substation that was announced earlier this year.

Charging station ordinance

The city council unanimously approved an ordinance pertaining to electric vehicle charging stations that were recently installed downtown. 

The ordinance outlines who can park in those stalls and for how long and defines terms of electric vehicles and charging stations. It protects the city against damage to vehicles and fire liability. 

If a vehicle isn’t plugged in and charging, it should not be in one of the stalls, city officials said. 

Toliver said the charging stations have been used and the parking lot is set up for more to be added.