City council: Water reclamation rate resolution passes

Enterprise zone expansion approved

By Jeff Helfrich, Managing Editor
Posted 2/27/24

At its meeting Monday, the Rochelle City Council unanimously approved a resolution establishing water reclamation rates for Rochelle Municipal Utilities that will take effect Aug. 1.

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City council: Water reclamation rate resolution passes

Enterprise zone expansion approved


ROCHELLE — At its meeting Monday, the Rochelle City Council unanimously approved a resolution establishing water reclamation rates for Rochelle Municipal Utilities that will take effect Aug. 1.

RMU's rate structure had not changed since Aug. 1, 2021. The city recently had a rate analysis conducted based on its expenses, revenues, outstanding debt and future infrastructure investments over the next five years. The rate study resulted in an average rate increase per year over the next five years of 2.86 percent for residential, two percent for industrial, and three percent for Creston/Hillcrest customers. The rate increase will run through 2028 and will "ensure continued investment" in the city wastewater system.

Since 2015, the city has made "significant" improvements to its water reclamation collection and treatment system including constructing or lining over five miles of sanitary sewer, hundreds of manholes and upgrading approximately half of the wastewater treatment plant to meet future regulations. This May, phase two of upgrades at the wastewater treatment plant will begin, and that is a $10.7 million project with $3.5 million principal forgiveness on the loan. 

"The goal is to keep the rates at a sustainable level to ensure water treatment is reliable," RMU Superintendent of Water/Water Reclamation Adam Lanning said. "We always compare our rates to surrounding communities to make sure we're competitive. And the goal is to avoid artificially-low rates that will burden future generations when we'd see massive infrastructure needs and rate increases to pay for them."

The new rate structure also changed summer sewer saver rates to include April and May, but deleted October to cover when customers are filling pools. The city did not previously have a policy on pool filling prior to the new rate structure.

Enterprise zone

The council unanimously approved an amendment to its Lee-Ogle Enterprise Zone membership ordinance that will see the LOEZ expanded, especially around Rochelle.

The enterprise zone provides incentives for development projects in Lee and Ogle counties, primarily for construction and real estate improvements for businesses. Incentives include real estate tax abatement and building materials sales tax exemption for construction within the enterprise zone. Amendments to the enterprise zone must be approved by governing bodies with property in it. 

Through state legislation last year, enterprise zones were permitted to add 3,000 acres. 

The amendment identifies industrial and large-scale development parcels in and around Rochelle and Dixon. Additionally, several smaller commercial areas have been identified with the assistance of county assessors including several commercial-scale apartments, those larger than a duplex and built as apartments. The LOEZ's leadership hopes that will incentivize landlords to enhance living conditions for renters.

The amendment will net 1,376 acres in Rochelle, 707 in Dixon, 31 in Mt. Morris, 15 in Amboy 15, seven in Oregon, one in Franklin Grove, and one in Ashton for a total of 2,140 added. Prior to the amendment, the Lee-Ogle Enterprise Zone had 3,656 acres of unallocated space available to it. Upon the amendment’s anticipated approval by the state, 1,517 acres will remain available for future additions to the zone for future economic development projects.

Mayor John Bearrows serves as chair of the LOEZ board and said the expansion has been in the works for several months.

"It's an expansion to increase industrial benefits to draw people to our communities," Bearrows said. "With all the negatives there are about Illinois and doing business, this is one of the things we can have in these locations that other people aren't going to have.”

LOEZ Administrator Andy Shaw said the city's current enterprise zone areas have been fruitful.

"Rochelle has been doing good work with the amount of zone that was given to it in 2017," Shaw said. "Certainly it makes sense that this is where some more would go. Because there's been a lot of success here."

City of Rochelle Economic Development Director Jason Anderson said the new areas have been strategically chosen for potential future development based on where RMU infrastructure is.

SB 2881

The council unanimously approved a resolution opposing State Senate Bill 2881, which would alter how municipalities like the City of Rochelle annex and regulate unincorporated property.

Non-home rule municipalities like Rochelle can currently only exercise powers explicitly granted by law, however, the Illinois General Assembly has granted broad authority to municipalities to pass ordinances and regulations to carry out their powers.

SB 2881 would require any land subject to an annexation agreement to be contiguous to a municipal boundary. That would eliminate the city's current ability to regulate properties within its 1.5-mile extraterritorial jurisdiction and reduce its ability to annex property and deal with certain local land use ordinances, contributions of land or money and property tax abatements. The city believes SB 2881 would harm all municipalities and hinder economic development in the state.

"What we really don't want is the state getting involved in our land-use subjects," City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh said. "That's what people elect our city council for, to make those decisions."

March 5

Bearrows said during the meeting that he and Fiegenschuh will host their annual State of the Community address on Tuesday March 5 at 2 p.m., both at City Hall and live on Facebook.