Happy New Year. With Christmas and New Year’s Day behind us, we look forward to what lies ahead for the City of Rochelle. The COVID-19 pandemic brought many challenges and changed the way we work and live. Rochelle has proven its resilience by pulling together. I am proud to be part of Team Rochelle.
As last year ended, I started thinking about the many great things that have happened in our community. Most notably, the city council passed a very achievable budget, despite the negative effects of the pandemic. In 2021, the State of Illinois mandated the closure of certain types of businesses and suspended gaming throughout the state. City gaming revenues are dedicated to funding the Police & Fire Pension Fund. Through careful strategic planning, city management created a revenue stream to fund the pension obligation rather than relying on the money to support the General Fund.
I would like publicly to thank the department heads, city staff and the City Manager for uniting everyone to present a budget to the council they could approve, despite not always knowing when revenues from state and federal agencies will be received. The City of Rochelle is in a strong financial position because of the commitment by staff to be prudent in their spending.
The razing of Hickory Grove should occur within the next 45 days. The final bid to demolish the building was approved by council in Dec. 2021. Community Development and the city manager will recruit a developer to revitalize the property and generate property taxes on the historic site.
In 2021, we were fortunate to welcome new storefronts and participate in retail grand openings in the community. Business retention is a primary focus of our Community and Economic Development departments. In cooperation with the Rochelle Retail Advisory Board, Rochelle Chamber of Commerce, Kishwaukee College and the Small Business Development Center at Waubonsee College, I am optimistic that jobs will continue to be filled, and that the city will host a second Community of Opportunity Job Expo in the spring. The expo that was held in Sept. 2021 at Rochelle Township High School (RTHS) was a resounding success. It was heartwarming to see job seekers finding jobs that will lead brighter futures. We estimate that over 50 local jobs were filled because of the expo.
There are several roadway and utility infrastructure upgrades and replacements planned throughout the community in 2022. A modern infrastructure has a positive impact on our mobility and productivity. Additional job fairs and job retention meetings for locals, will also be on the docket.
And finally, the 2021 Rochelle Shop Local Program proved to be a lifeline for many of the small businesses within our community, and for that I say a huge thank you to the citizens of Rochelle who participated. Thank you for a great 2021, and might 2022 bring health, happiness, and prosperity to our community.
John Bearrows is the mayor of Rochelle.