City looks to the future

Sheryl Plumley

While business was light during the July 8 meeting of the Geneseo City Council, it was a busy night as council members met for a work session prior to the regular meeting to discuss city goals and a vision plan for the next two years and onto five years.

In a memorandum to council members calling for the pre-council session Mayor Pat Eberhardt referred to the past vision plan and said, “Much has been completed and now we need to lay out a plan for our future. Examples would be development of the Yager property west of town and our new wind turbine property south of town. Infrastructure development should play a key role in our future plans. Other ideas would be improvements to the parks, streets, water and sewer and electric departments through the boards.”

To date, accomplishments under the vision plan (2005-09) include the update of the city’s comprehensive plan, the development of three Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts and, completion of the new municipal center, among others.

Tuesday’s discussion included, among other things, a look at new/replacement equipment in the city’s water and sewer operations including rehabilitation of the older iron removal plant, changing to an automatic metering system, various projects related to water mains, sanitary sewer lines and lift stations throughout the city, to name a few.

Toward the end of the working session, attention shifted to economic development overall with council members commenting on positive developments in cities comparable to Geneseo, such as Rochelle which employs an economic development director for industrial growth plus a retail development director.

In reference to Rochelle’s growth, as well as that of other nearby cities, alderman Kevin Peterson asked, “Why haven’t we been able to tap into that?”

Alderman Ed Deener talked about the need to have a package of assistance and incentives available to get prospective downtown retailers started, one that could include identification of available buildings in which to house their business, which also would be beneficial to business property owners looking for tenants/buyers.

Deener said any incentives should be attractive to the potential retailer and the general public but, at the same time, “We don’t want to shoot ourselves in the foot,” referring to new businesses driving out older, established businesses.

In regular session, the council

• Approved a Task Order Agreement with Customized Energy Solutions for consulting services, at a cost of $18,000, to evaluate how best to purchase electricity after the city’s contract with Mid-American Energy expires Dec. 28. Geneseo is part of Mid-American’s transmission system, which is a major component in meeting the city’s energy needs. That, said Peterson, will be a driving force in looking at alternate providers. The city’s power needs are also met through its partial ownership of the Louisa, Iowa, power plant and, at times, the local power plant.

• Adopted an ordinance increasing water rates to include a fixed user charge of $4.51, up from $4.10; a minimum bill of $3.85, up from $3.50, for the first 1,500 gallons; and, $2.76 per additional 1,000 gallons, up from $2.51.

• Approved the issuance of a construction permit to Walgreens to build their store at the junction of Illinois routes 6 and 82, but without occupancy until all Illinois state permits have been issued. A representative of Walgreens told the council the permits were requested several months ago but have not yet been received due to a backlog at state offices. Council members approved the construction permit, while cautioning Walgreens that they assume a risk in going ahead with the permits.

• Purchased 15 new hydrants from the Utility Equipment Co. for the amount of $21,085.

• Approved a letter of support from the mayor and members of the city council for the proposed Heritage Trail corridor route which would connect the Hennepin Canal and Rock Island trails at Geneseo, allowing users to travel between the Quad Cities, Peoria and points in between. An alternate corridor proposal connects the trails at Annawan. The Tri-County Planning Commission (Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford counties) and the League of Illinois Bicyclists, with funding from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, have been studying the long-term potential for the proposed trail for the past year.  Potential benefits are tourism, recreation, public health, economic development, transportation and other public uses like nature viewing and education, according to the planning commission.