By: Martha Stoffel
O’FALLON – Mayor Herb Roach held the first Town Hall meeting of 2019 on January 23rd, during which he provided a summary of city activities from 2018 and highlighted upcoming development and plans for 2019.
Several of the city’s aldermen, a handful of aldermanic candidates, a local Boy Scout troop and several residents were on hand for the discussions. The meeting was also broadcast live on Charter, and is available on demand on the city’s website.
2018 brought several exciting things to O’Fallon, to include the return of a city-wide homecoming celebration now called CityFest. O’Fallon saw a twenty-percent increase in new residential construction, as well as the first new construction in downtown O’Fallon in over 50 years with the construction of the O’Fallon Station and Outdoorsman expansion.
The city was able to maintain an AA+ bond rating, the only city/village in the metro area to hold that rating, and the council established a new investment policy that forms a five-person investment committee. In December, the council approved a $56,713 increase to the tax levy, but taxpayers will likely see a reduction to their city tax rate because of the growth in the tax base for 2018.
The O’Fallon Police Department added three new officers in 2018, bringing the department total to 50. The growth in the city, as well as increased number of visitors from the activities at the Sports Park, RecPlex and hospital, warranted the increased staff. The department was also awarded the Police Accreditation certificate from the Illinois Law Enforcement Accreditation Program (ILEAP).
The construction of the O’Fallon Station is in the final stages of completion. The mayor indicated they have received a dozen phone calls since the Festival of Trees inquiring about use of the facility for other events. “I think that’s going to do just what everybody intended it to do, to help bring people downtown and to also, in return, help our downtown businesses” said Roach. In addition to the 65 parking spots at the Station, the city has also added 13 spots in the old bus lane and 60 spots at City Hall for lighted and paved parking in the downtown area in 2018.
As part of the city’s pavement management program, several streets and subdivisions will be receiving road resurfacing in 2019. The third phase of work on the presidential streets will also begin. The mayor also reviewed the Public Works snow removal plan for the 160 miles of road they service. Priority is given to the main thoroughfares and snow routes in town for removal and treatment. The mayor encouraged residents to give the snow plows plenty of room to work safely when they are out, and to try and remove vehicles from the street.
With council’s recent approval on first reading of the construction of a Fairfield Inn on Central Park Drive, this will be the third hotel to be built in O’Fallon for 2019/2020. The Marriott Town Places Suites is nearing completion, and the Hampton Inn is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2019. The mayor noted the increase in hotel usage from the hospital, as well as sporting events at the Sports Park and Rec Plex. The hotel/motel tax increase approved in 2016 is used by the city for a variety of tourism-related projects.
The mayor also discussed the city’s desire to develop the area off Reider Road as the Mid-America Commerce Center. The area is envisioned for light manufacturing, engineering and a distribution center to diversify the economy of O’Fallon. It is an undeveloped area, so the city is budgeting to bring sewer to the area to make it more attractive to developers the city has been in discussions with over the last several months. The area falls into the Mid-America Enterprise Zone which, per the city’s website, has local incentives that include “abatement of property taxes on new improvements, homesteading and shopsteading programs, waiver of business licensing and permit fees, streamlined building code and zoning requirements, and special local financing programs and resources.”
Resident Jessica Lotz asked the mayor to speak to the complexities involved with the state and county to improve traffic issues recently addressed by council members and residents regarding certain developments, and how the city can strategically work to improve that flow. “One of the problems is, you have to be able to show the need before we can get some of the grants, whether it be state or federal, before we can get some of the funding for it,” explained Roach. The grant funds can pay for up to eighty-percent of the costs for projects, so it is financial advantageous for the city to seek the grants to keep the cost at a minimum for the taxpayers. City Administrator Walter Denton also pointed out that not all roads in O’Fallon are under the city’s jurisdiction. Examples given were Highway 50 is a state-controlled road, portions of Seven Hills Road are under the jurisdiction of O’Fallon Township and Troy-Scott Road is a county road.
Town Hall meetings are held every quarter, and the next meeting is scheduled for April 10th.