POTENTIAL ROUTE 23/I-90 COMMERCIAL INCENTIVES PRESENTED

The Marengo City Council heard a presentation on options that would offer tax incentives for commercial development planned around the I-90/Route 23 Interchange, during its regular Feb. 11 meeting. With the completion of the Route 23 Bridge widening last year, actual construction is slated to take place this month. The decades-long “wish list” interchange will be the only access point to Mc Henry County, with the Jane Addams Tollway.

 Theresa Nortillo, the city’s Economic Development Consultant, appeared before council members and stated that after attending two retailer events the population was considered below the threshold for some retailers but the area has received interest. Regarding industrial development, the concerns revolve around infrastructure for water and sewer at the exchange. Estimated costs with extending the water service including a 1-million gallon water tower were pegged at $4,165,875 and sanitary service including a lift station near Harmony Road and Route 23 came to approximately $7,117,869.

The creation of a tax-increment financing district (TIF) or an Enterprise Zone were two funding mechanism that could be considered for the site. Both designations identify a property or parcel area through state of Illinois approval and were enacted into law by the state legislature to promote commercial viability in otherwise fallow, or economically depressed, areas.

A TIF-district is a designation for a given parcel area that is unimproved or blighted, by definition, and effectively freezes the equalized assessed valuation rate for a period of up to 23 years. Any property taxes generated above that rate are placed into a special account for site infrastructure improvements. The Illinois Enterprise Zone Program supplies tax incentives and rebates for businesses that relocate or expand their operations in the designated area. Such a zone was created several years ago involving the Route 14 corridor encompassing Harvard, Woodstock, and unincorporated areas of Mc Henry County.

“We don’t want to put the cart before the horse, but we were looking at different directions that are available such as a tax-increment financing district, and an enterprise zone,” said Marengo city Manager Josh Blakemore. “Regarding an enterprise zone, we would look at either creating one, or joining the existing zone with the other three municipalities.”

Nortillo had indicated discussions to join the existing enterprise zone are being pursued. Attempts to reach Charles Eldredge, the zone’s administrator, for comment were unsuccessful.

ISSUES STILL UNRESOLVED AT WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT

The city of Marengo is still working with its engineering firm, Mc Henry-based HR Green, and Williams Brother Construction who were involved with the municipal wastewater treatment plant expansion mandated by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and its ongoing issues. Completed in 2015, the plant has incurred physical and safety problems as well as the inference that a $500,000 piece of equipment used in their treatment process may have been unnecessary.

“We’re working through some of the smaller issues with the companies, and as far as the ‘sonolyzer,’ we’re reviewing what steps to take,” said Josh Blakemore, Marego’s city manager. “When the project was initially designed, there was no second set of eyes or ears to review the plans, which is typical. When you have a project over $500,000 in design, it would be difficult to have someone review it, from a cost standpoint.”

The “sonolyzer” uses ultrasound technology to reduce sludge and treatment plant personnel have said the piece of equipment and its technology are difficult for consistency and monitoring settings for operating levels.

David McArdle, the city’s attorney, provided a summary of seven problems that exist with the plant during a city council meeting, last Dec. 3. Last Feb. the city council extended “tolling agreements” with the two firms until June 30. The agreement ostensibly is a waiver to allay the dismissal of any possible civil litigation on the basis of exceeding the statute of limitations while remedial solutions are investigated.

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