Prophetstown Police Chief Bruce Franks welcomes new patrol office Will Lukehart at the April city council meeting.

Prophetstown Set To Increase Water Rates, Hires New Officer

A multitude of issues were discussed at the April meeting.
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The 850 current users of the city’s water service will likely be seeing an increase in their rates as soon as this summer. The proposed rate increase would be approximately $24.00 per month making the average user cost $39.00 per month. Currently the average monthly cost for a residential customer in Prophetstown is approximately $16. The exact cost of the increase to each resident will depend on usage.

The Prophetstown City Water Tower is located on Jackson St. near the location of the planned new water plant.

The rate increase, according to Mayor Steve Swanson, is needed to help pay for the construction of a new water plant, which was approved in 2020 but Covid delayed the project. Swanson said bid letting for the project may happen this fall with construction to begin in the spring of 2023. The city applied for and did receive a grant to subsidize the cost of the new facility but the exact amount has not been announced due to delays at the state level. The original estimate for the plant was $4.25 million but that will likely increase before the letting process. The increase will also serve to prove to the lender that payments can be made on the loan.

The rate was last increased in 2018 from a minimum of $10.33 to $12.33. A $5 fee was added to city utility bills in 2008 to help pay for new remote digital water meters.

A survey of surrounding community water rates was conducted by Aroundptown. Current minimum rates (including service charges) in surrounding communities: Prophetstown-$12.33/3,000 gal, Lyndon-$11.95/1,700 gal., Rock Falls-$25.70, Geneseo-$12.99/1,500 gal., Tampico- $30.90/3,000 gal, Morrison $25/2,000 gal., Erie $10/1,000 gal.

The Council will consider the increase and the time frame in which it will be implemented during the May meeting.

New Officer

Prophetstown Police Chief Bruce Franks swears in new patrol officer Will Lukehart.

The Council approved the hiring of Will Lukehart as a patrol officer with the police department. Lukehart has several years of police experience, most recently serving as the chief of police in Tampico. He will be paid at a rate of $24 per hour and began with the department on Saturday, April 16. Lukehart lives in Prophetstown with his wife Michelle and family.

TIF Request
The Council approved a request from Keith Crady, owner of Hometown Hardware, for TIF funds to be used for building improvements. Crady will be reimbursed for 50% up to a maximum of $18,000 for the project.

Fireworks

Approved a donation of $1,500 to the Prophetstown Fireworks Committee.

Star Road Resurfacing

Mayor Swanson said he received an estimate for the repaving of Third Street/Star Road from Washington Street to the eastern city limits in the amount of $206 thousand. The work would include milling and repaving. Whiteside County is planning on resurfacing the roadway from the city limits to Prophetstown Road this summer. In a letter to the city from Whiteside County the bid letting is scheduled for the county’s portion of the project on April 29th. The letting for the Prophetstown portion of the project will be May 12. It is hoped that if the same company gets both bids the estimated cost for the city may decrease. The Council will review and approve a bid at a special meeting following the opening of the bids. Depending on the cost, the project may be funded from both the motor fuel tax and general funds. A discussion was also held concerning a possible loan.

Rezoning Approval

Approval was given to the rezoning of the property at the intersection of Grove and Sixth Street from residential to light industrial. Resident Brian Johnson plans on constructing a new building to house an automotive repair business currently located in the Penberthy building.

Internet Service

Scott Searl owner of Strada Communications located in Rapid City, Illinois addressed the Council concerning his interest in bringing fiber-based Internet service to the city. Sand Prairie Communications, a division of Lee-Carroll Energy, made a similar request of the Council in February.

Searl, a Veteran, said he began his company many years ago when he saw a need in his community for better Internet service. The company has completed fiber installation projects in Rapid City, Port Byron, and is currently completing a buildout in Erie. “We are trying to build within our community. We’re not looking to become the next Mediacom. We are looking to stay local and only serve our local communities,” said Searl.

A major difference between the Strada and Sand Prairie presentations was Strada is not looking for any upfront funding using the city’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, which can be used for internet improvements. “I know there are funds available to build out your community. I know other companies have come to you and asked for those ARPA funds but that is something I am not looking for. I will build this out myself with an investment of $3.4 million.” The company is currently working in Cordova and then will move to Lyndon this fall with a goal of starting installation in Prophetstown in 2023. His long-term goal would be to also provide service to Tampico.

Informational Items

Council agreed to look into repair costs on the brick façade on the Hartig Drug Store building.

Concerts

Mike Chastain with Winning Wheels requested permission to use Eclipse Square Veterans Memorial Park for the annual summer concert series. The concerts will be held on Friday evenings from 7 to 9pm beginning June 3 through the end of July. Concerts will also be held on the fourth Fridays of August, September, and October. The Council approved the use of the park for the events.

SVCC Impact Program

Dr. Lori Cortez with Sauk Valley Community College addressed the Council updating them on the SVCC Impact Program, which allows students from Prophetstown High School to earn free tuition at the college.

The high school was part of a pilot program in the county last year with 38 freshmen signing up. In order to achieve tuition benefit the students must complete 25 hours of community service work each year of their high school career and graduate on time. She reported that so far this year the freshmen class participants have completed over 550 hours of service work.

A $1 million anonymous donation from a women in Fulton was made last year to get the program started and was directed to students at Prophetstown and Fulton High Schools. Beginning this fall all high schools in the SVCC district will be eligible for the program.

Cortez asked the Council for a one-time donation to keep the program funded telling them the city’s recently received ARPA funds can be used for such a purpose. “Studies have shown programs like this helps retain young people to the area,” said Cortez. She asked the Council to look at this as an investment not only in the young people but in the community as well. She suggested that 11%, approximately $30,000, of the ARPA funds be donated to the program beginning with the 2023 fiscal year. The gift would be a one time donation and be put towards PHS students who would begin their freshman year at SVCC in 2026. No action was taken.

Pay Increases

Following executive session the following pay increases were announced:

Police Chief Bruce Franks, 6% to $34/hr; other officers were given raises in February.
Public Works Supt. Brian Strike – 6% to $31.50/hr
Dave Arthurs – 4% to $18.72/hr
Donnie Jensen – 45 to $20.80/hr
Clint Morse – 5% to $21.57/hr
Matt Weets – 16% to $18.53/hr
Administration
Tara Gibson – 7% to $18.20/hr
Heather Hermes – $17.50/hr

The increases will take effect May 1

Approved Building Permits

  • Buddy Dietz 15496 Springhill Rd, Garage
  • Alex Wade  507 W. 6th St, Windows/Siding
  • Tom Shipp  610 Locust St., Repair foundation
  • James Sibley  401 Dale Ave, Front Stoop
  • James Eggimann 5 E. 6th St, Deck
  • Dalton Davis/Alexis Hadaway 200 W. 6th St., Fence
  • Lucas Pierceson 309 Lafayette St., Fence
  • Barry Morphew  407 East St., Portable Shed
  • Dave Drummet  602 Woodlawn Dr., Fence
  • Jason Wetzell  306 Lafayette St., Fence

Department Reports

Public Works – Superintendent Brian Strike
Large dumpsters will once again be provided for the public’s use following the town wide garage sales in early May. To date 19 off-road vehicles (UTVs, Golf Carts) have been registered with the city. If you would like to register a vehicle please contact City Hall.

Police – Chief Bruce Franks
The department will take bids on a 1995 Chevy suburban most recently used by the ESDA. CLICK for bidding details.

Henry C. Adams Library
Board member Heather Strike reported that librarian Elizabeth Swatos has resigned. The library board approved the hiring of Amanda Burger as her replacement.

Circulation numbers have begun to rise since the lifting of Covid restrictions. The library board would like to pursue several facility upgrades including insulation, electrical, lighting, and the main ceiling. A new story/craft activity will be held on the second Saturday of each month.

Complete Dept. Reports

The next regular council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 10 at 7:00 PM.

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