ROCK FALLS – Rock Falls residents can expect to see something extra in their next utility bill.
The city will mail surveys to its 3,280 utility customers in the next four billing cycles regarding possibly annexing a 2.2-mile stretch of the Hennepin Feeder Canal, Mayor Bill Wescott said.
The survey, due back to City Hall by Aug. 30, is designed to determine residents’ current usage of the canal, and their future expectations.
Once the surveys are received, the city’s Hennepin Canal Committee, headed by Councilman Jim Schuneman, will review the results and may survey some Sterling and other regional residents, by either mailing a survey or posting it online.
The survey is being sent to Rock Falls residents first, officials said, because they will be paying for any changes.
Regional input will be sought because more than just Rock Falls residents use the canal.
“The community uses it,” Schuneman said. “People come over from Sterling and use the canal.”
The survey will have 12 questions, a field to indicate whether a resident wants more information and a field for comments. It cost about $600 to put together, was paid for by Rock Falls Tourism, and designed by Western Illinois University, Schuneman said.
In January, Cathy Brunner, then executive director of Rock Falls Tourism, presented the City Council with the results of a study of the possible economic benefits of annexing the feeder canal. The study was commissioned by Friends of the Hennepin Canal and the Henry County Tourism Bureau, which are looking at ways to restore some of the locks and open up the historic waterway to more recreational activities.
Canal cruising along the entire Hennepin Canal, according to Brunner’s January presentation, could generate $31.8 million to $42.7 million during its first year, and create 959 to 1,284 full-time jobs, mostly in the hospitality and retail sectors.
Go to www.friends-hennepin-canal.org for more infomation about Friends of the Hennepin Canal, including its survey of canal usage, its Renaissance Project, and other work to restore, preserve and promote the waterway.