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Rock Falls council sends tax levy back for further study

Mr. Hand’s Elwood gets a taste of city government

ROCK FALLS – A first reading of the 2014 tax levy ordinance was pulled from the City Council agenda at Tuesday’s meeting, and the levy will undergo further study.

City Administrator Robbin Blackert did give a brief report on the status of the levy, which shows a total tax increase of 4.99 percent.

“The most important thing right now is that we lost almost $2 million on equalized assessed valuation,” Blackert said.

In addition to the lost EAV money, Blackert said pensions will be a big part of the story.

“We haven’t shirked our responsibilities; we’ve funded pensions,” Blackert said. “But the pension costs are now 47 percent of the levy.”

As an example, Blackert said the fire department pensions were $19,000 in 2008, and are now up to $100,000. The fire pensions are fully funded, while the police department pensions are 80 percent funded.

The council also approved a policy for the Utility Reimbursement Rehabilitation Program. The grant-funded program gives financial incentives to new property owners to help with utility costs during rehabilitation or remodeling.

Single-family, owner-occupied homes and up to four-unit multi-dwelling rental properties are eligible for the program. They must be within the city limits and have city water, sewer and electric utility services.

The reimbursement rates will be based on the amount of the building permit for the property. Applications are available at the City of Rock Falls Building Department, 613 W. 10th St.

Mayor Bill Wescott called the program a win-win proposition.

“This is good for the city, with the high number of foreclosures and vacant properties,” Wescott said. “This gives people incentive to buy these properties and make improvements.”

Mr. Hand’s Elwood sits in

Wescott introduced a special guest during the meeting. The mayor said the guest can’t see, hear or speak, but has had a tremendous impact around the world.

Elwood, a dummy created by longtime Merrill Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Doug Hand, was propped up next to the mayor during the meeting, and will spend the rest of the week at City Hall.

Elwood, since his “birth” Oct. 1, 1980, has traveled 5.7 million miles in a large tupperware container, meeting children all over the world. He has traveled in a space shuttle, and visited Hungary at the special request of that country’s president.

Elwood has met with many other world leaders, including Queen Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela and Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Elwood attended the meeting at the special request of Hand, who retired in 2012.

“Mr. Hand is gravely ill, and said that Elwood has never been with city government,” Wescott said. “Elwood is making the rounds around town.”

Everyone at the meeting stood and clapped for Hand and Elwood – and some shed a few tears – after Wescott, a close friend of Hand’s, said “Doug, this is for you; we’re proud to have him here tonight.”

“Doug and Elwood taught kids the three D’s – dreams, desire and determination,” Wescott said. “He showed kids that dreams are the purest form of imagination.”

To attend

The Rock Falls City Council next meets at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 17, at City Hall, 603 W. 10th St. 

The agendas will be posted at and at City Hall. Call 815-622-1100 for more information.

The City Council meeting also can be viewed live on Channel 5.

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