ROCK FALLS – For the second time in 3 years, the city has been a presenter at the National Brownfields Conference, and this year officials returned with a prestigious EPA award.
Mayor Bill Wescott and City Administrator Robbin Blackert shared the story of the city’s success in cleaning up and now redeveloping contaminated riverfront sites during the event held Dec. 5-7 in Pittsburgh.
The annual brownfields event is sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. When Wescott and Blackert arrived in Pittsburgh, they learned that Rock Falls was the winner of the federal agency’s Region 5 award for outstanding contributions to brownfields site redevelopment.
The city officially announced news of the award at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
One winner was chosen from each of the federal agency’s 10 regions. Region 5, with headquarters in Chicago, serves six states – Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio.
“We were the only municipality in Illinois to be nominated, and many people there couldn’t believe the success we’ve had for a town our size,” Wescott said.
The city was nominated by the Illinois EPA, largely for its work at the Reliant Fastener site. The city’s ongoing work at the Limestone Building and Parrish-Alford properties was also mentioned.
Rock Falls has received about $6 million in EPA funding to assist with its assessment and cleanup efforts along the riverfront. It is seeking additional funding for remediation work that must be done at the Limestone Building, which was torn down in July. Applications have been submitted for two federal EPA grants, each for $200,00. Blackert said word on the applications should come in February or March.
Wescott said the EPA recognition is an award that should be shared by the entire community.
“This is the result of the work of several administrations and citizens committees,” Wescott said. “When the city took the deed to the Reliant building, there was a vision of what the area could be and the city never lost sight of the vision.”
The mayor said the city’s follow-through from assessment and cleanup to redevelopment has set Rock Falls apart from many other municipalities.
“A large percentage of brownfields projects are cleanup but never revitalized,” Wescott said. “We have put up a hotel, designed a park and are working on bringing retail development across the street from the RB&W site.”
The city’s representatives are able to attend the conference at no cost to the city thanks to an EPA grant awarded for the event.
The Rock Falls City Council next meets at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 2 at City Hall, 603 W. 10th St.
The agendas will be posted at rockfalls61071.net and at City Hall. Call 815-622-1100 for more information.
The council meeting also airs live on Channel 5 on Sterling/Rock Falls cable systems.