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Major development projects are in the city of Moline's present and future.
That was the message that Mayor Scott Raes and Planning and Economic Development Director Ray Forsythe delivered Monday during the State of the City Address at the iWireless Center.
"Moline is going to be a great place and an exciting place to see development over the next several years," Raes said.
Monday's program was split into two sections with Raes speaking primarily about the financial health of the city and Forsythe handling the development projects.
Raes highlighted the city's balanced budget as well as its Aa3 bond rating, which it has held for the past 13 years and showed fiscal responsibility.
He also touched on the city's low property tax rate and the City Council's prerogative of keeping it lower for residents.
Speaking to the importance of sales tax revenue, which provides one the major revenue streams to the city, Raes said Moline was the largest recipient of sales tax revenue in the Quad-Cities at $19.2 million.
This, Raes said, was why it is important for the city to focus on retaining retailers and continuing to grow the tax base through economic development.
With Raes passing the baton to Forsythe, he spoke about major projects in the works, such as the construction of the Interstate 74 bridge, reconstruction of John Deere Road and The Q multi-modal station.
"It's a reality now, folks," Forsythe said. "Be ready. The next four years will be somewhat painful, but we'll somehow get through it."
Forsythe said The Q also would provide another location for public and private events as well as 20,000 square feet for retail and restaurant opportunities.
Despite cuts being made to Amtrak funding, Forsythe said he wasn't concerned about its effect on passenger rail because the national cuts were a different funding source.
"The passenger rail is being funded by federal grants, so it's $177 million that's already been put in the bank, so to speak," Forsythe said. "The system that we're putting together in Moline, a direct route between Moline and downtown Chicago, is actually a state of Illinois route. It's funded by the state and funded by Amtrak, so we're confident it will eventually happen."
As to future developments, Forsythe said Olive Garden, Panda Express and Popeyes have put in for building permits, which showed success in meeting the City Council's goal of expanding retail and restaurant businesses.
One of the major projects being looked at in the future comes as a result of the council's goal to look at utilities expansion south of the airport.
"We figured out a plan to push residential development in warp speed compared to what we originally thought it was going to take," Forsythe said.
Forsythe said the city has spoken to Coal Valley, Milan, Silvis and Rock Island County about using unused infrastructure and providing backup water to Milan, water to Coal Valley and Rock Island County and water and sewer to Silvis.
While Raes and Forsthye played up the city's development during the address, the timing of the event comes a week before Raes takes on Alderwoman Stephanie Acri, at large, in the April 4 election.
Historically, the State of the City address has been held in February, which did not go unnoticed by Acri.
Building off the Forsythe's comments about utilities expansion south of the airport, Acri said it was her belief that the timing was right to explore residential and mixed-use development on land the city has acquired over the past several years.
"Right now, it's just ripe for the picking," Acri said. "We have the combination of over 300 acres that are owned free and clear. We've got the advantage of the failed business development, the Raufeisen project that got us to have the utilities out there, and we've got under our belt a 120-page study that really gives us a map of how to develop the area."
Acri said that an increase in rooftops and average income would help attract businesses and continue to build the city's tax base.
While most of the city address was positive, Acri highlighted the need to discuss local infrastructure deficiencies.
"He didn't touch on the fact that our roads are in critical need of investment," Acri said. "We do about two miles of roads per year, and if you look at how long a typical road lasts, about 60 years, it tells us we should be doing six miles of roads per year."
Acri's proposal is to use sales tax and hotel and motel tax during the current boom of development toward these infrastructure needs.
With additional businesses attracted to the area, Acri said the funds from the additional sales tax could be used to continue funding the infrastructure needs.
"We need to reprioritize our investments and get straight with that," Acri said. "What happens next year is it will look a little bit worse, and the year after that it will look a little bit worse. We're going to end up in a situation where we are an asphalt patch."
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