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Guest Column: Tourism concern on Oregon waterfront
By Ron Colson
Ogle County Board Member, District 7
A critical issue in Ogle County Government is flying under the radar of public knowledge. If that isn’t corrected within a matter of days, $873,680 in previously valid property investment for a citizen-convenient County Government Campus adjacent to the new Judicial Center in Oregon will be “parked” for the next 50 years — or longer.
The critical issue is an attempt to place a new County Sheriff’s Administration/Coroner’s Morgue Building, and later a jail, in the middle of the City of Oregon’s planned Riverfront Tourism District on First Street. The reason for the push on that site is yet to be disclosed. Why the secrecy? The First Street location is contrary to the County’s $63,180 Architect’s Space Needs Study and would also leave the Judicial Center complex high and dry disconnected.
At the same time, this disconnected location would put a tax-exempt government facility in the middle of a planned tourism area, effectively slamming the brakes on that riverfront economic development effort, created by a nearly $60,000 Comprehensive Plan professionally prepared for Oregon with your taxpayer dollars.
This Riverfront Tourism District would expand the existing $75 million tourism impact in Ogle County; and would in the long run, create dozens of property-tax-paying buildings, create jobs on the order of another Etnyres or Woods, and bring a multitude of sales-tax-paying customers to Ogle County.
This district would be much like Dixon’s riverfront, which has transformed that entire community. Needless to say, tourism and image-conscious businesses are not going to build as neighbors to a morgue, jail and a collection of squad cars.
Citizens disturbed by this less-than-transparent process should make their feelings known to all 24 Ogle County Board members. Their contact information is at the end of this article. They are also listed on oglecounty.org or available in print at the Ogle County Clerk’s Office in the Old Courthouse.
Also, letters from a number of concerned organizations, a County Campus time line from 1990-2014, and a copy of the Ogle County Amendatory Comprehensive Plan are available for review at the County Clerk’s Office. Copies of the City of Oregon Comprehensive Plan are available for review at the Oregon City Hall, 115 N. Third St.
In addition to calls, letters, and emails, concerned citizens should plan to attend the March 19, 2014 Ogle County Board Meeting, 5:30 pm, 3rd Floor, Old Courthouse, 105 S. Fifth St., Oregon, to see how the Board responds to your expectations.
Protocol calls for a quiet, sign-free, audience. To make your concern apparent – wear red – a coat, hat, scarf, shirt or blouse. A sea of red in the audience will quietly and politely send your message loud and clear.
Ogle County Board Members
County Board District 1: Kimberly T. Kirkolis 815-670-5635; Zachary S. Oltmanns 815-721-3069; Richard “Dick” Petrizzo 815-393-4492. County Board District 2: Patricia Nordman 815-732-7372; William “Bill” Welty 815-732-1303; Gerald “Jerry” Brooks 815-732-6382. County Board District 3: Bobbie Colbert 815-520-0434; Ashley N. Simms 815-766-1258; Greg Sparrow 815-561-1974. County Board District 4: Bruce McKinney 815-761-5346; John D. O’Brien 815-793-1214; John “Skip” Kenney 815-761-2443. County Board District 5: Dan Janes 815-645-8388; Donald E. Griffin, Jr. 815-440-0505; Martin “Marty” Typer 815-742-1876. County Board District 6: Lee Meyers 815-234-4207; Dorothy Bowers 815-234-2763; Kim Gouker – Chairman – 815-234-3235. County Board District 7: Richard Gronewold 815-938-2252; Ron Colson 815-973-0942; John Finfrock – Vice-Chairman – 815-734-4028. County Board District 8: Lyle Hopkins 815-946-2660; Marcia Heuer 815-631-0080; Patricia E. Saunders 815-946-2637.
From the March 5-11, 2014 print edition