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Ottawa pushing northeast across I-80

Something smelly could turn out to be a sweet deal for Ottawa's future.

Troublesome and costly septic systems at the Shell and Road Ranger gas stations on Route 71 north of Interstate 80 led both businesses to seek annexation, so they could be served by a sewer line.

The annexations are scheduled for later this month and the sewer line installation hopefully will be complete by Labor Day, said Commissioner Dan Aussem.

The gas stations had been hoping the sewer line would be in earlier, but obtaining the necessary permits and Route 71 easements took a while, he said.

However, the benefit is not only to the gas stations, which will pay much of the cost of the sewer line.

Even before the sewer line is installed, the city will begin receiving new property taxes, sales tax and gaming revenue that could be applied to its share of the sewer line installation.

But most importantly, the sewer line, and later a water line, will be keys to business and commercial development along Route 71 and at the Interstate 80 interchange.

“I really think that the lack of sewer and water is the only reason that intersection hasn’t developed more,” Aussem said.

“Over the years, the city has been approached by many different quality developments that could’ve come to that interchange that everyone would have liked,” said City Engineer Dave Noble. “But they couldn’t come, because there were no utilities.”

“I think it’s safe to say we see this area as a growth corridor for the city,” said Reed Wilson, Ottawa’s director of economic development.

A decade ago ago, land between Route 71 and the Fox River was approved for a massive residential development. But subsequent changes in the economy have switched the focus to nonresidential, said Wilson and Noble.

Additional revenue for the Route 71 corridor development will come from the planned creation of a tax increment financing district. TIF districts are allowed to temporarily take a portion of the additional property taxes generated by development to fund infrastructure improvements.

A water line along Route 71 would be a logical addition, but there is a strategy to waiting, Wilson said.

“If, at some point down the road, we land a significant business, we can apply to the state for extending the water lines based on new jobs that would be created by the new businesses,” Wilson said.

Installation of the sewer line will take some planning, Noble said.

Although Route 71 seems like a straight shot, changes in elevations throw in some challenges.

“I would have liked to put the sanitary sewer line in along the edge of Route 71,” Noble said. “However, sanitary sewers have to follow the lay of the land, because they have to continually flow downhill," he said. "So the sewer will take kind of a twisting path to follow the lay of the ground and minimize construction costs.”

Will there be development beyond the Interstate 80 interchange?

“We have not discussed that,” said Aussem.

But he noted there has been in the past by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to pipe water to Wedron, to replace its own questionable supply.

“That would not be out of the question,” Aussem said.

In any event, the new sewer line beyond Interstate 80 will be large enough to handle further expansion — even if none is now planned.

“The pipe is being installed with future development in mind,” Noble said. “When you go to all the trouble of boring under the interstate — then to not upsize it for the future would be pretty shortsighted.”

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