Rock Falls candidates weigh in at forum

ROCK FALLS – Candidates for mayor and City Council weighed in on priorities Thursday during a candidate forum hosted by the Rock Falls Chamber of Commerce.

Incumbent Mayor Bill Wescott is running against challenger and Ward 3 Alderman Rod Kleckler.

Wescott was first elected in 2013 and said one of the city’s main challenges is finding financial stability following the coronavirus pandemic, as well as making road improvements, which he cited as the No. 1 concern for residents.

Kleckler, elected to the council in 2015, criticized that the city has borrowed millions of dollars in the last eight years and spent the funds “carelessly” and “incorrectly.”

“Spending is out of control, and the borrowing needs to stop,” he said.

Wescott said they have made a lot of progress in recent years, and many projects were put on hold because of COVID-19, but they are working on getting back to normal. He also refuted Kleckler’s claim and said every decision goes through the council.

“There is no overspending, and there’s no misappropriation of funding,” Wescott said.

The forum allowed for opening and closing remarks as well as two or three questions with 1-minute answers.

Two people are running for a 2-year term for Ward 2, currently held by Casey Babel, who was appointed in July following the death of Glen Kuhlemier.

Babel, who works in IT at KSB Hospital, is running against Dennis Fulrath, the retired son of a former Ward 2 alderman who made an unsuccessful run in 2017 for council.

Fulrath said the city’s main issues are fixing roads and recruiting new manufacturers.

Babel said the city has several needs, including roads, sewer infrastructure and riverfront development, but they need the funding to do so. They need to attract more businesses to generate more revenue for the city to pursue further projects.

Ward 3 Alderman Jim Schuneman is looking to retain his seat against challenger Steven Dowd, who recently retired from Northwestern Steel and Wire.

Schuneman has served on the council for 12 years, and spent 10 years on the East Coloma School Board.

One of the most important issues facing the city is growing pension obligations, he said, and it’s crucial that the council continue to work together to solve problems.

Dowd said they need to do a better job of letting people know about city decisions, and generate more business and tourism.

Ward 4 Alderwoman Violet Sobottka, who’s served four years on the council, is running against newcomer Marshall Doane, who works for Riverside Logistics for Cimco.

Doane said he wants to bring a younger generation’s perspective to the council, and his top priority is infrastructure.

One of the city’s most important projects in recent years has been to develop a fiber infrastructure and become a Gigabit city, which could pave the way for bigger businesses.

Sobottka said one of the city’s bigger accomplishments was to institute a burn ban and help clean the air in town.

She said her top priority is to get people back involved in the city so they choose to build their lives here, rather than moving away.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Gabriella Palmer, Ward 1 Alderman William Wangelin and Ward 2 Alderman Brian Snow are all running unopposed in the April 6 election.

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers joined Sauk Valley Media in 2016 covering local government in Dixon and Lee County.