Dennis Pauley

Dennis Pauley

An organic grocery store will open in downtown Rock Island, Mayor Dennis Pauley said Tuesday during his annual State of the City address. Healthy Harvest Urban Farms of East Moline will add a second location at 1616 2nd Ave., Pauley said during a joint meeting of the city’s Rotary and Kiwanis clubs.

“It’s been very busy this year — there’s a lot going on,” he said.

Beth Payne, administration director of Renaissance Rock Island, said the grocery store’s owner, Chad Summers, signed a lease last week for a space of about 5,000 square feet at 1616 2nd Ave. The store also will offer classes for people to learn to grow organic gardens.

“We just didn’t have enough space to do what we were doing," Summers said.

Summers and his partner and son, Nieko, 22, are both enthusiastic about making sure people have access to organic food and the knowledge to grow it themselves.

“I want to be a champion for people to find healthy foods,” Summers said. “I’m really, really big on spreading the knowledge.”

The site will open slowly in the coming weeks with indoor classes.

“In April and May, we’ll start to have full shelves,” he said.

Pauley noted other highlights:

• Despite Illinois’ financial problems, he said Rock Island is working with a balanced budget and a strong AA2 bond rating. He said this means the city can fund its pension obligations, maintain its financial reserves as well as review each job opening in an effort to reduce expenses. “2016 will be the fifth year in a row where the city of Rock Island has not increased the property tax rate,” he said. “That’s a pretty good record, five years in a row.”

• The city still is in line to get a Walmart Supercenter at 11th Stree and 40th Avenue, in spite of the retailer’s recent announcement that 154 stores are closing around the country, most of which are smaller Walmart Express stores. "Ours is a superstore. They open 120 of those a year, and a few weeks ago their surveyors were out at the site so we’re still in line to get that store,” he said.

• The city’s fire department has improved its rating, which means residents and business owners could see a reduction in insurance premiums. The rating is a prime factor used to attract new businesses, he said.

• The city’s recently opened police station offers a bigger lobby with better access, a large parking lot, and a state-of-the-art crime lab.

• Eight new restaurants have opened around the city, along with nine new businesses in downtown and about 14 others around the city.

Residents offered their reactions after the speech. Architect Lo Milani said “there was a lot more accomplished than most of us realize,” he said. “We’re all busy and don’t always notice the small things that grow in number.”

Educator Virginia Jarrett likes hearing about the city’s growth, but she worries about a lack of input from those who pay taxes but don’t earn a lot of money.

“What are their needs?” she asked. “They’re struggling to get more education and better jobs — how are we really relating to them?”