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NIU official: Relationship with DeKalb strong

DeKALB – Northern Illinois University administrator Bill Nicklas downplayed any rift in the relationship between the university and city Thursday, a day after Mayor Kris Povlsen criticized NIU for failing to send a representative to a public hearing on city housing issues.

Nicklas, associate vice president for university planning and sustainability, said NIU was committed to improving housing and safety in the city, as evidenced by his participation in the mayor’s housing task force and the $60,000 the university pledged for a city-initiated housing study.

Nicklas said he was unable to attend Wednesday’s public hearing because of work commitments and wanted to give those who have not weighed in on housing issues a chance to voice their opinions after he has had a voice in the project the past eight months.

“I’m here to tell you today that I feel that relationship is strong and actually growing stronger,” Nicklas said. “We’re arm in arm ... we’re inseparable.”

Povlsen said he was glad Nicklas reiterated the university’s commitment to helping the city as both entities need each other to improve and grow.

“I’m very pleased to see NIU is wanting to continue ... to go down a path of cooperation and collaboration,” Polvsen said. “I think it’s vital to the university and the community.”

Trash collection on agenda

While the City Council discusses ways to remedy DeKalb’s housing and crime issues, it also will discuss how it should clean up trash at Monday’s meeting.

With the city’s solid waste collection contract set to expire next year, council members will discuss potential modifications to the program including the vendor, pricing and “green” regulations.

Potential changes include requiring residential units to provide recycling services to tenants, implementing a citywide composting program, mandating the trash hauler use alternative-fueled vehicles and starting a pay-as-you-go sticker program that may increase the cost for those with more waste, which could encourage recycling.

Staff recommendations varied on the “green” options, with city officials urging council members to consider requiring residential units to have recycling services, but said further research and cost analysis are needed before fully implementing programs such as alternative fuel vehicles for waste haulers and citywide composting.

Other options, such as a zero-waste program, which could ban phone books from being delivered in the city, remove plastic bags as an option for shoppers and limit the use of polystyrene products, came with no staff suggestion.

Council members also could choose to switch from Waste Management to a new vendor, but that could have a negative effect on the local economy.

Waste Management has a facility in the city and 15 local employees, but opting for a different vendor could result in the closure of the facility and either transfer or termination of employees.

Public Works Director T.J. Moore said because the contract would not be active until September 2013, the council has time to develop a plan that is attractive to vendors and incorporates sustainability.

“We have a lot of options in front of us,” Moore said. “We have a year to design the plan we really want to have.”

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