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DeKalb council debates merits of new assessment for city hall

DeKALB – The DeKalb City Council has taken the first steps in redesigning the building that the majority of the city government meets and works in.

But not everyone on the council is eager to give Dewberry Architects $59,500 to assess the DeKalb Municipal Building. Three aldermen – David Jacobson, Dave Baker and Monica O’Leary of the First, Sixth and Seventh wards, respectively – questioned the wisdom of spending money on another building assessment at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Those three aldermen voted no on bringing the proposal out of the city’s discussion phase. The first vote on the assessment could happen at the council’s Nov. 26 meeting.

Public Works Director T. J. Moore said an assessment was done on the building when the council was considering having the police department remain in city hall. City Manager Mark Biernacki said the assessment’s findings led to the construction of the new building.

Baker repeatedly pressed Moore on whether an assessment done by Wold Architects at least six years ago would have been valid.

“Why are we jumping to a new firm when there’s one that has been done a few years ago?” Baker said.

Biernacki replied that, like other assessments, it only gave a “cursory” glance to the condition of the building.

On the other side, Aldermen Ron Naylor, Tom Teresinski and Brendon Gallagher of the Fifth, Second and Fourth wards, respectively, expressed their support for having a new assessment done.

“I think this is due diligence that is absolutely necessary,” Naylor said. “We need to make sure the new structure is entirely capable of what our needs are as well.”

City hall falls within a tax increment financing district, a funding mechanism in which the city diverts property tax money into a special account that is used rehabilitate blighted areas. TIF money cannot be used to build a new public building, but it can be used to remodel an existing one.

The city has plotted out $4.6 million in TIF funds to spend over the next several years in renovation and construction. Biernacki said nothing has been budgeted, and that those numbers are simply “placeholders.”

Once the new police station is built at 700 W. Lincoln Highway, the public works and information technology departments would move back into the building. Those departments are currently located at 223 S. Fourth St.

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