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DeKalb City Council members looking forward after election

Christine Kyler, general manager at The Lincoln Inn Restaurant in DeKalb, shares a laugh with newly elected DeKalb mayor John Rey on Wednesday while congratulating him in downtown DeKalb.
Christine Kyler, general manager at The Lincoln Inn Restaurant in DeKalb, shares a laugh with newly elected DeKalb mayor John Rey on Wednesday while congratulating him in downtown DeKalb.

DeKALB – DeKalb City Council members have quite the to-do list after the local election: the Irongate subdivision proposal, the budget and the search for the next city managers, to name a few items.

The new local leaders – Mayor John Rey, alderman Bill Finucane of the 2nd Ward, and alderman Robert Snow of the 4th Ward – will be sworn in at a special meeting May 6, said City Manager Mark Biernacki. Their first business meeting will occur May 13.

“We have a lot of things going on in DeKalb,” Biernacki said. “Fortunately, every candidate or person has been closely following city council proceedings for the past several months. They won’t be coming into the council cold.”

Alderman Dave Baker of the 6th Ward also won re-election Tuesday night, and defeated mayoral candidate David Jacobson still is on the council as 1st Ward alderman. They will join Kristen Lash of the 3rd Ward, Ron Naylor of the 5th Ward, and Monica O’Leary of the 7th Ward.

The new aldermen agreed that a primary issue will be finding a new city manager. Biernacki said the council could choose to hire an executive search firm, or have the internal staff conduct the search. Biernacki will retire June 14 but estimated the search for his replacement could take three to five months.

Rey hopes the new council can quickly reach an agreement on the process.

“What I don’t want to have happen is to have a search so narrow, that we aren’t confident with the candidate that comes forward,” Rey said. “In my view, I want to give fair opportunity to internal candidates to that position. ... An external search firm could bring independents to that process.

During this time, the council also will begin deliberating its budget for fiscal 2014, which begins July 1. Council members are expected to discuss the budget at two Saturday meetings, May 11 and May 18.

In June 2012, the city council passed a $78.9 million budget that left $3.2 million in reserves. The council at that time made it a goal to increase the city’s general fund reserves to 25 percent of the city’s expenditures by fiscal 2017.

The new aldermen said they supported boosting the city’s fund balances in order to improve DeKalb’s financial health.

Where the new aldermen stand on Irongate will be another matter. The new housing development would add just over 1,000 homes north of the city near DeKalb High School. In order for construction to begin, the city council needs to approve the annexation agreement with developer ShoDeen Construction.

The city council has deliberated for months on the project, holding public hearings and special meetings on the issue. The council is scheduled to hold another public hearing on Irongate on May 27.

Finucane said he’s already unsure of his position on Irongate because of issues including water runoff. He also repeated a line that’s been heard many times in the Irongate debate.

“Do we need that much more available housing when there’s already 300-plus lots around town that are already vacant?” Finucane said.

Six votes are required to approve an annexation agreement. With Lash and O’Leary already opposing the agreement, the support of Rey, Finucane and Snow is crucial for ShoDeen.

The new aldermen have already identified other issues on which they would like to focus. Finucane would like to exploref regular public transportation that would take DeKalb residents to the Metra train station in Elburn.

Both Rey and Snow also emphasized the importance of improving the relationship between Northern Illinois University and the city.

“NIU-DeKalb relations certainly need to be improved, and I think we need to head in that direction,” Snow said. “The city, as we come out of this economic downturn, the city will start to improve, and I think we’ll see that.”

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