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DeKalb mulls renovations to municipal building

DeKALB – DeKalb leaders want to restructure municipal buildings so City Council chambers and the municipal courtroom are on the first floor.

That was a clear consensus after a free-wheeling conversation Monday on possible renovations for the DeKalb Municipal Building, 200 S. Fourth St., and how city leaders could pay for it.

Presently, the room that doubles as council chambers and a local courtroom sits on City Hall’s second floor, while the public works and information technology departments are housed across the street at an annex at 223 S. Fourth St. The police department will free up space on the municipal building’s first floor in the next month or so as the police department moves to its new facility at 700 W. Lincoln Highway.

Fifth Ward Alderman Ron Naylor emphasized that the annex building was originally supposed to be a short-term solution.

“It’s time that we take some time and seriously consider this and look at primarily staying at this one site,” Naylor said.

City Council members bandied about ideas for where various city offices could be housed, including moving the council chambers and courtroom to the annex and questioning whether it would be cheaper to build a new building rather than renovate existing facilities. Others suggested that city leaders move offices from the annex and sell the annex buildings.

Consultants estimated one option for renovating City Hall – including upgrades to the heating and cooling system, plumbing and fire protection system, among other things – would cost $3.7 million. City Council members also are exploring spending $7.5 million on renovations, with $5.5 million of that coming from tax increment financing dollars and $2 million coming from increases to gasoline taxes, water bills or property taxes.

To raise just more than $2 million over 10 years, city leaders would need to increase the gasoline tax by 1.25 cents a gallon to 4.75 cents per gallon, city documents show. Other options would be adding $5 a month to water bills or increasing property taxes so that the owner of a $150,000 home would pay $24.50 a year more.

Dave Baker, 6th Ward alderman, balked at raising property taxes and suggested any increases to the gasoline tax should go toward improving local roads. Meanwhile, Naylor suggested increasing the water rate rather than adding a flat charge to all users, regardless of how much water they used.

Fourth Ward Alderman Bob Snow preferred that city leaders avoid any of the proposed increases by simply doing improvements as funding allowed.

“We don’t have to do everything all at once,” Snow said.

Meanwhile, 1st Ward Alderman Dave Jacobson questioned whether the $7.5 million estimate was accurate, suggesting that it cost more than building a new structure.

“I think that [$7.5 million] is fishy,” Jacobson said. “Something’s not right there.”

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