SYCAMORE – Robert Baird was adamant that his family stay in Sycamore, even though they have to move out of Evergreen Village Mobile Home Park.
Baird has lived in Evergreen Village, 955 E. State St. east of Sycamore, for more than 30 years, and he lives there with his girlfriend and her three grandchildren. The children have all attended Sycamore schools, and Baird wants it to stay that way, even when they have to move.
“We’re staying here because of the kids,” Baird said. “I didn’t want to pull them out of school. They have friends here.”
The middle child, Anthony Cavalear, 9, has been attending North Grove Elementary and will attend West Elementary after they finish moving in mid-September. The family bought a home on West Exchange Street in Sycamore that will suit their needs.
County leaders have secured $7.1 million in state and federal emergency management grants to buy the flood-prone property, relocate its residents, and return it to open space by June 30. Officials have budgeted about $3.7 million to relocate residents and about $1.9 million to purchase the mobile homes. The property was bought for $1.47 million from the owner.
The project is having a minor impact on Sycamore School District 427 enrollment. Superintendent Kathy Countryman said 24 students who attended North Grove last year had moved out of the district before school started Wednesday. Eleven middle school students have also moved out of the district, and there are 40 students attending North Grove who will have to move eventually.
Countryman said some of the students’ families have relocated to places such as DeKalb and Rochelle.
“We have heard comments from families that are moving out of the district,” Countryman said. “They are disappointed to be leaving the school district, but they are happy they’ve found housing arrangements.”
As of Monday, the county had bought 114 out of 121 mobile homes on the property, according to Paul Miller, county planning, zoning and building director.
Although residents have until April 30 to relocate, Miller said he is hoping most renters will be out when their leases end in December. As people leave their homes in Evergreen Village, the sides of the buildings are spray-painted with “EGW,” indicating that electric, gas and water utilities have been shut off.
“We’re focused on helping people find homes,” Miller said. “We’re satisfied with those numbers [of closed purchases,] but it’s no time to sit back. We’re going to keep working.”
By June 30, all structures will be removed from the mobile home park and it will be returned to open space. County leaders have not yet determined if they will transfer the property to another entity, such as the park district, after that, Miller said.
DeKalb County closed on the sale of the property, which includes 33 acres of farmland and about 6 acres of railroad right-of-way nearby, May 30. Property owner Frank Santoro agreed to sell Evergreen Village for $1.47 million April 15, a day before a county-imposed deadline.
The county is required to help the residents find similar housing to what they have now, Miller said. The county gave Baird an option in Belvidere, but he wanted to stay in Sycamore. He has his reservations about living in a house, however.
“There’s a lot more responsibility, more bills,” Baird said. “At least I won’t have to deal with the flood. I’ve dealt with that plenty.”
Students in Evergreen Village
• 24 North Grove Elementary students moved out of the district before school started
• 11 Sycamore Middle School students moved out of the district before school started
• 40 North Grove Elementary students live in Evergreen Village
Source: Kathy Countryman, Sycamore School District superintendent