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Local

DeKalb, Sycamore, NIU bus consolidation could leverage millions, officials say

Residents, City Council members talk library levy

DeKalb Public Works Director Tim Holdeman discusses a plan to consolidate the city's TransVAC and Northern Illinois University's Huskie Line bus services during Monday's Committee of the Whole meeting.
DeKalb Public Works Director Tim Holdeman discusses a plan to consolidate the city's TransVAC and Northern Illinois University's Huskie Line bus services during Monday's Committee of the Whole meeting.

DeKALB – DeKalb Public Works Director Tim Holdeman said it is quite unusual to have two bus systems operate in one community.

But the consolidation of DeKalb’s and Sycamore’s TransVAC bus lines with Northern Illinois University’s Huskie Line could leverage significantly more grant money – in the range of millions, he said.

During the DeKalb City Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting Monday, Holdeman outlined plans for an integrated transit system that would try to increase frequency, increase the span of routes, reduce overlapping services and simplify schedules.

Holdeman said all DeKalb Sycamore Area Transportation Study structure is funded through grants except for a small portion of contributions coming from DSATS member organizations.

According to projections drawn from previous years, operating expenses are estimated to be $3.5 million annually from the city and $4 million annually from NIU.

TransVAC lines primarily operate demand response and deviated fixed-route transit service within the service area. The Huskie Line primarily is a fixed route service during the school year, with limited services when school is not in session.

To aid in the implementation of such a proposal, the city is bringing on transit consultant Bob Bourne to act as a transit consolidation coordinator for a year. Bourne said he has done a lot of consulting with university communities that have dynamic bus systems.

“The demographics are there,” Bourne said. “It’s just a matter of putting it all together.”

After an overview of the DeKalb Public Library’s annual report by Executive Director Emily Faulkner during the regular council meeting, several residents and council members reminded the public about promises the library made regarding the abatement of the tax levy that was increased in 2015.

The levy was increased to allow the borrowing of $4.5 million to finish construction of the library’s new facility after money owed by the state was held up by a budget impasse.

DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith, who had said that the library not abating the levy would be unacceptable, echoed this feeling after the report was read.

“I have full confidence that the library board will do the right thing,” Smith said.

Smith said there had been talks to organize a special library board meeting before Thursday’s abatement deadline to consider a partial rollback of the levy, but a quorum could not be established.

Former Mayor Bessie Chronopoulos was one of two members of the public who spoke about the promises that were made.

She said she is appalled, and it was unforgivable that city attorney Dean Frieders and City Manager Anne Marie Gaura have not done what’s in their power to make sure the taxpayers’ rights are protected in this situation.

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