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Council says Barb City Manor must be self-sustaining

With TIF funding drying up, council members wonder where $100,000 annual maintenance budget could come from

DeKALB – The city’s long-standing arrangement with Barb City Manor likely will continue for now, but City Council members have signaled that they want the facility to become self-sufficient in the future.

Since 1979, Barb City Manor Inc. has leased the property at 680 Haish Blvd. from the city. Under the lease agreement, the city is responsible for any maintenance costs above $10,000 at the 98-year-old building, which was built as the DeKalb Public Hospital with the help of funds from the estates of Joseph Glidden and Mrs. Clinton Rosette.

For decades, the city has budgeted $100,000 a year for annual building maintenance and repair, using funds from the tax increment finance district known as TIF 2, City Manager Bill Nicklas said. That revenue source will disappear when the last of the tax-increment funds are distributed this year.

At Monday’s City Council meeting, 6th Ward Alderman Mike Verbic said that the city didn’t have a ready alternative source for that money.

“Right now with the way our budget stands, what do we give up?” Verbic asked. “We have no room that I’m aware of. It’ll be a decision on us as to what we give up to make this funding happen.”

Barb City Manor serves about 60 low- to moderate-income residents 62 and older, providing them with meals, linen service and a 24-hour staff as part of their rent.

Because the city has set aside $100,000 for repair costs each year, there is $248,100 now available for maintenance needs, according to city documents. The money would be placed in escrow for Barb City Manor to use on eligible projects over a two-year period if the lease were to be terminated, the agenda shows.

After some discussion, council members directed Nicklas to enter into discussion with Barb City Manor Inc. to draft a new lease when the current one expires June 30.

Although the Manor’s board is interested in a 20-year extension, council members told Nicklas to work out a transition lease of three to five years that would involve allocating funds at a smaller rate each year, giving the Barb City Manor board time to work up to being self-sustaining.

Mayor Jerry Smith suggested the council approve an extended lease, and taper off the remaining funds until the manor can figure out an alternative source of funding, and directed Nicklas to help the manor look for external grants.

Barb City Manor officials said at the moment, they can’t afford the full cost of building maintenance.

Fourth Ward Alderman Patrick Fagan, along with the rest of the council, agreed that the manor is a city institution that deserves to keep serving residents.  

“Of all the agreements we have regarding TIF, contracts and leases, this is probably the best thing we’ve got going,” Fagan said. “I get a lot of people that call me in support of Barb City Manor, and it’s a needed area for people in their transition.”

The lease agreement could be up for a council vote at a future meeting.

In other business

In a preliminary agreement to provide tax increment funds, council members directed Nicklas to draw up an agreementt to provide $300,000 to Safe Passage Inc. to go toward demolition and sanitary sewer relocation at Safe Passage’s new building at 217 Franklin St.

The sewer line for the building that the shelter will move into runs through the middle of the building and needs to be moved, Nicklas said.

Verbic asked why the shelter did not find a different building, or one owned by the city.

“In the not-too-distant future, council will be asked to consider the 26 properties we own,” Nicklas said. “Not one of them was exactly right. Safe Passage has grown, and they’re looking for opportunity to consolidate.”

The agreement will also be up for a vote of approval at a future meeting.

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