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DeKalb city hall relocation has moving pains

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By KELSEY RETTKE

krettke@shawmedia.com

DeKALB – When the time comes for City Hall’s downtown relocation to a former bank now known as the Nehring building, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission would meet Mondays instead of Wednesdays, and some commissioners have mixed feelings on whether the change is necessary.

City Manager Bill Nicklas approached the commission Wednesday with an update on the move, including how it may affect the commission’s normal meeting nights, usually Wednesdays.

As part of the move to the Nehring building, 164 E. Lincoln Highway, the DeKalb Public Library would open its Yusunas Meeting Room, in the basement, to accommodate twice-monthly City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission meetings.

The council still would meet the second and fourth Mondays of the month, while the commission would meet the first and third Mondays. The move already has been approved by the City Council, although it has been stalled by the DeKalb Park District, which owns the Nehring building.

“The executive director of the library [Emily Faulkner] and the [library] board would prefer that we limit our meetings to one night,” Nicklas said.

Nicklas said negotiations with library officials to keep the commission’s meetings on Wednesdays ultimately were unsuccessful because of the library’s own schedule.

“I respect why,” Nicklas said. “They’re trying to expand their programming and have some things include a local group or some type of educational event. So at such time as we relocate, try to plan accordingly.
I hope that doesn’t inconvenience you all, but I can assure you that seems to be the package.”

Commissioner Ron Klein asked Nicklas to justify the move.

“Bill, maybe you can explain to me the logic of moving out of here to that old bank building?” Klein said. “I just simply cannot get that through my head or wrap my mind around why that makes any sense.”

Nicklas echoed his past remarks, which include the city’s growing mission to be a part of the downtown revitalization, and moving government closer to the central business district to encourage more foot traffic downtown.

Nicklas also spoke about the financial constraints involved in remaining in the DeKalb Municipal Building.

Commissioner Katharina Barbe wondered what would happen to the DeKalb Municipal Building if left vacant.

“I’m thinking of the DeKalb Clinic that’s still sitting out there and being overgrown,” Barbe said. “It has to be maintained regardless of if you’re in there or not.”

Commissioners Max Maxwell and Chairwoman Christina Doe said they were in support of the move.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Doe said. “Downtown is starting to look awesome. I just love it. Sycamore has their city offices downtown, so why not?”

A 2013 building assessment for the municipal building identified a number of issues with the space, including the roof system, heating and air conditioning systems, exterior precast walls, windows and doors, Nicklas said.

The bathrooms also are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The DeKalb Police Department moved out of the space in 2013. The municipal building houses 30 employees now, when it was meant to accommodate three times that many, Nicklas has said.

Nicklas said cost estimates to address the Municipal Building issues could be almost
$1 million, while the Nehring building transfer of ownership would be $1.

The city placed the 3,400-square-foot DeKalb Municipal Building annex property across the street at 223 S. Fourth St. on the market, and will use revenue from that sale to cover costs for interior remodeling of the Nehring building.

The Park District now rents space in the Nehring building to the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, the DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association. Representatives of all three entities have been notified of the plan and told they would have until
Dec. 31 to vacate.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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