By Megann Horstead | For The Bugle
To enhance the facilities for village hall and the police department, the Downers Grove Village Council discussed the prospect of pursuing some potential plans for building maintenance or new construction.
“Our police station and our village hall… are both in poor condition and in total require about $10 million worth of maintenance,” said Village Manager David Fieldman. “The police station itself is too small. It doesn’t provide enough space for modern law enforcement techniques and services and creates some inefficiencies. Village hall is actually quite large, but it’s an old ball-bearing factory, and is very inefficient and has its own set of operational challenges.”
The village council has approved a plan to address a number of these facility issues. That plan calls for the expansion and remodeling of the police station, approximately $14.5 million; and another $1.5 million to address some maintenance at village hall.
These projects will be paid for using a $16 million budget comprised of existing revenues that include $2.2 million of cash on hand in the village’s asset and forfeiture fund and the issuance of a bond in the amount of $13.8 million. That debt instrument requires an annual payment of roughly $1.1 million, and is to be paid for using the village’s property tax levy, local gasoline tax and the capital fund.
“This plan addresses most of the issues identified but not all of facilities issues and therefore is an incomplete solution,” Fieldman said. “Staff–at the direction of village council–has, in exploration of an additional option, identified a complete solution would be the construction of a new combined police station and village hall.”
That led village staff to set out to determine if they can develop a portion of the existing village hall site with private development. Officials sent out a request for proposals to gauge the amount of money that could be generated from this private development to cover the additional costs between the $16 million plan and $30 million complete solution.
This project, if approved, would cost the village about $30 million.
The village has received four proposals, with two options being able to help defray costs without relying on taxpayers. They include a higher-density residential development and a medical office building.
Mayor Martin Tully said he’s hopeful one of the proposals before them is just right for the village.
The idea is to “entertain possibilities that could potentially, very favorably, resolve a number of different challenges this community has been struggling with for some time,” he said.
Commissioner Bill White said he thinks it’s nice having the proposals to weigh the tradeoffs to each option.
“Every option is better than the option that was rejected at the referendum,” he said. “I’d tell the public ‘… [with] each one of these, we’d be in a better place than, in my opinion, if we’d did the plan that was on the table the fall of 2014.’”
White had objected to the way the village tried to obtain updates for village hall in 2014.
“We’re not moving forward until we have a developer… submits a proposal,” he said. “That was probably my biggest objection in 2014 was that we were going ahead with the expectation that after the fact, we’d get a contract. Now, we have a contract to [agree on] before we move head.”
White said fiscally, the fourth proposal is sound, but it also leaves some questions worth pondering.
“It really does solve a lot of financial problems for the village,” he said. “It takes a lot of pressure off the taxpayers. However, it also fundamentally changes the qualitative character of our downtown. Those are two considerations that are not easily compared.”
Commissioner Greg Hose, too, shared that sentiment.
“All of them represent a change to some degree to our downtown,” he said. “The DuPage medical offices would be a larger, more intense office use than, I think, we have in other places in most places in downtown if not all. It’s an interesting use to bring downtown.”
Hose said he hopes the village explores one of the options that doesn’t rely so heavily on constituents, and is cognizant that they have five options to explore, with some being more taxpayer-friendly than others.
“The townhomes, I think, in an ideal world in terms of the finances might be the best way to go,” he said. “I think townhomes would fare well there.”
Commissioner Bob Barnett said though he understands they have two potential outcomes that don’t rely on taxpayer support, he thinks the math and moneys says that they should develop an apartment building because it’ll generate the biggest rate of return value.
“From where I sit that should probably be the driving force, the financial aspect of this,” he said. “Because when this is long gone and when we’re long gone, the downtown will have had a pretty big change made to it, which certainly some might see as negative, but from a financial perspective will really benefit the village long beyond any sort of TIF, or financing system, we might pool together to do the development.”
Barnett said knowing there’s an opportunity to retain revenue, village officials still have to decide carefully on what course of action they’ll take.
“There a lot of folks that are leery of that,” he said. “It’s a fair concern to have.”
Commissioner William Waldack said he thinks the only option that helps with downtown parking is the medical office building and said he fears for the future of the village and its appeal.
“From my perspective, before I go ahead and say, ‘let’s put up another large building because it’s financially proper,’ I’d like to somehow… open [the discussion] up to the public [on a] Saturday afternoon and have the proposals and have people weigh in,” he said.
Commissioner Nicole Walus agreed.
“In this situation, I feel like we do not have any data that shows the success of these new buildings and these new apartments [in the downtown area],” she said. “I’m struggling with that. Are they filling, etcetera?”
The Downers Grove Village Council is to continue discussion of facilities maintenance at their March 7 meeting.