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Government

Downers Grove facilities plan spawns coalition creation

DOWNERS GROVE – Two Downers Grove neighbors discussing the proposed facilities plan project for the village hall, police department and the fleet maintenance facility have joined forces to create the Downers Grove for Responsible Government coalition to bring awareness of the project to residents.

Due to the large scale of the proposed project – the village has stated the cost could be about $52 million – coalition founders Tim Harms and Tim Werner started a petition drive in November to place an advisory question on the April 7 ballot to gauge resident opinion regarding the project.

"The objective is to get the question on the ballot, and to get people educated on the topic," Werner said.

Eight percent of voters who voted in the last gubernatorial general election would need to sign the petition – equaling 1,551 signatures, according to DuPage County Election Commission Election Division Manager Chuck Hinds.

Harms said that at least three dozen people have been gathering signatures in support of the petition and that presently they have more than 2,000 signatures to submit to the village clerk by the Jan. 5 deadline.

Neither Harms nor Werner have any background in local government and Harms' attendance at one of the Town Hall meetings discussing the facilities plan was a new experience for him.

"I heard about the proposal and I wanted to understand it because it sounded like it was going to be big expenditure for the town," Harms said.

The Town Hall opened his eyes with the projects' importance because of the amount of people who showed up and asked questions, he added.

The subject of placing a referendum question on the ballot for this project was raised during the Town Hall meetings.

Mayor Martin Tully said that due to the complexity and the many moving parts of the development project, it would be difficult to properly reflect the project in a referendum question.

"We are doing our job, not through trying to put together a real head scratcher of a referendum question that might not be relevant by the time it's voted on, because the plan could be different," Mayor Martin Tully said during Dec. 6 Town Hall meeting. "This is the way to really engage with the community – to have town hall meetings, continue the conversation, and identify those decision points and forks in the road."

According to the village, both village hall and the police station are in below average condition and do not provide modern work environments; additionally, both facilities have outdated buildings HVAC systems that will require significant investment to replace.

There have been several options presented and discussed in public meetings earlier this year, but the preferred option, according to village documents, is to demolish the existing village hall and police station and construct a new police station on Ogden Avenue with a commercial development.

The village has stated that Ogden Avenue TIF District funds and a general obligation bond supported by property taxes would be allocated to pay for the project. Site development and design would begin in 2015 with construction starting the following year.

Phase two includes a new village hall that would be constructed at the Civic Center Site along with a planned 200-unit multi-family residential development. Village documents indicate a new TIF district for this property would be implemented, and that the sale of the land to a developer and the property taxes from the development would pay for the new village hall.

"This discussion brings a lot of interest," Werner said. "We feel now is the time to take action. The overall feeling is there is a need is to get people more involved and help them be informed."

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For information detailing the facilities planning project, visit www.downers.us.

For more information about the coalition, visit www.dg4rg.com.

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