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Downers Grove to wait on new police, fire stations in wake of Rauner's budget

Downers Grove has put a facilities plan on hold that would include moving and downsizing the village hall.
Downers Grove has put a facilities plan on hold that would include moving and downsizing the village hall.

DOWNERS GROVE – The village of Downers Grove will hold off on a major facilities project in light of uncertainty regarding the state budget.

Mayor Martin Tully said at Tuesday's village council meeting the village will wait on any plans until after the state's budget is finalized.

The facility upgrade would be a multi-phase, multi-year plan that would include constructing new police and fire stations and a new fleet maintenance garage on village-owned property on Ogden Avenue. It is currently in the conceptual phases.

After that construction, the village hall would be moved to a new location on its existing property and downsized.

According to council documents, the project was estimated to cost about $50 million.

Village Communications Director Doug Kozlowski said the project would replace antiquated facilities at the police and fire departments and allow for residential development on land where those facilities are currently located. No money has yet been spent on the project.

"It really hadn't gotten that concrete," Kozlowski said.

Deputy Village Manager Michael Baker gave a presentation Tuesday to address concerns about Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed budget cuts. Those cuts include a 50 percent reduction in the distribution of state income tax revenues, which would result in a $2.4 million loss for Downers Grove by 2016.

The governor has also proposed to pair that measure with a two-year freeze on property tax increases, which would prevent the village from using those funds to gain back some of its lost revenue.

"We are taking all necessary precautions to understand what we can do now," Baker said.

Village Manager David Fieldman said in addition to holding off on the facilities plan, the village will wait to replace a fire engine and will not hire for vacant positions unless necessary.

Commissioners were all in favor of postponing the facilities project. Commissioner Sean Durkin said the village "simply cannot afford a project such as this in light of" the potential budget cuts.

Commissioner Greg Hose echoed that belief, adding the cuts won't cause great concern for the village.

"I think it's important to note the village of Downers Grove is well-posed to deal with problems like this," he said.

The village has $17.1 million in reserves, according to Finance Director Judy Buttny.

While the state works to determine its budget, Downers Grove officials plan to operate independently from Springfield as best they can, while avoiding any unfunded mandates.

"We don't want to be the adult child living in the basement of our parents," Tully said.

Kozlowski said the village had been planning to move forward with the facilities plan during the summer, and officials will still look for a way to pursue it if the financial situation improves.

"It's highly likely the topic will be revisited," he said.

The state's budget is expected to be ratified in June or July.

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