Naperville City Council held its second virtual 2021 City Budget workshop on Tuesday, where they discussed the local economy, city programs, and special interest areas.
Downtown Streetscape Improvements
One topic that got a lot of attention was the Downtown Streetscape Improvement project, which had council split on what to do.
“This gets down to beautification of our city,” said Mayor Steve Chirico. “If we continue to allow this decision to be decided by the businesses along that strip then I fear that it will never be done.”
Chirico and others on the dais supported doing the improvements in 2021, before the Washington Street Bridge renovation. Others however, felt downtown construction would put too big a burden on businesses that are struggling due to the pandemic.
“I know it’s a postponement on it but it’s been a very unique environment that we’ve been living in. I want to see it done but I’m not so inclined to put the burden on the business owners at this juncture,” said Councilwoman Patti Gustin.
City staff said that if the project is not done in 2021, it will need to be put off until 2024, as the city won’t want it done at the same time as the Washington Street Bridge renovation.
Construction on the downtown streetscape was scheduled to begin in the spring of 2020, but businesses asked that the project be delayed when non-essential businesses were forced to shut down.
Council may discuss the topic in more detail at a future city council meeting.
Other Beautification Discussion
Chirico said beautification is often the first thing cut when it comes to balancing the budget, but it should be a “point of pride” for Naperville residents.
He said the 2020 budget originally had about $250,000 set aside for things like enhanced welcome signs at major gateways to the city, but had to cancel those projects.
“It’s a little thing,” he said. “But to do it right, we should have a nice plan, or maybe a five-year plan that prioritizes different projects. But I would sure like to get started on some of this stuff because we’ve been putting it off for as long as I’ve been involved here.”
Last year, Chirico suggested working in a “patriot fund” to make the city look more patriotic for holidays and parades.
Most agreed that taking pride in Naperville’s appearance was important, but once again, it was timing and cost that the council disagreed on.
“There’s a lot of nice to have things on the screen,” said Councilman Paul Hinterlong. “It costs a lot of money. If we can cut a million bucks somewhere else to fit this stuff in, so be it. but we’re in some hard times right now.”
Councilman Benny White suggested engaging Naperville’s young people when it came to beautification. The idea of a youth task force came up this summer during a wave of protests and demonstrations after the death of George Floyd.
White said this could be a good project for that task force if it is ever created.
2021 Budget Timeline
The third and final budget workshop will be held November 23 before the 2021 budget is approved on December 1 and the tax levy is approved on December 15.
Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.
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