The Downtown Streetscape will likely have to wait a few years before renovation. That’s after a majority of Naperville City Council directed staff to leave the $3.2 million project off the 2021 City Budget at the third budget workshop on Monday night.
With downtown businesses reportedly seeing lower revenue throughout the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses felt it would be unfair to add streetscape work to the mix.
“It’s agreed, there is no good time. But there’s definitely a bad time and this would be a bad time,” said Councilman Paul Hinterlong.
The project would convert angled parking spaces to parallel, leaving more room to widen sidewalks, replace pavers, and do underground work on electric utilities and water mains.
Those in Favor of Budgeting It
Those in favor of pushing through with the work at the start of next year included Mayor Steve Chirico. He said this work was not just an aesthetic update, pointing out that downtown is not safe in some spots for seniors and those with disabilities due to uneven pavers and narrow sidewalks where it’s difficult to pass. That sentiment was echoed by Senior Task Force Co-Chair Jim Hill.
“The streets and sidewalks included in this project are literally dangerous for seniors,” he said during public forum. “Waiting until 2024 to address this problem is not acceptable. I know it’s going to be a hardship for the businesses in this area but it needs to be done.”
Because of plans to renovate the Washington Street Bridge through most of 2022 and 2023, the streetscape will likely now have to wait until 2024. City officials don’t want two major downtown projects ongoing simultaneously and the bridge has a stricter schedule to follow.
The streetscape was scheduled to begin earlier this year, but council decided to delay the work due to the onset of the pandemic. Many felt that was a mistake in hindsight, as downtown was emptier than usual this spring.
Higher Police Budget
The Naperville Police Department will also receive additional funding this year, in the form of five new staff members, body cameras, and additional crisis intervention training for 25 officers.
Police Chief Bob Marshall will have four new officers, of which he plans to assign two to traffic control and two to the special response team. The fifth new employee will be a social worker who will join officers when responding to domestic and mental health calls.
At the November 17 Naperville City Council meeting, Marshall told the council that the NPD has already responded to close to 1,000 mental health calls this year and is on pace for a new record.
Council is expected to approve the final budget on December 1 before the 2021 Tax Levy is approved on December 15.
Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.