Sycamore leaders talk infrastructure, business goals at State of Community address

Sycamore business, government leaders weigh in on 2024 State of Community

Steve Wilder, superintendent of Sycamore School District 427, makes his remarks Wednesday, May 1, 2024, at the Sycamore Chamber of Commerce State of the Community Address in the DeKalb County Community Foundation Freight Room.

SYCAMORE – Infrastructure needs, business development, aging school buildings and taxes were the talk of various government officials at the Sycamore Chamber of Commerce’s 2024 State of the Community address Wednesday.

More than 50 local business and community leaders attended the annual event in the DeKalb County Community Foundation’s freight room, 475 DeKalb Ave., in Sycamore. Representatives from Meta, Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, were among those in attendance, along with various county and Sycamore city-elected officials.

A panel of officials provided business updates and insights into future projects.

DeKalb County Administrator Brian Gregory said the county sent out tax bills Wednesday. Gregory said he believes the area is on a positive trajectory and could ease taxpayers’ burden with continued business growth.

“We see a pipeline of continued valuation growth for the county and communities in the county, and so it’s a big opportunity going forward to really enhance DeKalb County, and do it in a way that’s palatable for taxpayers,” Gregory said.

Sycamore schools identify aging buildings

Sycamore School District 427 Superintendent Steve Wilder boasted his district’s academic benchmarks while listing future hurdles. He said the district’s administrative building and Sycamore High School eventually will “age out.”

“We’re going to take advantage of every resource that we can, but just know that facility work and financing that facility work is probably two of the biggest challenges right now,” Wilder said.

Other officials from the DeKalb County and Sycamore governments, Sycamore Public Library, Sycamore Park District and DeKalb County Economic Development Corp. also spoke.

Economic development

Mark Williams, executive director of the DCEDC, said business growth is his primary focus.

“That momentums not stopping yet. It may slow down, we’re not seeing as many [prospective investors], but a lot of them are focused on megasites ... that’s the big ticket right now,” Williams said. “We do need to focus on small business and opportunities as well, but also, the challenge is ... having product available for these industrial developments.”

The corporation oversees the DeKalb County Enterprise Zone, a geographical boundary that offers special tax incentives to entice businesses to the area. Williams said the zone has added 56 projects since certified by the state in 2016, including 17 in Sycamore.

Sycamore water line replacement

Sycamore City Manager Michael Halls spoke of the city’s ongoing efforts to replace lead-lined water pipes in residential areas. The city has identified 5,800 water service lines connected to city water mains, he said.

In the two phases of water line replacement, Sycamore crews replaced 143 lines in 2022 using state funding at no cost to property owners. Hall said 240 water lines were replaced in 2023 and 67 so far in 2024, with 21 replacements pending.

Hall said the replacement program is estimated to cost $4.47 million but is funded primarily through grant money. Hall said the city has spent less than $15,000 outside of those funds. By the end of the project, 471 service lead-lined water service lines will have been replaced, he said.

“We’re way ahead. In fact, the state’s going to mandate us – each city – to do something about that, and we are way ahead of the game,” Hall said. “We got in there and got the grants ahead of some other communities, so we’re lucky for that.”

The city of Sycamore’s water service replacement followed years of public outcry by residents who cast doubt that their drinking water was safe to consume after reporting foul-smelling and discolored water in their homes.

Over the next five years, Hall said Sycamore will spend $17.3 million on water infrastructure work, namely replacing water mains used by the city’s Public Works Department.

Upgrades coming to Sycamore Public Library

Sycamore Public Library Executive Director Kim Halsey said she prides herself on the library’s ability to provide equitable access to information. The library went fine-free in January. She said recent reading challenges have drawn the most participants since 2020.

Halsey also said infrastructure improvements are on the way. Wood-framed windows that were added to the library decades ago no longer seal off the building from the outdoor temperature and humidity, Halsey said.

“It’s something we’re very excited about. With that project, we’ll maintain the integrity of the exterior. It is very important to us and to members of the community that we have polled through the years to maintain the integrity and the history of that Carnegie tradition,” Halsey said. “We’ve selected windows that will stand the test of time, commercial grade, energy efficient, but that will have a trim that matches the existing trim on the facade.”

Park District plans to reduce electrical costs

Sycamore Park District Executive Director Jonelle Bailey said a community survey of the park district was completed this spring. Officials plan to review results beginning in May, she said.

Bailey said the Reston Ponds Park development has broken ground, and the district has found a way to save on electrical costs.

“We will be adding LED lights to the baseball fields this summer, in the next of couple of weeks, which is going to help reduce the light pollution for our neighbors [and] it helps us be more efficient,” Bailey said. “And then we just finished installing solar panels on our maintenance building and our community center, which is going to reduce our overall cost for electric by 55% for all of our buildings.”

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