Yorkville dilemma: Where to put council chambers at new City Hall

Faced with no ideal location, officials to decide between a third-floor room or potential $3 million addition

The Yorkville City Council has hit its first snag with the new city government building on 651 Prairie Pointe Drive: where do they put the city council chambers?

Officials received a presentation on three different remodeling plans from architect firm McClaren Wilson & Lawrie Inc at a meeting Tuesday, Feb. 9, and while there is likely enough space for city offices and the police department, officials face the decision of putting their primary meeting room on either the third floor or in a $2.7 million addition to the front of the building.

“I think that spending two plus million dollars on an addition doesn’t make a lot of sense,” said Mayor John Purcell. “There’s plenty of space. I think putting the council chambers on the third floor is not a problem… Quite frankly I’m a little disappointed that our architect would suggest a 2.5 million addition on the building we paid 1.9 million for

Total early cost estimates for the building plan with the addition clocks in at nearly $8 million, with the third-floor council chamber plan estimated at $5 million. The city intends to sell bonds to finance the mega-project, and Purcell added that every million the city spends will translate to $65,000 to $70,000 in annual bonds payments.

Most alderman objected to the addition’s price tag. Alderman Chris Funkhouser, who voted against acquiring the new building last year, raised additional concerns about having enough space for file storage.

“When we bought this, we did not have a space needs analysis,” Funkhouser said. “We did not know if the fit was going to work with this building. Now we’re finding out that there are some hiccups with positioning certain functions into the building.”

Despite the mayor’s objections, Funkhouser and other aldermen did urge the city not to throw out the $2.7 million addition and to consider its long-term benefits.

“Yes it is more money - but if we take it away are settling?” said Alderman Jackie Milschewski, pointing to other local projects, like the county courthouse, where officials had to eventually expand the building after initial half-measures. “When you kick the can down the road you know that prices go up - so this may be the most economical way to do something and just have it for the future.”

Apart from selling bonds, the city has other means of financing the project. Officials plan to sell current real estate like the downtown old bank building, its lot near Kendall Marketplace and the current city hall to shave off the renovations’ multi-million dollar price tag.

“When you make expectations based one what’s simply available you settle and you overlook what your needs are,” said Alderman Joel Frieders. “What culture are we perpetuating by consistently saying well we shouldn’t do this because we’ve got to spend money on (something else).”