Council opens doors

By Jessica Kalin

A handful of citizens met city officials at Chesebro Elementary School, 900 E. Garden St., to discuss issues concerning the community at an open house Thursday.

The stark-white lunchroom provided a venue where residents could openly express concerns over coffee and chocolate chip cookies.

The open house was the first time the City Council met citizens in a relaxed setting and was designed for citizens to speak to officials about community concerns.

The meeting had no agenda and people were able to walk around and meet and speak with city officials.

Some of the issues citizens approached officials about were traffic, streetlights, street parking and city growth.

“I’m impressed. I didn’t think there would be so many city people out,” said DeKalb resident Darrell Heinemeier, who was concerned about train whistles.

Other residents, such as Donna Gorski, attended the open house simply to congratulate the officials on the improvements they have made in the city.

“They are talking with neighbors and businesses to identify problems. This is a great idea,” she said.

The open house meetings give residents who fear council meetings the opportunity to speak up.

DeKalb City Manager Mark Biernacki said the only venue for citizens to speak is at the City Council meetings, and many people are not public speakers.

“Sometimes it is helpful for city hall to come to them in a relaxed forum,” Community Services Planner Sue Guio said.

Biernacki said the city plans to have four meetings a year, two in the summer months and two in the winter months.

The summer meetings will be walking tours of the neighborhoods.

With five City Council members in attendance, 12 city workers and 14 residents in the first half hour of the meeting, Biernacki said he hoped the open house was a success.

“So often, people don’t know who to talk to. This is a way to meet in an informal way and for them to get answers,” Fire Chief Lanny Russell said.

No plans have been set for the next meeting, except that it will be sometime in February.