Council proposes cleanup

By Nina Gougis

The DeKalb City Council is asking local business owners if they would be willing to help pay for regular cleaning and maintenance of the downtown DeKalb area.

If the plan is approved, the city will pay $31,200 – half of the $62,400 annual cost – to have former alderman Allyn Davenport and his cleaning company do general cleaning and maintenance along East Lincoln Highway from First to Seventh streets.

The remaining $31,200 would be distributed among the local business owners in a special service district through a tax based on property value.

Davenport had a contract to clean the area until a company with a lower bid replaced him. Since then, the city has been unhappy with the work of that company and has decided to rehire Davenport, 3rd Ward Alderman Steve Kapitan said.

Kapitan, whose ward includes the downtown businesses, said the plan is a good idea because the city is stretched too thin financially to pay special attention to the downtown area.

“The health of the downtown area is important to the image of the city and its economic health,” Kapitan said. He said a good impression can help businesses because it keeps people coming back.

Kapitan said having local merchants help with the costs will help ensure the maintenance and cleaning work is done well.

“By sharing the cost of this special cleanup process, downtown stakeholders will have an interest in making sure the work is done properly,” Kapitan said.

Mark Hedborn of Book Muse Bookstore, 132 E. Lincoln Highway, said an increase in property taxes would do more harm than good to business owners who already have to deal with competition from stores on Sycamore Road.

Maintenance and garbage pickup is not a major concern of the area, Hedborn said. Instead, the city should promote more festivals and activities that will help bring more people to the area, he said.

“Beautifying and renovating will not help,” Hedborn said. “The only things that will help are activities and festivals that bring people down here.”

Business owners will meet with the city during the first week of May to receive the city’s plan for the special service area. The specific costs to each merchant as well as the scope and detail of the cleaning and maintenance will be determined at the meeting.