Mayor addresses coronavirus outbreak


Claudio Furlan | Associated Press

A medical personnel holds a kit for the test for Coronavirus outside one of the emergency structures that were set up to ease procedures outside the hospital of Brescia, Northern Italy, Tuesday.

Kierra Frazier, Senior Reporter

DeKALB — Mayor Jerry Smith opened Monday night’s city council meeting to address the current outbreak of a new coronavirus named COVID-19 and how the city is taking precautions while monitoring the disease.

“Last Friday afternoon in a conference call with Governor Pritzker, over 350 mayors, managers and municipal personnel from throughout the state were updated,” Smith said. “By now, we’re all pretty well up to speed on the precautions we should be taking.”

Smith said he has kept in close contact with Lisa Gonzalez, the DeKalb public health administrator, to monitor COVID-19 and encourages residents to maintain their individual responsibilities to help reduce the likeliness of the disease spreading within DeKalb.

On Monday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak. The disaster proclamation allows for additional federal resources to help the state prepare for the potential of further spread of the virus.

On Tuesday, there were 19 confirmed Coronavirus cases in the state of Illinois after Pritzker announced eight more cases. Two of the new cases were found in Kane and McHenry counties, there are no confirmed cases DeKalb County, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Project Ventus
A pre-development agreement with Ventus Tech Services to annex and rezone a 500-acre site south of the Ferrara development on Gurler Road was unanimously passed as a resolution at Monday night’s city council meeting.

Ventus Tech Services isn’t the actual name of the company. The identity of the company hasn’t yet been revealed since they are still actively bidding with another city to choose a site.

If the site is chosen, the company would bring 50 jobs, an initial capital investment of more than $800 million and the construction of an approximately 900,000 square foot facility, with the option to expand, according to the agenda. The workforce of the company would include high-wage technology professionals.

At a Jan. 13 city council meeting, four ordinances were passed that supported the extension of the DeKalb Enterprise Zone to the 500-acre site of interest to Ventus Tech Services, according to the agenda.

City Manager Bill Nicklas said the city is still learning how many buildings would be spread across the 500 acres and that passing the pre-development agreement is the first of many steps.

“We estimate that this one company would generate combined tax benefits that will exceed the Target warehouse, Nestlé, 3M, Goodyear and Panduit over the next 20 years combined,” Nicklas said. “I can’t tell you how much I support this.”

Gerald Blazey, vice president for research and innovation partnerships at NIU, was at the meeting on behalf of NIU President Lisa Freeman and said Project Ventus could bring more opportunities for experience for students.

“Having jobs in the area is very important to help us retain our students in the area and build the economic and cultural base of the city,” Blazey said. “We’re all for it.”

Cohen Barnes, president of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation, said the corporation supports the first phase of development for Project Ventus, and it’s a good opportunity for the community.

“When you look around, it just seems like the hits keep coming to the city of DeKalb,” Barnes said. “A lot of time and energy has gone into it by the council and city staff, and I’m proud to say that the participation that the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation has had in this process too… has been of great help which is our mission – economic development.”

Second Ward Alderperson Bill Finucane said the council is excited for the potential company coming to the city because DeKalb has the necessary utilities to support it.

“I can’t say this strong enough: We want you here,” Finucane said.