Official defends Lucinda project

By Caryn Rosenberg

Vice President of Finance and Planning Eddie Williams is defending the proposed $2.96 million Lucinda Avenue reconstruction project despite criticism about its cost.

After a tie-breaking decision at a workshop meeting last week, the DeKalb City Council chose a reconstruction project for Lucinda Avenue costing $2.96 million and including two lanes, a landscaped median and a $535,000 contribution from NIU.

The plan was chosen over another option which would cost $2.3 million and include three lanes, no median and an NIU contribution of $180,000.

Williams said the alternative was chosen for many reasons.

“It’s more than just aesthetics,” he said. “The sidewalks will increase in width, the street will be wider, there will be a traffic signal and there will be lighting covering the sidewalk and the street.”

Williams said many people have the misconception that the additional $355,000 required for this plan is to cover the cost of the median.

“The landscaping is only budgeted for $14,000,” he said. “The factors that account for the difference between the two plans are the larger sidewalks, larger lanes and traffic signal, as well as the median itself.”

Williams said every aspect of the reconstruction has been well thought out.

“This is not some overnight plan,” he said. “We’ve been working on this for three years and there are reasons for every part of it.”

Sixth Ward Ald. James Pennington was one of the three council members who voted against this plan. He said he did so for two reasons.

“First, it’s a waste of money,” Pennington said. “We’re being handed a Cadillac when a Ford would do just fine.”

Pennington said he also is concerned about the effect on the students and taxpayers.

“It’s an overburden on our constituents,” Pennington said.

NIU has until May 1 to come up with its share of the construction cost. If the money is not available at that time, the alternative plan with smaller lanes and no median will be used instead.

“We chose May 1 as the deadline because it’s a reasonable amount of time but not too much time,” Pennington said. “We want to get started with the project, and NIU has held it up for the last two years.”

Williams said he feels the deadline is fair.

“The city is making a substantial investment in our campus and wants certification that we can pay our share,” Williams said. “I’m appreciative that they are doing this because the cause of the deterioration is solely from the buses and university activity.”

Williams said they are doing the best they can at marginal cost and doing it right.

“When that’s done, then you turn to the other priorities,” Williams said. “Otherwise, in the long run, you’re just making it worse on yourself.”