DeKalb County Administrator Gary Hanson announced today that he was suspending any further remodeling work on the Sober Living Home for 90 days. The purpose of the suspension is to afford time to complete a final evaluation of the ever-increasing scope of work without the County incurring any additional costs, as well as time to look at options for alternative uses of the property. The house has been winterized to avoid damage while the evaluation is on-going.
“Short of some type of funding miracle,” Hanson said, “I anticipate having to recommend to the County Board that this project be vacated and that an alternative plan be developed for this property.” With many County Board members clearly indicating during an October review that no additional County money will be put in the project, Hanson suggested that “miracle funding” would need to be along the lines of faith-based organizations, service organizations, or philanthropic individuals stepping forward to make this happen.
In May of 2015, the County purchased the house at 491 E. State Street for $145,000 for the purpose of establishing a Sober Living Home to house up to 7 individuals. It was known that renovation would have to meet various accessibility and fire codes which were allotted for in the project budget. However, last winter a water pipe froze when the heat went out and that damage opened up a sundry of building codes that are quite costly when applied to an older house. Each time a solution was found for a structural or code issue, another problem surfaced before renovation headway was made. The latest round of problems has been estimated to drive project costs another $40,000 above available funding. However, there are no guarantees that the problems will end there. County Board Chairman Mark Pietrowski pointed out that the City of Sycamore officials have been very helpful in working with County staff and our general contractor (Swedberg Construction) in identifying and working through various structural and building code issues.
Twenty-third Circuit Court Chief Judge Robbin Stuckert expressed disappointment with the project being shut down: “This is one of those programs that can truly make a difference in people’s lives. The people I am talking about are residents of DeKalb County; they are our friends, our neighbors and our family members. This will eliminate an important resource to the Courts that would have helped a lot of people. Whe3n looked at in the long run, I think this program would have a positive Cost-benefit because of the potential of re-focusing so many people into a positive direction for their lives.”
Chairman Pietrowski has asked the Law & Justice Committee Chairwoman Dianne Leifheit to have her Committee begin discussions on this matter at their January meeting. The Committee will be asked to identify options for the Sober Living Program and for the property that was acquired.