Safety, security and space issues are some of the top reasons the Village of Glen Ellyn has started to consider options for a new stand-alone police station.
The police department moved into the civic center building on Duane Street, the site of a former junior high school, back in 1974. Over the years, the building has been retrofitted, but in the world of 21st Century policing, the facility is lacking in regard to security and space, officials said.
Last year, after putting it off for many years due to tough economic conditions, the village manager and police department retained the Dewberry consulting firm to undertake a six-month study to assess the department’s needs. The findings were presented to the Glen Ellyn Village Board during a work session recently.
“This is not about wanting something shiny and new, it’s about safety and security,” Glen Ellyn Police Chief Phillip Norton said in an interview.
During the meeting Norton shared some of the concerns about the department’s location with the board, including the fact that officers' vehicles have been blocked in before by a truck making a delivery to a nearby business, making it impossible for officers to leave the station. That was only one of many deficiencies. For security reasons, the department does not want other vulnerabilities made public.
From a basic safety standpoint, having the police department in a building along side village offices presents concerns, said Glen Ellyn Police Deputy Chief Bill Holmer. Residents coming in to pay bills are only steps away from the police station, not to mention the employees working nearby, who have had encounters with people who are there to see the police.
The department is housed in 10,000 square feet of space in the civic center, in addition to the storage the police has around the village, including using a home on the village’s north side to store a vehicle, a garage being used to store property and use of public works’ space, Holmer said.
The study found that for the size of the police force and size of the community, the department should be in a space of roughly 40,000 square feet, he said.
Legally the department is required to keep evidence from capital crimes forever, but the department is lacking in space to do so effectively.
Holmer said regardless of what might happen moving forward the department would always continue to have a presence downtown. But, building a new facility would allow the department to address modern technology needs, ADA issues, along with creating a more secure environment.
Modern police facilities are built keeping in mind the modern policing dynamics and “target hardening,” he said. Facilities typically are built at locations with set backs and using materials that create a more secure environment for the police and the public.
Dollars and sense
During the workshop one trustee, Diane McGinley, raised concern about the proposed project and asked if there weren’t ways to make some updates rather than moving forward with a new building.
Norton told the trustees that the department had made many updates over the years and had pretty much exhausted its options for space and storage.
“I am very reluctant right now going ahead to discuss something that would be so expensive to our residents,” McGinley said during the workshop.
Other trustees said that though there is an expectation of Glen Ellyn as “Mayberry” with residents expecting all of the village’s services to be under one roof, there is the need for a modern facility. And, with property costs down, it would be beneficial to taxpayers to move forward now.
“If the need is there, we are probably better—the constituents win—if we think ahead and begin planning rather than waiting,” said Trustee Phil Hartweg.
The trustees voted to have the village manage take the next step and bring the matter to the village’s capital finance commission, which Norton said he felt was a victory for the police department. McGinley was the only trustee voting against taking action at this time.
“The purpose of the workshop was for Dewberry to present the information and create a dialog,” Holmer said. “There seemed to be a pretty clear understanding that there was a need and certainly a belief that we need to move forward.”