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updated: 8/11/2011 5:58 PM

Palatine police to stay fit with help from drug seizures

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Criminals involved in the illegal drug trade likely don't realize they'll be helping Palatine's finest stay fit.

The village council this week approved using $65,000 of federal drug asset seizure money to pay for exercise equipment for the new police headquarters, an expense allowed by law.

"It's not coming out of the general fund, it's not coming out of the project budget," village Manager Reid Ottesen said. "I'm pleased to find this alternative source from people involved in the drug trade."

Construction on the $22 million facility at 595 N. Hicks Road is expected to wrap up by the year's end.

Councilman Aaron Del Mar was the lone official to vote against the proposal, saying he believed the cost was excessive given the economy and the village's budget woes.

But Ottesen said he thought Palatine was getting a good deal, pointing out that the treadmills, bikes and other cardio machines are refurbished pieces of equipment. It represents a $72,000 savings to the village's police facility budget, the amount originally allocated for the purchase. It's money that doesn't have to come out of the village's general fund or from borrowing through a bond issue.

Ottesen also said there has to be some degree of exercise equipment and training available to the police department if officers are going to continue to adhere to fitness standards.

"It's safe to say we have one of the fittest forces out there," Ottesen said.

Tapping into these asset forfeiture funds for fitness-related purchases seems to be relatively unusual among newer police stations.

North Aurora Police Chief Dave Summers said his department used bond issue money to buy its equipment before opening a new police headquarters last fall. And Hoffman Estates Police Chief Michael Hish said he used bond money, as well, but he believed the old station on Gannon Drive was stocked with equipment funded through drug busts.

Hish's department most recently used its asset seizure fund to pay for parking ticket writers, he said.

"My understanding is that the money can be used for any law enforcement purpose," Hish said.