It might cost almost $1 million, but at least two groups of Kane County Board members seem to support the idea of demolishing the old county jail to clear the way for potentially lucrative development of the site.
The major competing ideas involve the county keeping the land and turning it into a Ravinia-style performance venue or selling the land to a private developer. County board members on both the Development and Administration committees have expressed support for a plan to demolish the old jail in an effort to make the land easier to develop and, therefore, more valuable.
The old jail is totally vacant. Sheriff's officers use facilities at the sight as a gun range and diagnostic center. The county's fleet maintenance department is also located on the 700-acre site on Fabyan Parkway. The land is currently in unincorporated Kane County, but a task force that includes Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns has discussed Geneva annexing the land into the city. Burns is also running for Kane County Board chairman.
County officials said there is no rush to demolish the jail, but sold the clearing of the site, and the large cost associated with it, as a good move even during the bad economy. The officials pointed out demolition costs are lower than they otherwise would be in a booming economy. The project will also temporarily create some local jobs.
The county also has the cash to tackle the project. The Kane County State's Attorney's Office has cleared use of the county's landfill enterprise surcharge fund to pay for the demolition. That money in that account is legally restricted for expenses associated with the former landfill that's part of the overall campus.
County board member Hollie Lindgren was the lone voice of concern this week. She said she's not totally convinced now is the time to spend nearly $1 million.
"I have a lot of concern about this," Lindgren said. "I understand it needs to be done. I'm just not sure now is the right time versus just cleaning it up for awhile longer."
Despite previous plans, county staff said both the diagnostic center and fleet maintenance will remain where they are even during the demolition. Both those facilities will likely be relocated at some point prior to the eventual development of the site. Moving those facilities will also be an additional cost to the county.
The full county board must still vote on demolishing the old jail before that plan moves forward. County staff would like to begin the project by early to mid-spring.