A long-envisioned renovation of the Vernon Hills police department headquarters has moved from the discussion stage with informal agreement to hire an architectural firm to produce bid-ready specifications.
Village trustees on Tuesday voted 6-0 to have staff prepare a contract for an amount not to exceed $213,000 with the Hezner Corporation for design fees.
Studied since 2006, the proposed $3.5 million remodeling is intended to provide better use of the space at the original building at 754 Lakeview Parkway, and include minor alterations at the adjoining former American Family Insurance building that houses the telecommunications center and records section.
"What we have here are two buildings that will serve our purposes very long term," Village Manager John Kalmar said.
While the village board was unanimous in the support to move to the next step in the process, Mayor Roger Byrne during several sessions has questioned the cost and need for the project.
"Most of the salaries in this community go to the police," Byrne said. "I'm not averse to doing it right. What I'm saying is this the right thing to do?"
The wedge-shaped police facility was built in 1992 and includes a two-story lobby area and a courtyard in the middle of the building among other architectural features that make it outdated and underused, the board has been told.
Among the problems is a lack of adequate locker room space.
"When it was built in the `90s, nobody anticipated the number of female employees (the department now has)," police Chief Mark Fleischhauer said. The project would essentially result in a new main building, Fleischhauer said, and he didn't anticipate the department growing much more.
Kalmar said the original police building is severely underutilized.
"These areas, coupled with the courtyard, equate to approximately 25 percent of existing floor area within the 754 building which are vacant, underutilized or outdated," he informed the board.
Repurposing the space would improve efficiency, officials said. Planned improvements include: workstations for officers, sergeants and watch commanders; expansion of the investigation division to allow for two interview rooms and other additions; remodeling locker rooms and increasing the number of women's lockers; and new evidence processing and storage areas.
Replacing the roof and heating and air conditioning systems at an estimated cost of $700,000 also is in the budget.
The board also opted to use general reserves to pay for the architectural design services. Whether the project would be done all at once or in stages is to be determined. Kalmar estimated it would take three to five months to prepare and review the documents before bids were let. Staff also will investigate ways to reduce costs.