Consultant calls for new Mount Prospect police headquarters
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Mount Prospect needs a new police headquarters, according to a space needs analysis presented to the village board this week.
Raymond Lee, whose Oak Brook-based firm, FGM Architects, was hired by the village for $24,000, told board members that the police department, which occupies 34,000 square feet of the downtown facility it shares with the fire department, should have 81,000 square feet.
That is the square footage Arlington Heights will occupy in its new police station.
Lee said the building, built in 1993, has failed to keep up with changes in police operations.
Mayor Arlene Juracek said that although some might criticize the village for jumping on the bandwagon to join other communities with new police facilities, "this is not a case of worn-out stuff."
"It's not like we have dirty carpets or old furniture and drapes that need replacing," she said. "This is a case where the processes of policing have changed significantly in 20 years."
Illustrating the mayor's words were pictures and descriptions from Lee and representatives of the police department, who presented a mosaic of a building that is cramped, inefficient and borderline unsafe.
With grim looks on their faces, trustees watched a slide presentation that showed a crowded roll call room that doubles as a mail room, a congested garage that sees traffic jams during shift changes, computer servers accessed by ladder and through an attic, records covered to protect them from a ventilation system, a parking deck leaky with rust, and a tiny interview room that sometimes resembles the stateroom scene from "A Night at the Opera."
Lee said there is little room for interdepartmental interaction, with multiple doors separating divisions.
Acting Chief Michael Eterno, who joined the force four years after the station was built, said the department already was "bursting at the seams" when he started.
"I know a lot of people have the analogy that my house is 25 years old. Why would you possibly need a new facility? I completely understand that perspective," he said.
But Eterno said the force, which has grown from 70 in 1993 to 83 today and had more than 90 people before recession-induced cuts, said the building has not kept up with changes in policing. Today, for example, the department has a crime-free housing coordinator, units to address narcotics and gang crime, and a social worker.
Cmdr. Robert Smith and officer Mark Bechtold outlined several safety concerns at the current location. A sally port is also used for storage, meaning that someone who is arrested has access to bottles and foreign objects.
The lack of secure parking for police means an officer's personal car can be parked next to a car belonging to someone who has been arrested. An area where DUI offenders are brought for sobriety tests contains a potential for harm from a metal bench and metal counter.
Investigator Michael Angarola said an offender was able to overhear a conversation in another room "quite a distance away" between himself and the state's attorney's office. The office decided against filing a felony charge. "When I walked in, I said, 'Well, I have good news for you.' And he said, 'I already know. I heard everything you just said to the state's attorney. I'm so relieved,'" Angarola recounted.
Over the next few months, the village will continue to discuss the findings of the study, focusing on fire needs as well as the police department, and discussing possible solutions.