Arlington Hts. mayoral candidates debate new police station

Updated 3/8/2013 6:07 PM
  • Ron Drake, left, Thomas Hayes, center, and Mark Hellner are candidates in the Arlington Heights mayoral race.

    Ron Drake, left, Thomas Hayes, center, and Mark Hellner are candidates in the Arlington Heights mayoral race.

The future of a new, possibly $40 million, police station in Arlington Heights may depend on which of the three candidates is elected the village's new mayor next month.

Trustee Tom Hayes supports the plan on the table for a new building, and the cost estimate assigned to it. Ron Drake, however, says he wants to make sure the project is needed and get it done cheaper, while Mark Hellner said he wants to go back to the drawing board entirely to consider keeping the current building but adding a second police station elsewhere in the village.

Late last year, the current village board approved including the police station in its five-year capital improvement plan with the placeholder cost of $40 million.

According to the documents approved in October, the existing 38,000-square-foot building built in 1978 is deteriorating and no longer adequately serves the needs of the police department.

The village anticipates that between fiscal years 2014-2017, the building would need $8.78 million worth of maintenance work just to keep it operating.

In 2008, the village hired FGM Architects/McClaren, Wilson & Laurie to conduct a needs assessment study. It recommended that a new 75,000-square-foot facility be built that would be comparable to other area police buildings.

The estimated cost to construct a new facility is approximately $28 million, with an additional $10 million to $12 million for design, engineering, temporary relocation, demolition and other costs, according to the plan.

"Right now that number is a placeholder. Certainly we will look to see if we can reduce that figure as we go," Hayes said. "It's difficult to determine the costs of materials and services several years from now and what land might be available at what costs.

"That number is not set in stone, but I'm certainly in favor of the concept."

Hayes added that over the next few years, whether he is elected mayor or continues on the board as a trustee, he will look at the plan line by line to see what is needed and what is not.

"Ultimately we want to be providing for the health, safety and welfare of our residents and right now that building is just barely meeting standards and getting us by," Hayes said.

"I can assure that the money will be wisely spent and we aren't going to build anything bigger or better than we actually need."

Drake, who was mayor of similarly sized Avondale, Ariz. for six years, said he has concerns about using the $40 million figure, even as a placeholder. He said he'd be more comfortable with a cost estimate of $20 million, while admitting he hasn't been privy to all the information about the project and its financing.

"The residents don't want another Taj Mahal," Drake said, referring to the nickname some residents have for village hall.

"We all understand that you have to have buildings with functionality, but does it have to be so ornate? The last thing anyone wants to hear about right now is frivolous spending."

Drake said if he is elected he would like to have more discussions about the topic, including through community meetings.

"If the facility needs to be replaced, which all indications are that it does, we have to do it responsibly," he said.

Hellner, an attorney and member of the housing commission, said as mayor he would go back to the drawing board with the whole plan.

"When you spend money you have to benefit the entire community, and I don't think this is the wisest way to spend that sum of money," he said, adding that he is concerned about shoring up the village's underfunded pension obligations.

"To tear it down and double the size just strikes me as pretty extravagant."

Instead, he suggests repairing and renovating the existing building and looking at acquiring a second building on the north end of town. Arlington Heights is an 8-mile-long village, and he said he would like to see more police presence throughout.

The village's level of debt is expected to decrease in the later years of the five-year plan due to other bond issues expiring.

That means the village could afford the new facility through bonds and would not have to go to referendum for funding, Village President Arlene Mulder said in October.

The timeline for the current plan has construction slated to begin in 2017, with the new building being occupied by 2019.

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