Neighbors tell Kane County where they don't want new morgue

 
 
Updated 2/13/2019 6:13 PM
hello
  • The Kane County morgue is a repurposed facility that dates back to the days when the government center was a monastery. Coroner Rob Russell wants to build a new facility, but residents in the Harvest Hills neighborhood in St. Charles don't want it abutting their homes.

      The Kane County morgue is a repurposed facility that dates back to the days when the government center was a monastery. Coroner Rob Russell wants to build a new facility, but residents in the Harvest Hills neighborhood in St. Charles don't want it abutting their homes. James Fuller | Staff Photographer, 2013

For years, Kane County Coroner Rob Russell has said he doesn't care where a new morgue gets built as long as, unlike his current building, it's up to modern standards.

On Wednesday, residents of St. Charles' Harvest Hills neighborhood lined up to tell county officials exactly where they don't want it built.

A recent letter from county board Chairman Chris Lauzen spurred their attention to the project, which had fallen dormant after being described as an "emergency" during an influx of decomposing bodies last summer.

A push by county board members revived discussions last month about locating a new facility for the coroner, as well as other county needs, on the north side of Route 38, across from the county's judicial center campus. There's also space on the actual judicial center campus on the south side of Route 38.

Kathryn Whitlatch was one of five Harvest Hills residents to tell county board members none of the functions the county wants to relocate would be a good fit for land adjacent to their neighborhood. They don't want a sheriff's impound lot, or vehicle maintenance. And that goes double for the coroner's office.

"It's a noxious use," said Whitlatch, a commercial real estate attorney. "That's anything that brings undesirable effects to our community like environmental, noise or light pollution. Those are things that have an ick factor for buyers of our homes. They all negatively affect our home values. And that means devaluing your property tax base as well."

Whitlatch and her neighbors said they do not support any function that involves 24/7 operations.

Several board members expressed frustration with Lauzen's stirring up fears in Harvest Hills before there are any actual plans or an agreed-upon overall concept to show them. Board member Drew Frasz suggested the neighbors were being used as "political pawns."

Nonetheless, the early involvement of the neighbors appeared to sway the thoughts of any board members with a preference for the location on the north side of Route 38.

"I initially thought the north side of 38 was a good fit, but having spoken with my colleagues, thought more about it and heard from some of you, my opinion is changed," said board member Mark Davoust, who represents the Harvest Hills area. "If we are able to do a multiuse facility, it would probably best fit on the main campus." The main campus is on the south side of Route 38.

After more than two hours of wrangling over what the next steps are, what architectural/design firms should be consulted and even what heading future discussion should appear under on the committee agenda, officials reached a consensus to move forward. County staff members will spend the next four weeks collecting information for several decisions that may see an initial vote next month.

Board members called for a rough concept for a multiuse building that would fit, at a minimum, a new coroner's facility. At best, it would also house fleet and building maintenance, various storage space and maybe even a new mailroom.

They also want feasibility comparisons for the north and south sides of Route 38. And they want cost estimates for all those options.

The committee overseeing the project will meet again at 10 a.m. March 13.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.