Village Officials Look at Warm, Functional Police Station on Really, Really Tight Site Next to Railroad Tracks

20161205policestationArchitectural drawing for Arlington Heights police station (SOURCE: Village of Arlington Heights).

At Monday night’s Village Board meeting, the plans for a new police station status report were brought to the Village Board for early review. Village officials have been planning a new police headquarters for several years after voting against upgrading the existing 38,000-square-foot police station. Police officials say the current building, built in 1979, no longer meets the needs of the department due to age and deficiencies.

Architects presented the new floor plans and how the building would be placed on the property between Village Hall and Fire Station 1.

In the new plans there would be changes in the main public driveway to Sigwalt Street. Currently there is a three-way driveway, which would be reduced to two lanes — one lane inbound and one lane outbound. The narrowing of the driveway is necessary to fit the building into the site.

The new plans, as explained by architect Dean Roberts, will separate public vehicle traffic and pedestrian traffic on the west side from police vehicle traffic on the east side of the police station, where there will be a new primary east driveway for police vehicles. In emergencies, police vehicle will still be able to exit on the west driveway on Sigwalt Street or to the parking garage exit on Arlington Heights Road.

The records department, currently on the second floor of the existing building, will be brought to the first floor. The first floor plans include a public information desk, booking area and the police department’s patrol and records divisions.

The basement plans, including a firing range, bring all of the training components together in one place for optimization. The basement would also include a training room and evidence storage.

The second floor plans include space for investigations, community services, administration, a fitness center and locker rooms.

The plans for the exterior of the building show a Romanesque style with the building a little taller than the fire station to the east, and a little shorter than the Village Hall to the west.

The entrance to the police station would be at the southwest corner of the building with a small tower.

A circular window facing Sigwalt Street on the first floor to the east would be aligned with the Community Room.

The building will also be highly visible from passing trains just to the north and from areas beyond the tracks to the north, according to architect Dean Roberts.

The preliminary designs for the proposed $27.9 million police station got positive reviews Monday night from village trustees.

“This is a really, really tight site … this is a bit of a shoe horn, but we as architects know how fun that can be, and how challenging that can be … they (the architects) have done a great job with it … Architecturally, the outside … really nicely done. It’s a very traditional design, it’s a warm design, there are elements in here that people will feel comfortable about viewing, entering, walking by, driving by. Doesn’t jump out and frighten anyone. There are some buildings that are cold and austere. This one, I think, will be warm and comfortable for everyone to use.”

— Jim Tinaglia

Construction is expected to begin next summer on the two-level, 70,500-square-foot building with a basement and 10,000-square-foot indoor garage on the site of the current 37-year-old, 38,000-square-foot police headquarters at 200 E. Sigwalt Street fitting on a very tight spot.

The project is being funded through a $35 million bond issue approved January 2016 that will cover construction costs, architectural and engineering expenses, furniture, equipment, demolishing the current station and improving the parking lot, and relocation and renting of a temporary police station.

“The functionality of the interior is outstanding. The way that you guys (architects) ended up listening to the input from the two members of the Village Board and you’ve got an architect there, Trustee Tinaglia, who’s giving you little insights here and there to save money on the project … The functionality suggestions that we gave you, I really truly appreciate because because this works. It’s the 21st Century, policing is a lot different now. This actually encompasses in the plans that you’ve designed and how this is going to be designed encompasses the safety needs, security needs, the functionality, the training, the scientific needs — everything that we have talked to you about.”

— Trustee Tom Glasgow

No discussion was heard about the safety of placing the police station in such a tight space adjacent to railroad tracks. While the design and functionality was praised, the placement of the police station near the railroad tracks welcomes the unpleasant or tragic risk of damage, disruption, and life safety issues to the police department in the event of an accidental train derailment or a terrorist attack using the train. A train derailment down the south embankment could block all police vehicles from exiting the parking garage that is placed the rear of the planned police headquarters. If a train incident involved the rollover of a hazardous materials tanker railcar and a leak, the result could result in a tragic loss of life at the police station, and a hampered emergency response, including delayed evacuation of residents to safety, for the rest of the Village of Arlington Heights.

Additionally, since the Village of Arlington Heights has decided to locate the new headquarters on the same site as the existing headquarters, the police department will need to move to a temporary, less secure location; and then move again back into the new headquarters. Sources that asked to remain private, told The Cardinal that those costs for the relocation alone may be at least $2 million — a questionable waste of money.

The police station decision that requires temporary relocation of the police department also raises several concerns for the safety and protection of police officers during a “War on Police” temperament by some factions nationwide. The upholding of the safety and protection standards for residents of Arlington Heights during use of a temporary location was also not discussed.

Village staff members are searching for a temporary site for the police department for an estimated 18-month construction period. Staff members have evaluated 18 possible locations and contacted property owners, but some property owners have already replied they aren’t interested in hosting a temporary police station. The property owners and real estate brokers have replied they are not interested in tying up their property, when they could get another business to sign a 10-year lease. There have been no negotiations up to this point, and the number of sites available may be down to as little as seven. A confidential report is being prepared for an executive session.

The temporary facility would apparently require some “security hardening” and considerable buildout for office space and police operations space. There has been no public mention about whether prisoners would be held in the temporary facility or by “borrowing” space from a neighboring police department. The location of the temporary facility would need to be centrally located in the Village of Arlington Heights to provide adequate, safe coverage for the entire village. For example, it would not be optimal to have a temporary police station in a commercial building on Algonquin Road because at shift change most police cars are at the station. Adequate response to an incident on Lake Cook Road or the far north side of town, especially at shift change, would be impossible. The village is hoping to move into the temporary facility between May and July 2017. There was no discussion about what would happen to the presented plans if a satisfactory temporary location could not be located.

The plan and design commissions are expected to look at the project later this month, and the village board will then rule on the project.

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