Park Ridge aldermen override veto on Police Station project
Updated: January 14, 2013 6:11AM
PARK RIDGE — Plans to construct a new storage facility and parking lot for the Park Ridge Police Department are nearly underway, starting with the demolition of an existing building on the designated site sometime in the new year.
Police representatives on Dec. 5 met with the contractor hired for phase one of a three-year, $1.1 million project that will involve property at 229 Courtland Ave., reported Police Chief Frank Kaminski.
“They’re hoping to get the building down as soon as possible, weather-permitting,” he said, noting city licensing could take up to four weeks obtain. Some asbestos abatement work would also required, he added.
The meeting with the contractor came two days after aldermen rejected Mayor David Schmidt’s proposal to consider other options for providing the Police Department with more space.
Schmidt on Nov. 19 had vetoed the City Council’s approval of a $290,170 contract with Des Plaines-based Workmasters to design and construct a 1,500 square-foot building for evidence storage.
A new 16-car parking lot and an enclosed bike corral are features also planned for the property, which the city purchased for $662,000 in 2006.
A handful of members of the Chief’s Advisory Task Force, which recommended the project, vocalized strong support for moving forward on Dec. 3 while the City Council considered sustaining the mayoral veto.
Location of the police facility was the top concern of Task force members. They denounced the idea that renovating the old Public Works Service Center at 1200 Elm St. was a feasible alternative, as suggested by Schmidt.
John Kenney, active in the field of forensic dentistry for 30 years, said best practices for accessing, returning, and preserving the integrity of evidence call for an accessible, yet highly secure, facility.
While storing evidence outside the Police Station may not be ideal, the recommended site is steps from the department’s headquarters, Kenney said. The Public Works property is located one mile away.
“Three or four minutes away at best is too far away,” Kenney said.
Ralph Cincinelli, a Task Force member and architect of the Police Station project, said upgrading and securing the off-site center “is not a reasonable or sustainable solution.”
“The main concept of the task force plan is to consolidate, not fragment, police operations,” he said. “The continued recommendation of band-aiding and disconnected approaches of this matter and in other places needs to stop.”
Jay Terry, also on the Chief’s Advisory Task Force, encouraged city officials to work closely with other local entities when planning for capital projects that require taxpayer funds.
He said the approach of the City compared to that of the Park Ridge Recreation and Park District – which seeks to create a new outdoor aquatic center to the tune of $7.1 million – is “striking.”
Task Force Chairman Frank Gruba-McCallister said issues previously raised by city officials about the police project had been properly vetted, and that final recommendation reflects hard work of and countless hours given by volunteers to meet the city’s needs.
Nicholas Milissis, who is running for alderman of the city’s 2nd Ward in the upcoming spring election, said a decision on the project should not rest on the amount of volunteer time spent crafting the plan, but rather on how to keep taxes low.
Schmidt had previously said agreeing to a new plan or deferring the project for another year would further bring down the 2012 property tax levy to the lowest possible amount.
The approved levy reflects a 2.15 percent hike, or $364,829 more, in property taxes over last year.
Kaminski said he understood concerns about spending conservatively and smartly during rough economic times, but added that he trusted the “collective wisdom” of his advisory task force.
“I draw the line when it comes to making sure my employees have a safe and healthy environment,” he said. “These are not cosmetic changes. These are serious issues that need to be addressed.”
City Council members ultimately sided with the chief and the Advisory Task Force, defeating a motion to sustain the mayor’s veto by a 5-1 vote.
Fifth Ward Alderman Dan Knight supported the veto, saying he had been against the project since the beginning for a lack of fully-committed funds.
Cincinelli suggested the city sell the Public Works property to fund phases two and three of the police project.