Wilmette, News

Wilmette officials will review study that shows new cop shop could cost $53 million

Village of Wilmette staff and trustees have work to do this year developing a plan on how it will upgrade its police facilities.

Trustees approved in May 2023 a study into the Wilmette police station station, and contractor FGMArchitects presented the findings of the nine-month evaluation on Tuesday, summarizing that “the building is too small and missing key building components” for current and future department needs.

Following its analysis, FGMA is recommending a new building that is about triple the size — or 60,500 square feet, including indoor parking — of the current facility at a projected cost of between $52.98 and $57 million, a number well over the May 2023 projection of $30 million. The estimate does not include what it may cost to acquire land for the new construction.

A preliminary timeline for the project, also presented Tuesday, estimates 16 months of construction beginning in Spring 2026, if approved by the Village Board later this year.

A new police department headquarters has been on the Village’s wishlist for more than 20 years. According to village documents, space studies were conducted in both 2004 and 2008 to review the department’s existing facility, but the project was put on hold amid the 2008 recession. The station at 710 Ridge Road opened in 1968 at 15,736 square feet and grew to more than 20,000 square feet thanks to an addition constructed 18 years later.

Wilmette police vehicles outside the station, a setup identified as problematic by a recent study.

According to the recent space review, the Wilmette police station is lacking modern law-enforcement amenities such as an evidence packaging area, a proper female locker space, weapons and equipment maintenance rooms, certain training facilities, a private space for officer and civilian meetings, officer wellness (physical and mental) areas, and separate juvenile holding room, among other things.

Among other “significant issues”: The department’s evidence storage area is full; police vehicles are parked outside, impacting the lifespan and functionality of the vehicles and their technology; and office spaces are limited, such as the sergeants’ office that features just two desks for six employees whose shifts regularly overlap.

Village Manager Mike Braiman said a review of FGMA’s findings will be a “full team project from a staff perspective,” and include the village’s engineering department and sustainability coordinator among others. Much of the discussion will be led by the board’s Public Safety Committee.

“This is going to be a fluid, evolving review process,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve built a new building of this magnitude. … There will be an opportunity to discuss every space with our consultants and with the police department and make sure what we are settling on in the end is appropriately sized, functions well and is fiscally responsible.”

Trustee Kathy Dodd wanted to make sure that the information discussed at the committee level is appropriately communicated with the entire Village Board.

She said that with such a complex project, it may be difficult to understand which police facilities are necessary and which are not.

“We need to understand what is required .. and what is an optimal station and what are the costs associated with that,” she said. “I understand and agree with the need for an improved police station … but it’s my role as a trustee to make sure I understand how large it needs to be and how much it needs to cost. We’re going to struggle with that.”

Answering trustee questions, Braiman said the Village would likely decide if they are committed to the project by year’s end when more costs begin to come to the table. Until then, he added, the only anticipated cost related to the police station project would be a third-party review of FMGA’s findings.

When discussing the Village’s goals of the project, Trustee Kate Gjaja said she hopes the board can focus on maintaining what she considers to be an “exceptional police department.”

“I don’t think we have an average police department. I think we have an exceptional police department and I don’t think our space reflects or supports an exceptional police department,” she said. “I think we expect to continue to have an exceptional police department — that’s the standard that we have and expect to hold — and would like to see that articulated (in the documented goals): a space for an exceptional police department.”

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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