Wilmette, News

Wilmette trustees touring area police stations to get ideas

As Wilmette considers its options toward an upgraded police station, a Village committee has begun a study of other Illinois communities to learn what others have done to address aging facilities.

The Public Safety Committee is in the process of conducting a peer review and is expected to continually report back its findings to the Village Board of Trustees.

Trustee Kate Gjaja, the chairperson of the Public Safety Committee, gave an update on the peer review at the board’s regular meeting on Tuesday, April 9.

The peer review was started following a Village-commission study with contractor FGM Architects on the Wilmette police station, 710 Ridge Road, which opened in 1968. The study, which was released in February, recommended a new building triple in size at a projected cost between $52.98 million and $57 million.

Gjaja said the Public Safety Committee recently held meetings at police stations in St. Charles and Bartlett, both located in the northwest suburbs. While there, Gjaja said the committee and other Village staffers toured the buildings, which she said have been built within the past 10 years, and spoke with officials in both Villages.

“I found it extremely interesting, useful information to gather as we go through this process,” she said.

Trustee Gerry Smith, who also serves on the Public Safety Committee, said he appreciated how welcoming the communities were.

“It was also encouraging to have both police chiefs in both those locations spend over an hour plus, and their staffs, touring us, answering questions and sharing with us their experience, and also the environment that they were in,” he said.

One concern shared by fellow Public Safety Committee member Trustee Steve Leonard was how inflation could impact a potential project.

Specifically referring to St. Charles, Leonard said it was “probably about half the price of what we’re talking about, and it’s not just because of scope or design, it’s just because of relative market costs and what’s happened since the pandemic.

“So, that’s something that’s going to, I’m sure, be a theme that we revisit over and over as we think about what we want to build and what we can afford to build.”

Gjaja stressed multiple times that the committee does not know how much any potential project may cost and that the peer review is simply to gather information on how other communities have handled challenges with their police stations.

“I don’t think we’re firm enough on what this is going to cost to even know what we’re talking about on that front,” she said. “I think we just know that there’s inflation.”

Because of the significance of any police station project, Gjaja said the Public Safety Committee will report its findings directly to the Village Board as opposed to discussing it at a committee meeting.

Village Manager Mike Braiman added that the committee plans to visit the police station in Woodridge in May.

“What we’re trying to do is visit stations designed by different architects so that when we go … to select an architect, we’ve seen their work, we’ve experienced it, we see how they size up or size down,” he said.

Braiman added that the Public Safety Committee will present their peer review findings at a future board meeting, most likely on May 23.

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Peter Kaspari

Peter Kaspari is a blogger and a freelance reporter. A 10-year veteran of journalism, he has written for newspapers in both Iowa and Illinois, including spending multiple years covering crime and courts. Most recently, he served as the editor for The Lake Forest Leader. Peter is also a longtime resident of Wilmette and New Trier High School alumnus.

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