GENEVA – The Kane County Board approved up to $10 million to design and construct a new coroner’s office as part of a multi-use facility on the Judicial Center property south of Route 38.
The measure was part of the board’s consent agenda at its May 7 meeting and passed without comment.
The board's action calls for the county’s Building Management Department to work with Cordogan Clark or another architectural firm to prepare a request for proposals for the building’s design and construction.
Board member Drew Frasz, R-Elburn, was a lead advocate for a new coroner’s facility.
“It’s a pretty exciting time,” Frasz said. “We are literally pushing the schedule to break ground this fall and complete it by next fall. … This is a fast-track project. We could be looking at a ribbon-cutting in the fall of 2020.”
Arriving at this resolution required a concession on his part not to push for having the facility built on the north side of the county’s property on Route 38, he said.
“I can make a huge concession now to put it on the south side,” Frasz said. “This is a plan for more than 20 years. It could be a 100-year plan.”
He credited Roger Fahnestock, the county’s chief information officer, with seeing how an underused lower parking area at the jail could be used for the new building.
“The new building is tentatively planned for the area southeast of the jail and the sheriff’s office, directly south of the Juvenile Justice Center,” Frasz said. “It’s far away from residential neighbors.”
One of the issues for neighbors on the north side of Route 38 had been about the coroner’s office, a fueling station for sheriff’s squad cars and an impound lot, Frasz said.
Those functions are currently on the county’s property on Fabyan Parkway where the sheriff's office and jail used to be.
These would be moved to the proposed new facility. Also in the new facility would be the county’s building maintenance department, the sheriff’s emergency vehicle storage – such as the SWAT team, Bomb Squad and Emergency Management – a storage area and fleet maintenance, he said.
“The fueling operation would be small and deputies would have a fuel card so they could just buy fuel on the road and save us from having to build that infrastructure,” Frasz said.
“We looked at that parking lot and it is under-utilized. It’s already got security 24/7,” Frasz said. “We take those two semi-offensive uses and put them down there. The sheriff and staff said fueling is not that big of a thing.”
The coroner’s office would be the anchor unit for the multi-purpose structure, which would be 50,000 square feet to 55,000 square feet, Frazs said.
While the board’s resolution states the cost is not to exceed $10 million, it also states that how to pay for it is to be decided.
“I feel very strongly that the administration committee could put the Fabyan (Parkway) property on the market as soon as possible,” Frasz said. “And by building this building, we vacate all those uses there and make it (the property) available. These are really decisions for the board to make, so we we have to discuss that.”
Using the proceeds of a Fabyan land sale, funds on hand – and possibly legislative support in a capital bill – Frasz said the project could result in very little debt for the county.
Coroner Rob Russell said he was grateful for the progress.
“This is something I have expected for the last six years that has finally come to fruition,” Russell said. “I’m very thankful for all of the board members who worked so diligently to make this happen. This is something that was needed – not just the last six years but probably the last 30 years. … It needed to happen and it happened.”
In February, Frasz had accused Board Chairman Chris Lauzen of obstruction and delay for six months regarding the need for a new coroner’s facility.
Frasz included Administration Committee Chairwoman Deb Allen, D-Elgin, in participating in the delay because discussion of the new facility was always relegated to “old business” on the agenda so nothing could be voted on to move the process forward.
But Lauzen was concillatory with the board's action to proceed.
"I'm very pleased with the progress that the board and everybody else is making on this project," Lauzen said. "Any time we are spending $10 million of taxpayer money, we ought to do that slowly and so we are going about the process deliberately ... taking appropriate time to measure twice and cut once."