The Oak Park Board of Trustees unanimously approved spending $53,680 on a “space needs assessment” study for the Oak Park Police Department, which since 1975 has been located in the basement of Oak Park Village Hall.
Police and village leaders have long lamented the state of the police department, arguing that the facility is not adequate as a modern law enforcement facility.
Among the list of complaints: the department has no windows; the practice shooting range is in disrepair and unusable; the evidence room is too small; and the facility leaks.
Acting Oak Park Police Chief LaDon Reynolds did not respond to a request for an interview.
It has been more than a year since the Oak Park Board of Trustees has discussed building a new police station, but trustees and village staff acknowledge that the space-needs study by FGM Architects Inc. could be the beginning of a move toward building a new station.
The budget expenditure originally was placed on the board’s consent agenda, meaning the study would be approved without comment or discussion by the village board. It was removed and placed on the regular agenda by Trustee Simone Boutet.
Boutet said in a telephone interview that she believes the study is “step one” in moving toward building a new police station.
“I support our police,” she said. “I want them to have a good environment and the tools that they need, but I don’t know if we can afford it right now.”
Boutet said that before the village spends money studying the space needs, it should determine if there is money available for a multimillion-dollar project.
“You don’t need a study to say that a police station is in the basement of village hall,” she said.
Trustee Dan Moroney has been among the most vocal advocates for building a new station. He acknowledged in a telephone interview, however, that it could be a tough sell for taxpayers.
“Probably more than anyone in this village I have new-facility fatigue,” he said, but added that the police department is sorely lacking.
“I think that if any Oak Parker were to tour the current police facility, they would agree the current facility is inadequate for the size of our department and the importance of the work they do,” Moroney said.
At the board meeting on Nov. 19, he said that extra land to the south of Village Hall could serve as the site for the new station.
“I don’t want to spend money on a new facility, and I don’t want to spend money on studies, but [the status quo] is not an option,” he told trustees at the meeting.
Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb agreed with Moroney that building the station on the village-owned property at 123 Madison St. was a “good option.”
“One day we will have a facility that the police department deserves,” Abu-Taleb said.