On July 5, the village board heard from FGM architects, the firm originally hired in 2018 to complete a space needs study to inform the village on how to address our considerable police facility needs. The study highlighted significant accessibility challenges and inadequacies with the HVAC system inherent in the design of the building; building code concerns; life and fire safety deficiencies; serious sustainability weaknesses; and an electrical system that is nearing the end of its life for the entire building.
I am personally challenged by imagining how we can address the needed changes to village hall and build a new police station on the same land or another location and not encroach upon the cost of a new building. However, I do accept that there are more creative and talented people than I who can help us.
I do want to hear from our community on this topic, fully valuing the historical value of the building and understanding the associated costs for all options. I am asking the community to be a partner with us in solving these issues so that we can best serve you. The 5-2 vote to rebuild a combined village hall and police facility on the existing site came with direction to staff that we expect significant community engagement on the topic, and if that process was to lead us in a different direction, staff should be prepared to pivot with us. Staff is listening and planning to respond to that direction at our July 31 meeting, where staff will outline how we gather the remaining baseline information before suggesting we engage an architectural firm that specializes in historic preservation.
After that we will identify a talented, resilient, diverse group of community members who will make up a facilities committee tasked with analyzing our government needs, challenges, and opportunities as it relates to our physical space. The engagement will be designed to challenge us to think outside the norm so that however we might move forward is fully informed and thoughtful.
The goal will be to have a physical space that honors the original intention of the current “open government” design. In order to be truly open to serve all residents, it must be accessible, inclusive, and functional. If that process brings us to a creative solution that maintains the architectural significance of our current space, then I will consider it a huge win for all of us.
I am grateful for those who reached out with questions and in faith that my servant style of leadership is consistently about listening, learning, hosting brave conversations designed at getting to the root of our challenges, and identifying long-term solutions that do not push the problem down the road.
I am grateful that many of those individuals who trust my leadership to be genuine are sitting with me at the village board table. We have a shared goal to uncover information so that we feel confident in our votes working to do the best we can for Oak Park.
Additionally, I recommend reading the One View written by architect Bill Dring, which ran in Wednesday Journal’s Viewpoints section on July 19. As the project manager for village hall in 1973 and 1974 and a lifelong Oak Park resident, Bill has offered useful insights on our challenges and provides suggestions that imply proceeding with a very open mind.
Vicki Scaman is the Oak Park village president.