Metro-East News

Swansea gets new village hall, police get more room

Swansea residents will have a new place to conduct village business beginning Monday and the town’s police officers will soon have a lot more room to do their work.

The Swansea Government Center is being relocated from 1400 N. Illinois St. to 1444 Boul Ave., which is the former place to get your driver’s license and a former office of the United Way.

Swansea bought the building earlier this year for about $215,000 and spent $85,000 to renovate it for a total of $300,000, Mayor Ken Mueller said. The funding came from the extra 1 percent sales tax shoppers pay in the village’s business district, which includes major retail outlets along North Illinois Street.

“The major reason is the police need more space and we couldn’t afford to build a new building,” Mueller said in explaining why the village is taking over the Boul Avenue building. “The police are staying and taking over the whole building,” on Illinois Street, Mueller said.

“The police department is so crowded,” Mueller said. “They’ve got to have more space. They really deserve it.”

Village Administrator Lyndon Joost said residents will find the Boul Avenue building “customer friendly” when they visit.

Joost and Mueller said the Boul Avenue site is much easier to drive in and out of when you compare it to the North Illinois Street office. The traffic volume on Boul Avenue is significantly lower than Illinois Street so it will be easier to turn left or right out of the new office. Also, for the residents who leave the Boul Avenue office and want to go north on Illinois Street, they will have a traffic light to give them the right of way to head north.

Village employees did much of the renovation work and desks and cubicles are being reused in the new office on Boul Avenue.

Elected officials, the administrative staff, the building and zoning department and the sewer billing staff will report to the new building on Monday. The sewer billing office at 209 Service St. will no longer be open to the public.

On Friday, the village office on Illinois Street and the sewer billing office at 209 Service St. were closed while employees got set up in the new office.

The Village Board will meet at the Illinois Street building at 7 p.m. Monday but that will be the last Village Board meeting there. The Nov. 7 Village Board meeting will be at the Boul Avenue building, which is about one-third of a mile away from the Illinois Street building.

After the employees move into the Boul Avenue office, some interior doors and an outdoor sign will still need to be installed.

Over the winter, employees with the village’s public works department will collaborate with the police department to make renovations to convert the entire Illinois Street building into the police department, Mueller said.

Police Chief Steve Johnson said he and the 20 other officers in the department look forward to getting more room to do their jobs.

“The overall layout was great at the time but we’ve significantly outgrown it,” Johnson said of the building that opened in the mid-1980s.

“We’ve got one room that acts as the squad room, the report writing room, the briefing room and a command room,” Johnson said. “So when there’s a shift change, there’s officers trying to write reports and log evidence who are having to listen through the next shift’s briefing and a meeting and all these other things.

“Along with that, our evidence vault is literally overflowing, although we do a great job of keeping it professional. It easily needs to double or even triple in size, especially with” new laws that require police officers to keep evidence for a longer period of time, the chief said.

Johnson said plans will be developed for the building after all the other village employees move to the Boul Avenue building and a cost estimate of the renovations has not yet been made.

Mueller said the Boul Avenue property is adjacent to the village’s Melvin Price Memorial Park and long-term plans call for improving the space between the park and the new Swansea Government Center.

Features of the Boul Avenue building include:

▪  Residents can drive up to a drop box to pay sewer bills. Previously, you had to get out of your car to use the drop box.

▪  The board room and a conference room will have electronics for large screen presentations.

▪  People attending board meetings will have access to Wi-Fi.

▪  Lighting improvements were made to the parking lot.

▪  New carpeting and three new furnaces were installed.

“I’m really excited about it,” Mueller said. “I think it’s going to be good for the residents and it’s going to be good for our folks here because they’re all going to be together. The ingress and egress is going to be great. The parking’s great.

“I think it was a good investment, especially for the price we paid for it.”