One of the more interesting bits of policy construction this year in Riverside is just beginning to take shape with a decision by the village board to give the go-ahead for a “facilities assessment.”
When it comes right down to it, apart from its parks and trees, Riverside doesn’t have a heck of a lot in the way of “facilities.” Apart from the beautiful library, which is governed by a separate board of trustees, there’s not much.
Village government, for example, chugs away inside a set of small offices in a building owned by another government agency, Riverside Township. And while the village eventually built a police station (fashioned, it is said, partially out of a war time bomb shelter) and a couple of buildings to house its fire engines and ambulances, the rest is kind of a hodgepodge of repurposed structures.
In Centennial Park, there’s the water tower and pump house that now house the recreation department and a couple of old well houses serving the Riverside Historical Commission.
Next to the main fire station is the old public works garage, which is stuffed with surplus vehicles and other equipment, and the “Youth Center,” which is a tattered 1950s-era brick block that hasn’t welcomed “youth” in decades and instead is where firefighters go for training and a place the village uses to store things they don’t have room for elsewhere.
The most modern facility the village has is the public works garage in Riverside Lawn, built almost 20 years ago now. That awesome suspension bridge? That’s owned by the township, too.
As Riverside moves further into the 21st century it’s appropriate to take stock of exactly what Riverside has in terms of facilities to provide the services residents want, whether that’s recreation, better public safety, and opportunities to address tourism and economic development.
Until now, looks into the future have all been tentative, partial examinations of what might be possible. This spring, the village will hire a firm to take a deep dive into its facilities and see if they can come up with ideas the community can support.
Because, make no mistake, whatever solutions are arrived at, getting them supported by residents and then funded by taxpayers – these will not be cheap, quick fixes – will take years.
But the journey has to start somewhere, and 2017 might as well be the place to kick it off. Anyone who honestly assesses Riverside’s public facilities (even the “restored” water tower is going to need another look to fix the paint-peeling problem) can see that they’re just not adequate for today. They weren’t adequate when 2000 dawned.
We look forward to getting a possible glimpse of the future later on this year. It may take many years for any of it to come to fruition but it can’t hurt to see the possibilities.