Voters in Riverside could be asked to vote on the future of its public facilities as early as 2019, armed with plans officials hope will begin to be drafted later this year.

Last week, Riverside issued a request for qualifications from architectural firms to conduct a comprehensive assessment of its public facilities – from the village’s offices in the township hall to its police/fire/Youth Center complex to the water tower campus – and then come up with design options and cost estimates for future public facilities.

“We want someone capable of doing this kind of analysis and, from there, develop a broader conversation with the community,” Village President Ben Sells told the Landmark. “Because anything that will be done will have to be done by referendum.

“It’s an attempt to take a big look and say, ‘How can we do this right?'”

Riverside elected officials have informally discussed the future of its public facilities for years. The Youth Center, a rundown two-story brick building built in the 1950s next to the police and fire stations, is often at the center of such discussions, because of its location overlooking the Des Plaines River.

The village in the past also has toyed with the idea turning the water tower offices into a historical museum. Complaints about the cramped, obsolete police department are nothing new.

But the village has never taken official stock of its facilities, whether they can simply be renovated or whether it makes more sense to build new facilities – maybe in different places within the village.

“We realized we were just way in over our heads and that we needed a professional assessment,” Sells said. “This will look at the entire village and all of the needs of our public facilities and come up with a comprehensive plan.”

Architectural firms have about a month to put together a statement of qualifications. The documents must be delivered by July 21 and will be distributed to a “selection committee” whose members are not identified in the request for qualifications.

That committee will review the proposals and rank them, picking two or three firms to interview. The interview process is slated to be completed by Sept. 8, and the village board tentatively is scheduled to select an architectural firm in early October.

The village will negotiate a fee for the work the architectural firm will complete over the next year or so.

During 2018, the architectural firm will assess the village space needs in terms of public facilities for the present and 10 and 20 years down the road. The firm will evaluate the feasibility of renovating existing facilities or building new ones, prepare site plans and floor-plan drawings for proposed solutions, along with cost estimates and a timeline for phasing in the improvements.

The firm would also formally present any finding/plans to the village board.

If the village board decides to move ahead with any other the options presented to them, there would be further analysis of the financial impact, based on more detailed plans for renovation/construction of facilities.

The cost of any such work is expected to be at a level where voters would have to approve a referendum to issue construction bonds.

“We’ll design something, take it to residents and say, ‘This is what’s possible,'” Sells said.

Sells said that the spring 2019 Consolidated Election, which will be the next time residents will vote for village trustees, makes sense as a referendum date.

“It’s the most logical time,” Sells said, “where there’s a focus on the municipality and on people running for [local] office.”