The village of Riverside won’t seek a referendum to fund an expansion and/or renovation of its municipal campus on Riverside Road until at least November 2020, with members of the village board saying they need more input from the public and advisory commissions expressing concerns about conceptual plans.
On Nov. 1 members of the Riverside Board of Trustees agreed with a suggestion by Trustee Michael Sedivy that the village create an ad hoc committee to tackle the issue, while Riverside TV finishes shooting and producing a video tour of existing facilities to give residents an idea of the space and maintenance challenges staff, particularly police and fire personnel, face day to day.
The video tour could be complete sometime in November, said Village Manager Jessica Frances. The committee, whose members need to be identified and chosen, wouldn’t begin its work until early next year.
“I think we need to identify people who are a little bit passionate about this, because this will take a year and a half to work through and communicate and get feedback,” said Sedivy at the village board’s Nov. 1 meeting. “And, more importantly, it keeps it in front of people’s minds.”
The village board a year ago hired Williams Architects at a cost of $80,000 to assess municipal facilities and propose options and rough cost estimates for expanding and/or renovating the existing village campus in and around the Riverside Township Hall.
The assessment concluded that existing facilities were inadequate and proposed expanding the village’s footprint at the existing Riverside Road site by building a new two-story, more secure public safety wing; creating additional off-street parking east of the Swinging Bridge and constructing underground parking for police vehicles; and overhauling the village’s existing offices inside the township hall and inside the spaces that now house the police and fire departments.
The conceptual plan also included green rooftop areas overlooking the river as well as a path along the riverfront. An optional concept included a third-floor to accommodate events and provide the village a way to pursue public-private partnerships.
Cost estimates to complete such a project ranged from $24.5 to $28.5 million. A complete renovation of existing facilities, without expanding them, was pegged by Williams Architects at between $6.7 and $9 million.
Had the village board wanted to move aggressively and put a referendum question on the April 2019 ballot, it would have had to formulate and vote on such a question next month.
Without any real feedback from the public and with plans that are just concepts, officials decided there was no point in seeking a referendum so soon.
“It’s my personal opinion that we are not ready to do that, that we have not had enough public input and we have not had enough other professional input as to alternative designs,” said Village President Ben Sells.
Sells said any discussion of a municipal campus makeover should include discussion of potential changes in the ways the village might deliver services in the future, possible service consolidation and potential partnerships with other agencies, such as Riverside School District 96.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” Sells said. “At this point we didn’t even have a specific rendering of any kind of proposed facility to show to our residents. It seems unrealistic to ask people to consider a referendum when you can’t show them at least some idea of what you have in mind.”
The village also might consider conducting a town hall meeting on the subject of a municipal campus makeover, said Sells, to find out what residents feel is and isn’t important.
While calling the need to upgrade Riverside’s police and fire facilities “almost unquestionable,” Sells said it was important to listen to the community about aspects of the project that might not be so critical.
“I’d really be interested to hear what our residents think and whether they’re even interested in it,” said Sells, “because that’s a substantial part of the cost of this project.”
Sedivy also suggested the village conduct an online survey to gather information from the public.
Meanwhile, during September and October, a number of village advisory commissions discussed the conceptual plan, expressing concerns about the impact of a parking lot east of the Swinging Bridge, aesthetics and the sheer scale of the project.