Winnebago County Board committee members explore options for vacant Public Safety Building

Published: Feb. 25, 2020 at 10:40 PM CST
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After being vacant for more than six years, Winnebago County Board members discuss the fate of the Public Safety Building, on whether to keep it standing or prepare for its demolition.

Taking up more than 200,000 square feet on West State Street, the Public Safety Building's hefty maintenance price tag has board members itching to find a solution.

"Obviously, the county's not got much for money, so we need to identify how much it's going to take and look at a potential bond referendum or other funding sources," said Keith McDonald (R-6th District).

At close to $700,000 per year to maintain, members of the Winnebago County Operations & Administrative Committee look at what to do with the structure.

"These are all things that have to be done eventually, whether we do it now or do it later," said John Butitta (R-8th District).

Partnering with Prairie Forge Group, a construction management firm, multiple options are on the table, including a partial demolition and repurposing of the remaining structure to act as a connection between the neighboring courthouse, potentially streamlining the prisoner transport process.

"We definitely need to get moving forward on this project. It's been something that's been talked about for a long, long time, even before I made it to the board. So, it's time that we make some action, get moving," said McDonald.

As the building's vacancy hangs in the balance, board members say they're working hard to find a remedy that works best for everyone.

"Because if not, then we shouldn't be having this discussion at this point in time. Because of the money is not there, then obviously, the project's not going to get started, regardless if we want it or we don't want it,” said Jaime Salgado (D-12th District).

Committee members say they hope to finalize a budget and phasing and sequencing schedule in the coming months to be able to present any viable options for a full County Board review.