Public Facilities Tour

DG Village Hall circa 1950

DG Village Hall circa 1950

This is a necessarily shorter post then I had hoped.  With the low light most of my cell phone camera pics are pretty fuzzy.  The turnout was about 10 residents and we trooped through Village Hall and the Police Station to check out the digs and see how bad it was.

It was pretty bad.

Village Hall

What the average resident sees at Village Hall is mainly two or three rooms: Council Chambers, the front lobby, and the Committee Meeting Room where you may have early voted.  Council Chambers is as good as VH gets.

In the case of VH, there’s enough room, in theory, for everything to fit, it’s just that everything is laid out great for a warehouse front office and bad for a village government.  The second floor, where Community Events and the IT Department is located, is not handicapped accessible, and there are stairs that, fairly, would make those at Monticello’s seem generous.

A properly cabled equipment rack.

A properly cabled equipment rack.

Just a heads up IT guys.  These are pictures of rack dressing of some of my accounts dealing with systems integration.  Neatness is a virtue.

It makes the work, along with a proper CAD drawings labeling all the pathways and cable used, easy to work with later, whether that be to change, expand, or move the system.  This rack is not in VH’s IT department.

The extra storage needs are pretty underserved, despite the head building engineer’s (Peterson? I wasn’t taking notes) doing remodels on the fly with no real budget past some plywood and screws, and a couple kitchen cabinets with Menard’s counters on them, to try and meet needs.  If it weren’t for a couple wide hallways, there would be a serious problem in Community development, as file cabinets lined both sides of one hallway.

As we walked around I was kind of reminded of the Marine Museum on Paris Island.  Bare bones, well maintained.  No peeling paint or threadbare carpet, but nothing fancy.  Even the hip wood roof in the corner Village Managers Office (similar to the council chambers) is offset by how the room rumbles when a train rolls by about 30 feet away.  That doesn’t happen all day long.  Granted Fieldman has a door to the outside, but it serves mainly as a cold air intake in the winter.

They have a mojo boiler system that operates for the PD and for parts of VH.  When the PD was built, it didn’t include a boiler room because the VH had a big enough one (maybe upgraded when they built the PD in the 70’s).  Kind of old, but still works, and it works better in some areas than others.  As for the rest, there are multiple hot water heat zones that may or may not be regulatable: in the dead of winter, you may notice a fan behind council commissioners Beckman and Durkin, vainly trying to cool them off.  The full list of HVAC systems and units in VH escapes me, but it’s not unified, and it doesn’t work efficiently or consistently.  Every budget the last couple years has significant funds being spent on bits and pieces of the HVAC systems, because they are all wearing out.

A big problem is safety and code compliance.  Besides the second floor and basement print room not being handicapped accessible, there is also lacking exit direction signage and emergency lighting, as well as handrail violations on just about every stairwell due to them being undersized.   Additionally, the domestic water service serving the building does not have a back-flow device, which is a code violation.  When Watcher wisemen Clark, Falesh, and Hultman fire off about how our own government doesn’t enforce it’s own rules on their own facilities?  They have a point.  Watch board member and DG Traffic Calming Czar Bill Wrobel also attended the tour, and I think his eyebrows are now permanently arched in amazement.

Another big problem is the electrical system.   VH uses a 277/480 volt, 3-phase, 3-wire service which can be dangerous to maintain, and alter. If one of the phases has an erroneous voltage (which in the past it has),  equipment can read no presence of voltage on what is really live equipment.

There’s more than one service entrance where power lines enter the building that don’t meet any exceptions required by the National Electrical Code. The electrical distribution is intertwined without any clear demarcation of uses or areas by each service.  It’s not known whether the ground system is clearly identified and labeled, and properly wired.

There is a basement at VH, and like most areas with too much impermeable surface and not enough open space, it floods when it rains really hard, so everything is up a couple inches off the floor to keep it from being soaked.

The most famous room at Village Hall

The most famous room at Village Hall. "DANGER PESTICIDES KEEP OUT."

It does have the back area where Public Works used to be (don’t ask me how they fit PW all in) and it houses the sidewalk plows and stuff on the way to being recycled: worn out desks, worn through chairs,  as well as being the old place where they stored pesticides inside the building (!).

On the bright side, there’s no asbestos insulation on the pipes.  So this building, while being big enough, is pretty much a maze.  To boot, it was designed for the early 20th century.  In order to wire it for what is needed, they’d have to drop wire races everywhere.  Did I mention the ceilings aren’t high enough to do that?

So this is a building that has sturdy and not so sturdily built areas, all the different maze like areas kind of thrown together, on three different levels without proper access, safety, or electrical power.  But it’s big enough.

Police Department

When the PD was built, it was the height of the burnt orange 70’s. With a cheery new mega Swedish modern facility, the staff totaled about 72.  Now, with the VOC, with additional civilian staff, and with more policemen and women, the building houses about 118 people.  So gone are the comfy areas straight out of The Readers Digest Guide To Home Repair, and hello a Sgt office built for one and housing four instead.    Every office built for one houses at least two, and usually three or more officers.

Well, yeah, I guess this is secure storage...

Well, yeah, I guess this is secure storage...

That theme got repeated a lot as we toured the PD.  Not enough freaking room.  PD’s are required to keep evidence until a case is completely disposed, so they have stuff going back 20+ years.  Imagine never throwing anything out-gotta keep it all.  Some areas of the PD look like a submarine; stuff is jammed in everywhere storage can fit.  Once they figured out they could get by woth one less jail cell for women, in went storage.

pic-0275Juveniles can’t be held in the same area as adults, so an office doubles as both extra holding for JV’s, and for adults.  The original JV cell is being used for-you guessed it-storage.  A lot more storage is over at VH.

The crime lab is more like a crime closet.

At least the leaks aren't by any electrical...wait, nevermind...

At least the leaks aren't by any electrical...wait, nevermind...

On the up side, the sun dome in the middle that used to bake that area of the building and throw off the HVAC has leaked so bad that they finally put a tarp over it, “fixing” the leaks, and cutting down on the solar roasting.

The other upside to the PD building is it is still sturdy, and sound structurally, it’s just too small, too chopped up, and doesn’t fit the PD personnel or storage needs anymore.  If there is some compromise to be worked out, it may be finding a permanent solution to the roof, and moving maybe Social Services and Community Planning in there, maybe even Community Events, and having a plethora of storage space left over-dry storage BTW.  It’s definitely not big enough to handle the balance of the Village departments; Legal, Clerk, Human Services, Village Manager, Communications, IT, …you get the idea.

So the VH is big enough but poorly suited to the needs of today, and the Police Department well built, has good bones, but the roof is shot and it is flat out too small anymore.  Village Manager Dave Fieldman and Chief Porter are both keenly aware of the budget crunch facing the village, and the need for an efficient, low cost, high utility solution.  It will be interesting to see how this proceeds.

There will be another tour on Saturday, February 21, 2009 at 9:00 a.m.  Any interested parties can meet at the Council Chambers.


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