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'A morgue just south of your neighborhood' in St. Charles

Lauzen letters stir resident opposition

GENEVA – While the Kane County Administration Committee considers whether to build a new coroner’s facility north of Route 38 across from its judicial center campus, Kane County Chairman Chris Lauzen fired off letters to St. Charles residents entited, “A morgue just south of your neighborhood.”

“There seems to be momentum developing to locate the Kane County Coroner’s Morgue along with a vehicle maintenance garage and a records/equipment warehouse … just south of your neighborhood," Lauzen's letter stated.

Lauzen’s letter calls for residents in the Harvest Hills subdivision north of Route 38 and west of Peck Road in St. Charles to come to the next Administration Committee at 10 a.m. Feb. 13 at the Kane County Government Center, 719 S. Batavia Ave., Geneva.

Lauzen refused to say how many letters he sent, but he said he sent them when he was silenced over a point of order at the Administration Committee meeting Jan. 9.

"When they did not want to hear what I had to say in the meeting, I go directly to our bosses," Lauzen said, so he sent the morgue letter.

County Board Member Mark Davoust, R-St. Charles, who serves on the Administration Committee, said the issue is just a concept at this point.

“Nothing has been decided or voted on,” Davoust said.

Davoust compared this resident opposition to when neighbors objected to a new jail as part of the judicial center campus. The new jail was opened in 2008.

“Once I had a chance to meet with people and give them real information, real facts and what a county jail is versus a prison, I found the reaction was very good,” Davoust said. “People were comforted and satisfied. … [This situation] is really going to take the same approach.”

For Davoust, and other committee members, the issue is not whether the coroner needs a new facility, but where to locate it.

“The general consensus is … we desperately need a new facility,” Davoust said. “It’s long overdue.”

'A single, nice-looking building'

County Board Member Drew Frasz, R-Elburn said the county has a Master Plan and a long-term plan from the early 1990s when it bought over 100 acres for the judicial center, jail, sheriff’s office and juvenile justice center.

County officials closed its facilities on Fabyan Parkway, except for some remnant uses, Frasz said.

Remnant uses include a sheriff’s storage, a police car maintenance facility, maintenance and emergency services storage, sheriff’s fueling area, document storage and a vehicle impound, Frasz said.

Eventually, the plan is to close the county government center on Route 31 in Geneva and move all those functions to a new facility on the Route 38 campus, so it would not be suitable to put storage and maintenance there, Frasz said.

One proposal to serve the coroner and other county functions is a single multi-function building, about 50,000 square feet on 25 acres on the north side of Route 38, two stories high and screened from neighbors with berms and trees, Frasz said.

It would be low density, low intensity of usage and low traffic because it would not be a high-traffic public building like the judicial center, Frasz said.

“It would be a single, nice-looking building,” Frasz said. “A reasonable neighbor would look at what we’re talking about and think it’s vastly favorable compared to what could go there.”

If the county cannot build on its land north of Route 38, it would likely be sold for private development, which could result in more retail and higher intensity of use, Frasz said.

Another site for a new coroner’s office would be as part of judicial center campus, on the south side of Route 38, but a separate building would add cost, Frasz said.

“All I’m doing is proposing to solve the county’s problem and clean up the remnant uses from Fabyan [Parkway property]. Then sell Fabyan [property] and use that to pay off a substantial amount of what we are proposing to do," Frasz said.

"Selling the Fabyan property would pay for a quarter to half of what we’re proposing," Frasz said. "I’m in the construction business. You build a single building, it’s one process, one permit."

Cost estimates questioned

Cordogan Clark, an architectural firm, has offered cost estimates that started at $6 million for just the coroners office, then increased to $8 million and then to $16 million for a multi-purpose building, Frasz said.

“These are the types of projects I work on and these numbers seemed to escalate so fast, I’m not confident in them," Frasz said. "We want another opinion. ... I think we could build a nice facility that would take care of all these different uses and be more than acceptable to the neighbors for $7 million to $10 million.”

Cordogan Clark representative Brian Kronewitter said the company used historical cost-per-square-foot to project costs.

“We think they [the cost estimates] are reasonably in line without any more design than was shown in the public meeting,” Kronewitter said. “We’ve never been given any more direction from the committee … It was just concept work.”

Coroner Rob Russell said he would support whatever the board decides, south or north of Route 38.

“Nobody would know [the coroner's office] was there,” Russell said. “It would not smell. And no one would see us. We would have a sally port to drive into.”

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