Public services adapt to meet community needs

By on February 12, 2009

by Martha Quetsch
As the area’s population has grown, local public officials have responded by expanding fire protection, police and public works services, and they are planning future enhancements, as needed.

Fire protection
When Marty Kunkel became Sugar Grove Township Fire District Chief four years ago, the department had 30 paid on call and six full-time contracted firefighters. Now, the department has 26 full-time firefighters on staff, and 34 paid on call.

The department obtained a $1.3 million federal grant last year to hire more than 10 additional firefighters.

Sugar Grove Township Fire District was able to improve its services further in July 2008, stationing nine firefighters at the Oswego Fire Protection District station at 2200 Galena Road, off of Orchard Road.

“It allows us to better cover the southeast section of the township,” Kunkel said.
Kunkel said the department’s response time to the area is five to eight minutes now, compared to 10 to 12 minutes before.

The Sugar Grove Fire station on Municipal Drive and Route 30 currently services the entire Sugar Grove Township, an area of approximately 34 square miles and an estimated population of more than 15,000 people.

With the addition of a ladder truck in 2006, the Fire Department can provide better protection for multi-story buildings, like those found at Waubonsee Community College.

Another equipment improvement, upgrading the communications system, was done when the department was awarded a federal grant for the project two years ago.

“Now we have a wireless infrastructure for data and radio,” Kunkel said.

The Sugar Grove department built its fire station at 25 Municipal Drive in 2005.
Department officials want to build two more stations, in the west and southwest area of the township, to service future development. Station 2 is planned for a 2.5 acre site at 1650 Denny Road, and the district plans to build Station 3 on a yet-to-be-determined site in the southeast portion of the district.

The district’s ultimate goal is to have five more fire stations, in addition to the current site on Municipal Drive. Kunkel said there is a current need for a station in Montgomery, and district officials are looking for property around Jericho and Gordon roads.

Elburn and Countryside Fire District improved its services to the town’s south side in 2003, when it built a second station on Hughes Road. The other fire station is on North Street in downtown Elburn.

The district consists of three chief officers, a full-time fire prevention officer plan reviewer, 12 full-time firefighter/ paramedics and 45 part-time firefighter/paramedics, and one administrative assistant.

The district’s service area encompasses 75 square miles, including Elburn, Lily Lake, Virgil and the Mill Creek subdivision.

Ambulance
Ambulance service also improved locally. Maple Park started its own ambulance service in 2005 after a successful referendum, and several years ago, Kaneville contracted with Big Rock for ambulance service for $30,000 a year.

Police
The village of Kaneville improved its community policing by contracting with the Kane County Sheriff’s Department more than a year ago to provide extra patrols in the village. The move was in response to many residents’ complaints regarding speeding vehicles on Main Street and Harter Road during the morning and evening commute hours.

The extra patrols are performed by off-duty county officers, using official county vehicles. The county officers have, during the past year, issued many citations and warnings, according to Kaneville officials, who plan to continue contracting for these patrols to control drivers who disregard posted speed limit and stop signs.

The village of Elburn increased its Police Department manpower since Jim Linane was named police chief in 2001. When the village hired Linane, it had seven full-time and three part-time officers, compared to nine full-time and eight part-time officers now, plus a community service officer.

Expanding staff was necessary, since the village population has almost doubled, and calls for police service have gone from 6,400 a year to approximately 20,500, Linane said.

Linane’s goal when he was hired was to improve professionalism in the Police Department.

“Prior to me getting here, it was kind of a revolving door. The department could not hold on to experienced officers,” Linane said. “Officers would come to get experience and then leave; the problem I saw with that type of setup was that the officers tended to be more aggressive and generate more complaints.”

To restore the citizens’ faith in the Police Department, Linane hired an experienced group of officers who average 21 years of experience. He said this strategy has been successful; the department now receives very few citizen complaints regarding policing.

“We have a very low officer turnover now,” Linane said.

Other Elburn Police Department improvements during the past eight years include acquiring a better fleet of vehicles with uniform equipment and installation, Linane said.

“The cars that were here when I got here were poorly equipped and had a lot of miles on them,” Linane said.

The department purchased a community service truck for its new community service officer, and began using older vehicles for secondary use, including administrative take-home cars.

The village a few years ago, obtained a grant from the federal Bullet-Proof Vest Program. The money paid half of the expense of bullet-proof vests for Elburn officers, which cost $600 apiece.

Since 2001, the village has equipped its squad cars and station with upgraded radios and computers. The Police Department also improved its firing range on Thyrisileus Road.

“We doubled the size of it and added the firing range building,” Linane said.

The village relied on donated manpower for the project, including local Boy Scouts for the landscaping.

Elburn Police Department now has a Bike Patrol Program, training three officers to provide police presence in places that are not accessible to squad cars, such as park festivals and other special events.

In March, the Police Department will kick off its Citizens Emergency Response Team, which will utilize volunteers to help keep the community safe.

Also in the future, Elburn may enlarge its police station at the current municipal complex, 301 E. North St., if needed.

The approximate cost of the project, which also would include a larger village hall, is between $21 million to $23.3 million, an estimate that could rise 4 to 6 percent each year, a consultant told the Village Board several months ago.

“We are very cramped for space, not just in square footage but function,” Linane said. “Our station is approximately 1,400 square feet and should be approximately 5,000 square feet for current staffing.

The village would pay for the municipal complex expansion with future development impact fees. Trustees are not planning the project for the near future; however, they want to be prepared if population growth leads to a municipal space shortage.

In the future, Linane will work toward expanding the department’s specialties, including investigations, he said. He also wants to start a Citizens Police Academy, featuring classes and speakers about how Police Department and law enforcement work.

“Citizens will be able to get a better understanding of what the police do,” Linane said. “Most people don’t come in contact to the Police Department. We’re kind of a mystery to them.”

Streets and sewers
Elburn in recent years has replaced several million dollars worth of streets and sidewalks and village officials plan to continue annual improvements. Village President Jim Willey said upgrading Elburn’s worn-out streets was a priority for his administration when he took office 12 years ago.

In Sugar Grove, village officials hope to obtain financing from future developers for a tollway on-ramp from Route 47. The village would first conduct a feasibility study for the project, a $196,000 expense that also will require developer donations. The interchange currently only allows for traffic to access I-88 going west and does not provide an on-ramp to travel east. Residents from north of Sugar Grove must travel south on Route 47 to Route 56, or east to Orchard Road, to access the tollway heading east.

In September 2008, the Federal Highway Administration approved a controversial local road project—the installation of a north-south highway called Prairie Parkway, designed to provide an alternative route for some Route 47 traffic.

Prairie Parkway will extend from I-88 near Kaneville, south to I-80 west of Mokena.

With the federal approval, the state may use about $182 million in federal road funds to begin work on the first five-mile stretch of Prairie Parkway. Further construction will depend on availability of additional funds. The Illinois Department of Transportation has yet to announce when it will begin the first construction phase.

Taking place in conjunction with the Prairie Parkway project will be the state’s widening of Route 47 from I-80 to Caton Farm Road. Sugar Grove officials, including Village President Sean Michels, want the widening to prevent future traffic congestion on this major thoroughfare.

Another planned road project designed to improve traffic flow through Sugar Grove will take place possibly as soon as this summer. The village project will extend Municipal Drive and Galena Boulevard from Route 47 west to Route 30. The village received $3.5 million from the federal government for the project.

The road extensions are among projects identified in Sugar Grove’s Transportation Plan for future area transportation needs. Currently, there is no north-south collector road to the west of Illinois Route 47 within the Village. The extensions of Municipal Drive to Galena Boulevard will not only achieve traffic relief in the area but spur economic development within Sugar Grove, village officials said.

As part of the project, the village will extend water and sewer infrastructure along these roads to the site of the new Kaneland Middle School currently under construction on Harter Road.

Wastewater treatment
Elburn’s wastewater treatment plant on Thryselius Drive already is at capacity, village officials said. If Kirk Homes and Sho-Deen Inc. proceed with their developments, the town’s population of nearly 4,800 could triple, necessitating an expansion of the wasterwater treatment plant. The Village Board decided two years ago to require the developers to pay for the future project, which will double the plant’s wastewater capacity at a cost of $14 million. Kirk intends to build about 900 homes just west of Route 47 on the north and south sides of Route 38, and Sho-Deen is planning a 3,000-home development on the east side of Elburn, between Route 38 and Keslinger Road.

In Sugar Grove, the village has initiated a new in-house sanitary sewer preventative maintenance program to further Fox Metro’s work in treating wastewater in Sugar Grove so that it can safely be returned to the environment.