DeForest village trustees last week approved a resolution to contact with Vogel Brothers Building Co. for a renovation and expansion of both Village Hall and the adjacent Public Safety Building.

The nearly $6.2 million bid from Vogel Brothers was the lowest of four received in early April and garnered unanimous support from the board on April 19. Bray Architects has guided village officials and staff through project planning in the last year.

The formal action is the culmination of years spent in the discussion and planning stages with regards to getting DeForest’s civic campus better suited to serve staff and the growing community.

“I’m supportive of the resolution tonight and getting to the next chapter in the community and getting the facilities we need for our staff,” Trustee Jeff Miller said prior to the board’s endorsement.

Village Hall’s history goes back to when it was purchased in 1974. A remodel was performed in the last decade (2006), but increases in staff and services has left the facility, according to Village Clerk LuAnn Leggett and others who work there each day, operating in close quarters with no adequate meeting or storage space.

“We just have no more office space or cubicle space,” Leggett previously noted. “So if we were ever needing to hire somebody, there is no place for that person to actually sit.”

A quick tour of the Public Safety Building (PSB)—home to the police force, fire and EMS departments, Village Board, municipal court and local elections—yields similar issues seen at Village Hall.
Constructed in 1997, village officials say the PSB almost immediately began facing space issues, especially with the police department.

In the nearly two decades since, DeForest has seen it’s population swell by more than 2,000 and the force has risen from 10 to 17 officers. DeForest’s total square mileage has also risen 130 percent since the PSB first opened it’s doors and support staff has grown.

Police chief Robert Henze and Lt. Daniel Furseth have both been vocal about the need for additional offices, evidence and vehicle storage, locker rooms, and private areas for officers to meet with suspects and/or victims.

Asked about the project one day after the board’s blessing, Furseth, who will take over as police chief in 2017, called it “exciting.”

The approved project contract, according to Leggett, who has been the village’s point person throughout the planning process, will alleviate the issues at both buildings and allow staff to more comfortably operate day-to-date and serve residents.

Project funding will be covered through a 20-year borrowing that Village Administrator Steve Fahlgren said he’s “comfortable” with. Fahlgren said helping matters is the looming retirement of public library debt, that DeForest projects to grow, and Tax Increment District 1 is closing.

“Obviously there will be additional costs on top of the soft costs like furnishings, lockers for the [police department], technology … which will be part of the borrowing,” Leggett told trustees.
Leggett also cautioned that “with any building project, we do have contingencies” and unknowns may arise.

“We will keep [the board] up to date when we have changes,” she added.

Village officials say the average taxpayer will not experience an increase in their tax bills as a result of the facilities project.

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As posted by DeForest Times-Tribune, April 29, 2016
Rendering courtesy of Bray Architects