WHITEFISH BAY - Whitefish Bay Village Hall will get a $2.6 million makeover this fall, including a five-car police garage on the south end of the building.
The Whitefish Bay Village Board in February discussed a $3.1 million renovation of the 47-year-old building, which included $825,000 for a 6,300-square-foot garage addition on the south end of the police department. Neighbors and several village trustees opposed the idea of a large police garage, but after a meeting was held with neighboring residents, all sides came to agreement on a smaller, 1,200 square-foot addition that will cost $250,000.
Trustees unanimously approved the $2.6 million renovation plan on Monday, April 10. Construction is expected to start in November and last seven to 10 months. Village employees will relocate during that time to a publicly accessible space yet to be determined.
The renovation will turn the three-car police garage on the south end of the combined village administration and police building into a secure booking area — a first for the Whitefish Bay Police Department. Police officers currently bring prisoners in from the garage to an unsecured hallway with three exits. Officers transport suspects down the hallway, past a civilian court clerk and into a separate area with two interview rooms and three combined jail cells.
"I've never seen anything like this, where you book prisoners in a hallway that is unsecured," Whitefish Bay Police Chief Michael Young told trustees at the board meeting. "There's three doors you can escape from while we are processing you. I've never been in a police facility like this. It's unbelievable. It's more like an accounting office than it is like a police department."
With the renovations, officers would transport prisoners from the five-car garage into a secured booking area, which would also have two interview rooms and two separate jail cells.
The 24-foot-by-45-foot garage addition would mostly impact Floyd Bretzman, who lives next door to the police department. Bretzman said he was happy with the smaller police department addition, which preserves a small amount of green space at Lexington Boulevard and Marlborough Drive.
“When I first saw these plans and I heard about this huge parking garage going up, I about had a heart attack,” he said. “I think I even told (Village Manager) Steve (Sheiffer) that, for $850,000, you can take my house and turn it into a nice brick parking structure.”
Two other neighbors were concerned about the existing noise of the air conditioning and other mechanical elements on the building, which Michael Hacker of Bray Architects said would be studied and addressed during the renovation.
The renovation would also expand the public lobby area. The existing lobby has counters on the north and east side of the lobby, but the new lobby will more intuitively guide visitors to two counters directly ahead of the front door. The two aging elevators in the lobby would be replaced with one new elevator. A computer will also be placed in the lobby to allow residents to access village records. A conference room will be added on the north side of the lobby for village employees to have in-depth conversations with visitors.
The renovations would also reorganize village administration offices to allow for more effective and efficient operations, according to Village Manager Steve Sheiffer. The existing office space is divided into two sections, due to bathrooms located in the core of the office space. Sheiffer said the design of the space is not conducive to collaboration between departments or accessibility with the public. The redesigned office space would move those bathrooms to a new employee break room, which would take the place of the village manager's office on the northwest corner of the building.
The renovation would also refurbish the building's aging infrastructure, such as electrical systems, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and emergency generators. The renovation would also make the building more handicap-accessible, expand the public lobby area, make the building more energy-efficient and allow a more effective and efficient use of space.
The village board meeting room on the second floor would also get $108,000 in renovations. The second-floor renovations include removing the raised platform that the village board sits upon, and moving the village board to a circular table in the back of the room. The relocation of the village board table is a security precaution to allow the municipal judge at municipal court hearings - or the village board during a tense board meeting - to access the rear hallway and stairwell in the case of a violent outburst. As it currently exists, the board - and municipal judge during court nights - sits behind a wooden railing that would restrict their ability to leave the room in the event of an attack.
The second-floor renovations also include $35,000 for updated audio-visual equipment in the village board room.