Kane officials celebrate, dedicate its new Coroner’s Office, Multi-Purpose Facility

May 10, 2021

‘We come together to celebrate a project that came in ahead of schedule, under budget and with an abundance of common sense, good will and teamwork’

By Brenda Schory
April 30, 2021 at 8:00 pm CDT
See original article here: https://www.shawlocal.com/kane-county-chronicle/news/local/2021/05/01/kane-officials-celebrate-dedicate-its-new-coroners-office-multi-purpose-facility/

Kane County Coroner Rob Russell gives a tour of the new Coroner’s office during a grand opening ceremony for the Kane County Multi-Use Facility in St. Charles on Friday, April 30, 2021. The facility also houses the county’s facilities management area and a Sheriff’s Department area. (Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com)

ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – With pomp, and amid pillars of white, blue and gold balloons, with the “National Emblem” march on loudspeakers as a lead-in, Kane County officials cut the ribbon and dedicated its new $13.4 million Multi-Use Facility Friday morning to a masked and socially distanced crowd of more than 200 people.

The new 57,940 square foot building will house new Kane County Coroner’s offices and morgue, Sheriff’s emergency fleet storage and maintenance facilities, Kane County Facility Management’s shops and offices, and storage space for county-wide records and equipment.

The building was designed by Cordogan Clark and built by R.C. Wegman Construction.

“This is a very happy day,” Board Chairwoman Corinne Pierog said. “Today, the Coroner’s Office will now open to become a state-of-the-art facility, and I may grant, one of Illinois’ finest.”

Kane County Board Chairman Corinne Pierog speaks during a grand opening ceremony for the Kane County Multi-Use Facility in St. Charles on Friday, April 30, 2021. The facility houses the county’s coroner’s department, facilities management area and a sheriff’s department area. (Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com)

Pierog said a tour of the building will tell the story of what it means in human terms: such as a person will have a place of dignity to grieve a lost loved one; a sheriff’s deputy will have an optimum place for training; county trucks and vehicles will last longer when kept under a roof.

“We come together to celebrate a project that came in ahead of schedule, under budget and with an abundance of common sense, good will and teamwork,” Pierog said. “On behalf of the Kane County Board, as well as the citizens of Kane County, thank you to everyone who has made this day possible.”

‘Like kids on Christmas Eve’

Among the speakers was Board member Drew Frasz, R-Elburn, who served as project liaison for the board, who said it was something they have been dreaming about for quite some time.

“We didn’t know if it would ever happen,” Frasz said. “As you tour the facility today, you will notice a lot of smiling people – people smiling like kids on Christmas Eve. That would be our staff … experiencing for the very first time, quality, purpose-built facilities. Again, for the first time in their careers, moving into these facilities.”

Kane County Coroner’s Department staff attend a grand opening ceremony for the Kane County Multi-Use Facility in St. Charles on Friday, April 30, 2021. The facility also houses the county’s facilities management area and a Sheriff’s Department area. (Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com)

Frasz said the deficiencies in the Coroner’s Office, where the county’s offices were, have been well-known and debated for 20 years. But he said similar deficiencies existed in other departments as well.

“This resulted in the multi-use building concept, to build a single, cost-effective project to serve all our needs for decades to come. And that’s what you’re seeing here today,” Frasz said.

“Although the political headwinds were strong at times, I’d like to thank the County Board and the Administration Committee for supporting this project and moving it forward,” Frasz said.

“John Martin and Becky Gillam were early supporters and I want to thank them. And when Bill Lenert threw in his support, I knew that we were going to bring this project past the finish line,” Frasz said. “And Mark Davoust, sitting right next to Bill – this is his hosting district, and he had to contend with making sure the neighbors knew what was going on, keeping them happy.”

Frasz also thanked former executive director of building management Don Biggs, for speaking up about the problems with the former Coroner’s Office.

In the summer of 2018, Biggs spoke at a county board meeting that the coroner’s building was so old, the walls could not keep out the smells of decomposing bodies.

“We were smelling stuff outside,” Biggs had said then. “I went in … and that is an experience I never want to do again. … I can tell you, after I experienced it for 10 minutes, I would not want to work in that building. It was disgusting.”

Frasz thanked the building management director who followed Biggs, Rickey Sparks, who took the project through the design process and to construction; and Christopher Allen, the current building management director, took management of the project to completion to the day’s ribbon cutting.

A long time coming

Russell said he was thankful for all the support in bringing the project to reality.

“The (former coroner’s) building is a retrofit laundry facility that we all did our best – with excellence,” Russell said. “However, the employees had no shower, no locker room And ironically – no laundry room.”

Patrons tour the new Kane County Coroner’s office during a grand opening ceremony for the Kane County Multi-Use Facility in St. Charles on Friday, April 30, 2021. The facility also houses the county’s facilities management area and a Sheriff’s Department area. (Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com)

The original coroner’s building had been the laundry for the former Sacred Heart Seminary on Route 31 in Geneva. Kane County bought the property in 1972 for its county headquarters, according to county history.

“Finally over the last couple of years, we had a tragic mass shooting in Aurora, a continuing heroin epidemic, as well as the effort to navigate through the worldwide pandemic that we’re dealing with,” Russell said. “The good news is, that in spite of these issues and circumstances, the coroner employees – right here – went to work and eventually, we became the first accredited coroner’s office in the state of Illinois in 2015.”

The International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners accredited Russell’s office.

The mission to rebuild the office began Dec. 1, 2012 and by 2013, Russell created a commission of five surrounding coroners to provide evaluation of facilities in the hopes that recommendations could be generated, Russell said.

“The results of this commission revealed that the best decision, fiscally and practically, was for the county either to build anew or find another venue,” Russell said.

“I identified the County Board members who truly understood the dilemma and worked with them to create solutions. Several of those board members – and most of them are here today – were able to add some great ideas,” Russell said. “Unfortunately, many of these recommendations were ignored and progress was replaced with some unjust criticism – that we debunked, by the way.”

Russell said he viewed this as the price to be paid in order to move forward.

“Nothing worthwhile is ever easy,” Russell said.

“Although the status of this (now former) building remained unchanged, we here at the office have performed excellent service to the citizens of Kane County. We are not allowed to have a bad day. We know that those we serve are hurting way more than any simple frustration that we may have on any given day,” Russell said.

“The status of the facility was and will never be an excuse for our level of care and concern to diminish. This was proven recently as we were able to obtain reaccreditation with an inadequate facility in the middle of a worldwide pandemic,” Russell said.

The Kane County Sheriff Honor Guard posts the colors during a grand opening ceremony for the Kane County Multi-Use Facility in St. Charles on Friday, April 30, 2021. The facility houses the county’s coroner’s department, facilities management area and a sheriff’s department area. (Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com)

An updated facility and equipment will make it easier for collaboration and resource sharing opportunities for surrounding agencies, especially for training, Russell said. In the past DuPage and other counties provided their support.

“In closing, I want to truly thank all of those who have been part of and supported this collaborative endeavor. All of the board members, past and present, thank you,” Russel said, including thanks to Pierog, Sheriff Ron Hain, Biggs, Sparks and Allen.

‘All done through collaboration’

Hain also spoke, saying, “Folks, what this building means to us in public safety means that you care – that’s what we feel from this.”

“That not only the County Board, but the taxpayers – their constituents that they represent – cared enough to make this happen,” Hain said. “That they recognized that the coroner badly needed an upgrade. We really focused on that, and thank God, Rob got it.”

Hain also called out Det. Edward Catich for special recognition. Catich had construction expertise and represented the Sheriff’s Office throughout the project. Hain presented Catich with a service pin.

Hain also directed the crowd’s attention to a huge armored vehicle in the back corner of the room.

“That vehicle was bought over the last two years while my staff was tirelessly working to upgrade our office. It put us at the forefront of safety. That vehicle saved a deputy’s life last year. That vehicle will now be protected (in a garage) for many years, thanks to you,” Hain said.

“This was all done through collaboration. And folks, you are standing in the epicenter of public safety collaboration,” Hain said.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure the last two and a half years to work alongside our wonderful new state’s attorney (Jamie Mosser), our outstanding Chief Judge (Clint Hull),” Hain said. “We always work together. And now to have the coroner right here with us – it only makes perfect sense. Collaboration, cohesion, efficiency – that’s what this all represents – and the fact that you all care.”

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