Officer Ryan

Fontana police officer Greg Ryan stands in the Fontana police squad room, which officials say is under-equipped for computer and other electronic devices, among other problems. (Photo by Chris Schultz/Regional News)

FONTANA — The village’s police and fire department building is reaching the end of its useful life, and village officials are taking steps to figure out what to do next.

A village board committee has recommended hiring architects to study building a new headquarters for police and fire, and possibly include a new village hall in the project.

The Fontana Village Board was scheduled July 1 to consider the proposal to hire FGM Architects of Milwaukee at a cost of $16,400 to produce a feasibility study for the project.

No matter what the board decides regarding the study, local officials say the existing building at 190 Fontana Boulevard is outdated and a new police and fire headquarters is needed soon.

“The building we have now can’t hardly handle what we’re doing there,” village trustee Arvid “Pete” Petersen said.

Peterson has joined other members of the village board protection committee in recommending authorizing the feasibility study.

If approved, the study will examine the need for police and fire department equipment storage needs, as well as interior space to accommodate emergency services personnel, power supply for electronics, and living quarters for paramedics.

The study will also contrast and compare possible sites for a new facility, including new construction on the current site, or moving emergency services to village-owned property near the Duck Pond Recreation Area.

The study will also consider the option of including a new village hall on the same site.

Whatever the village builds and wherever it is built, it will need to be large enough to handle all the village’s emergency equipment and house its full-time paramedics, Petersen said.

Fire Chief Wolfgang Nitsch said the 40-year-old building now being used it nearing the end of its life cycle.

“We know what’s wrong with the building,” said Nitsch. “It’s leaking and it’s sinking. There is one door you literally can’t open, because the foundation has shifted.”

Police Chief Jeff Cates said the building was built in 1979 to 1979 standards.

That was before women were prevalent in police and emergency services. Although the current building has been adapted to handle both genders, when female staff use the shower room, they must post a sign on the men’s room door saying that the shower is in use.

The building has structural issues as well.

“The roof and floor are failing,” Cates said.

Repairing the roof alone would cost $100,000. Consulting engineers have advised that there is little that can be done to keep the floor from shifting and sinking.

Since 1979, the world has seen an explosion in electronic devices. The walls of the current building do not have enough outlets to accommodate all of the computers, laptops and cellphones.

A spaghetti-like tangle of wires and extension cords snake under officers’ desks, Cates said.

And then there is just the need for additional space for the officers and firefighters.

“In our squad room, we’re stepping on each other’s toes,” Cates said.

Cates noted that he shares an office with the department sergeant. The sergeant’s workstation is shoehorned into a corner of the police chief’s office.

Finally, there are reports and information that cross the police chief’s desk that are confidential.

“The chief should have his own office,” Cates said. “Would I like a new building? Yes.”

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Chris Schultz has been a reporter for more than 40 years. He has been with the Lake Geneva Regional since 2010. He covers the Lake Geneva City Council and the Lake Geneva area schools.