By Jim Hagerty
While the Rockford Police Department has a plan in place for when the Winnebago County Public Safety Building is torn down, the coroner’s office may be in a bind come next year.
The building at 420 W. State St. is slated for demolition by February. As a result, administrative offices could be sent next door to the Ware Center at the corner of Winnebago and West State streets.
The center could accommodate staff immediately. Where the morgue would be relocated could be another story. Theoretically, the existing morgue could remain in the basement of the Public Safety Building and be accessed through a rebuilt courthouse entrance.
The Ware Center could also house bodies, but not without a new morgue, cooling rooms, garage and loading area. Either way, Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fiduccia says a move is imminent.
“It wouldn’t be safe for anyone to be in the basement while the building comes down,” Fiduccia said. “So, there absolutely has to be a temporary space. So, as of right now, we don’t know where we are going. The county board still has to decide.”
According to Winnebago County Administrator Steve Chapman, a morgue inside the Ware Center is unlikely, but the county is doing what it can to make the process as seamless as possible.
“We are trying hard to accommodate (Sue Fiduccia) in that regard,” Chapman said. “Right now, it looks like only the offices would move to (the Ware Center).”
Winnebago County Board member Steve Schultz, R-3, said: “I hope we are given alternatives and that they are evaluated to determine the pros, cons and costs in order to make the right decision.”
The Winnebago County Coroner’s Office has been housed in the Public Safety Building for 35 years.
As for the police department, officials plan to secure three locations to house officers under the city’s new geographic policing system. District 2, serving central Rockford and the near east side, was launched in January. District 2 officers are housed in the Public Safety Building, but are slated to move in the old Turner School, at 1400 Broadway, by 2016. Because that building was once used as an abortion clinic, several officers announced they wouldn’t work out of the facility. The building has been vacant since 2012, when the Northern Illinois Women’s Center closed.
Police District 3 will move into the former post office at 557 New Towne Drive next year.
The city is considering two locations for District 1: the U.S. Bank building at 850 N. Church St., and a new facility near the corner of West State and Avon streets. Police District 1 comprises the west side.
From the Oct. 8-14, 2014, issue