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Burlington OKs plan for ECC safety center

Updated: January 20, 2013 6:16AM

BURLINGTON — The village board has approved by a 5-1 vote the preliminary plan for the Elgin Community College Public Safety and Sustainability Center, to be constructed on Plank Road in the village.

Trustee Betty Reiser was the sole dissenting vote.

The $20 million center will provide training to first responders and emergency personnel, and offer truck driving training and classrooms for related course work.

The facility will include green technologies such as wind turbine energy, geothermal technology and provide hazardous material training as well as tactical police training and an open firearms range, among other things, according to the college.

A crowd of about 50 people attended the Monday night meeting at the Burlington fire station community room to voice their opinions prior to the board’s decision.

Village attorney Nancy Harbottle began the forum by outlining the plan commission’s recent approval of the preliminary plan with conditions placed on the college’s requested zoning exemptions and ECC’s response to the recommendations.

“I worked with the plan commission to frame conditions in their findings of fact. The conditions included (limiting) hours of operation, training exercises, classrooms and limitations on the gun range … . ECC would not accept any conditions whatsoever. They wanted the uses they applied for in their application,” Harbottle said.

ECC responds

ECC attorney John Early went through the exemptions one by one during the meeting to explain why the college was unable to comply with the requested conditions.

“The uses in the agreement ECC has to have in order to be viable. The construction is covered through a bond issue, but our operations (costs) will exceed $1 million per year. The classes and activities on the site have to make it viable to pay for the teachers, janitors and lawn maintenance, etc.,” Early said.

“The trustees (of ECC) agreed that the uses will follow the state and federal guidelines for noise” and other environmental issues, Early said.

He said the reason the plans lack some of the detail village trustees wanted to see was due to lack of time resulting from the landowners’ desire to close on the property before the end of the year.

Some of those in the audience did not like the idea of accepting the plan without full details on the height of buildings, hours of operation, and the types of training and tactical exercises that would take place.

“All the uses are approved carte blanche,” said resident Larry Becker. “We want to put a limit on it so we know what it is.”

Kane County Board member T.R. Smith attended the meeting and gave his opinion. “If you came to the Kane County Board with this plan, we would have told you, ‘Come back with a plan.’ There are too many variables and too many unknowns,” Smith said.

Not everyone in attendance was against the plan. Mary Kay Wlezen said she was in favor of the center even if flashing lights and noise are a part of the package.

“This is good for Burlington, now and in the future. If I have an emergency, I want lights and sirens. Kane County (sheriff’s support) is very good to us, but this is good for Burlington,” Wlezen said.

George Huevelman aid he was cautiously optimistic about the plan but felt more information was needed.

“I am actually supportive, but I think we need more definitive answers … . Once you go here, there is no going back,” he said.

Village Trustee Bob Walsh made the motion to adopt the preliminary plan as submitted. Nancy Melin seconded it.

Reiser suggested the action be tabled and for it to be put on the ballot for a vote by residents in April. She then voted against Walsh’s motion. Trustees Melin, Walsh, Al Vonderlack, John Totemeier and Duane Wilkison voted to approve.

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