EAST VILLAGE — Guns and badges could be coming back to the former Wood Street Police Station in East Village — but they won't be attached to Chicago police officers.
A plan to transfer 100 employees from the Cook County Sheriff's Central Warrants Unit Division from Maywood to the former police station at 937 N. Wood St. is "halfway there," Cook County Sheriff's Office spokesman Frank Bilecki said Wednesday.
"Our central warrants unit had been looking for a centralized property that would allow for interview and questioning, allow for lockup and parking," Bilecki said.
Currently the employees in the central warrant units are operating out of "an extremely cramped tight quarters," Bilecki said.
"[The plan] was approved by the Cook County Board and still needs to be approved by the City Council. At the next City Council meeting it will be up for a discussion," said Bilecki.
The news broke Tuesday in a special edition of Ald. Joe Moreno's (1st) weekly e-newsletter, which had an all-capital subject line: "PROMISES MADE, PROMISES KEPT."
Bilecki confirmed the terms of the lease, which will be a $1 annual lease for 10 years at the site.
At a community policing meeting earlier this month, Moreno assured residents that something "fantastic" would come to the old 13th District police station, which has been vacant since December when the Police Department consolidated local districts.
A news conference to further explain the specifics, as well as a project timeline, is planned for next week with Sheriff Tom Dart, Bilecki said.
Moreno said he plans to introduce an ordinance at the next City Council meeting "that will finalize the plan." Some $500,000 in city cash, including $100,000 from the Moreno-controlled ward's menu money, will help fund the new facility.
Built in 1960, the neighborhood police station was eliminated as part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2012 budget. Officials had said the basement of the Wood St. station suffers from flooding and is not handicapped-accessible.
According to Bilecki, the central warrants department includes the fugitive warrants unit. A 2011 Tribune story featured a sting operation conducted by Central Warrants, which lured fugitives to a warehouse for a prize giveaway event hosted by "C.W. Marketing."
Ronda Locke, an East Village resident who lives on Wood Street near the former station — and was a former community outreach coordinator for Moreno — was part of a five-member working group which conducted two different surveys with 700 respondents who weighed in on what they'd like to see at the former police station.
"Number one thing people wanted to see [at the former station] was a police presence," Locke said Wednesday.
"I do believe it will be positive, from a working group member and resident's perspective," Locke said. "We certainly did not want this to just be a vacant building."
East Village resident Anne Shaw, who led the "Save the 13" initiative to save the station from closure said that while "it's good the building will be in use," the presence of the central warrants unit will "not help with policing in the old 13th District because the Cook County sheriff has nothing to do with policing in Chicago."
Shaw added that she's not sure if most people are aware that police and the sheriff have different roles.