Renovation of old Cary Village Hall into ‘state-of-the-art’ law enforcement training center underway

Officials hope new facility will allow local agencies to work closer together

A construction worker removes a piece of a wall Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, at the old Cary Village Hall, at 655 Village Hall Drive in Cary. Work has started on converting the space into the McHenry County Sheriff's Office's new law enforcement training facility. The facility will allow local agencies to train closer to home.

After years of planning, law enforcement agencies in McHenry County may soon have a training facility and firing range in their own backyard.

Renovations on the old Cary Village Hall building to transform it into the new law enforcement training facility began in late January after close to a decade of effort by the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, said department spokesman, Sgt. Eric Ellis.

“It took a while to get off the ground,” Ellis said. “I walked in, and they’re tearing walls down. … It’s exciting that it’s seeing progress.”

In addition to cutting down travel time and expenses, officials hope the new facility will help local agencies work closer together and learn from each other.

If all goes well, the new facility will be opened between late spring and early summer, with the indoor firing range slated to open in December, Ellis said.

Budgeted for $9.3 million, the bulk of the facility’s cost, about $6.2 million, will be paid for using federal coronavirus relief dollars, with the rest coming from the Sheriff’s Office discretionary funds, Ellis said.

McHenry County received almost $60 million from the federal government as part of the American Rescue Plan Act. Half of the money was designated for county projects, while the other half is being doled out to community organizations.

The sheriff’s office took control of the 20,485-square-foot building in 2022, purchasing it from Cary for $1, Cary Mayor Mark Kownick said. That deal also included part of the village’s public works facility, where the indoor firing range will be built.

That deal followed Cary building a new village hall, which opened at the end of 2021. Cary as a result left its old building, but wanted to repurpose it, Kownick said.

“It’s a historic building, and we didn’t want it torn down,” Kownick said. “It’s a perfect setup for us.”

The building was split into village hall offices and the police department, the latter of which will not be remodeled at the moment, Ellis said.

Some of the renovations on the village hall side will include two classrooms, one that will be able to hold 100 students and another that can hold 45 to 50 people, as well as a mat room for defensive tactics training, Ellis said.

That means the upstairs area of the building will be “completely gutted,” he said.

The work also will include a new roof, and the former great room needs structural repairs, Kownick said.

“The building itself is in pretty good shape,” Ellis said. “It’s going to be a really, really nice structure when it’s done.”

Meanwhile, the firing range will be a new structure built near the Cary Public Works Department off of Cary Woods Circle, about 2 miles away.

To start, Algonquin, Cary, Lake in the Hills and McHenry will be the initial participants using the facility, Ellis said. There will be a cost to use the facility, but the amount has yet to be decided.

The biggest benefit Algonquin Police Chief Dennis Walker cited was the chance for law enforcement agencies across the county to work closer together. With officers across the county receiving different training, it will allow agencies to share their expertise with one another.

“Some agencies might send their officers to a private company or just have a different in-house training,” Walker said. “We’re bringing all of our resources to the table. Shared knowledge of one is knowledge for all.”

In the past, area law enforcement officials had to travel several cities and counties over, sometimes going as far as DuPage County, Ellis said.

Having a facility close to home will cut down on travel time and expenses, giving agencies more time for training, Ellis said.

“Us being able to host outside classes and provide that training to our officers without having the expense of extra travel is going to be very nice,” Ellis said. “There’s really not too many of these facilities around.”

Determining who will get to use the facility and when is still up in the air, Ellis said. A board of directors will be created to oversee the facility, which probably will be made up of the police chiefs of the agencies funding it.

Ellis said he eventually would like to see outside vendors brought in to assist with training, something that hasn’t been an option in the past.

The effort to create the facility started under former McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim, who advocated for the facility dating back to when he originally ran for office nearly a decade ago.

For Cary, the facility being in town is a big deal, Kownick said. Along with being something to help promote the village, Kownick said he believes it could make the town safer, as police officers constantly will be coming in and out.

“I can’t think of a better use of that facility,” Kownick said.