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Article updated: 12/5/2012 9:36 PM

Fire station shuffle broached in Lake Zurich

Lake Zurich looks at three stations instead of four

By Bob Susnjara

Lake Zurich's elected officials agreed Wednesday night to further explore a conceptual plan to close two firehouses and replace them with a new station in an effort to provide the affected areas with the same coverage at less cost.

In addition, the preliminary idea raises the possibility of building a new headquarters fire station on Route 12 and moving village operations into the structure for a Lake Zurich government complex.

Fire Chief David Wheelock provided a presentation at Wednesday's village board committee meeting showing how consolidating two firehouses into one station, along with the Lake Zurich government operations, might initially save up to $70,000 annually. He said additional savings would come from eliminating long-term capital costs from future budgets by having three fire stations instead of four.

Wheelock said the three-station model would be staffed with four fire companies while continuing to provide the same service levels.

"I stress this is a conceptual plan and an idea to bring forward and think about," Wheelock told the village board.

Village board members agreed to let Wheelock continue pursuing the tentative proposal at the end of Wednesday's session. He said the next step will be to find potential sites along the Route 12 corridor.

Trustee Tom Poynton said "baby steps" must be taken for such an ambitious idea.

"We need to balance the budget," Poynton said. "I like this concept myself. As far as I'm concerned, it can go forward."

One of the fire stations under scrutiny is No. 1 on South Buesching Road, which is the administrative headquarters and owned by Lake Zurich village government. The other station in the conceptual closure plan is No. 4 on Field Parkway in Deer Park owned by the Lake Zurich Rural Fire Protection District, a taxing agency separate from the village.

The rural fire protection district would own the new station on Route 12, between Cuba and South Old Rand roads. A memo states the village could "creatively finance" the project.

"We have a willing partner that is financially well off," Wheelock said.

Under the concept plan, administrative, operations and fire prevention services would be in 26,000 square feet of office space divided between two floors. In a memo, Village Administrator Jason Slowinski said if Lake Zurich government also moves to the new building, it would provide a "more safe, healthy and positive experience for village employees, residents and guests" as opposed to the current facility at 70 E. Main St.

Slowinski told board members village hall and Station 1 could be sold to private entities. In particular, he said village hall would return to the tax rolls in downtown Lake Zurich's redevelopment zone.

Village hall has many deficiencies, said Slowinski, including a lack of public restrooms on the first floor and board meetings that are held in a basement.

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