Rolling Meadows' bond rating rose significantly late last year, which could make it easier to borrow money if the city decides to build one or two new fire stations, Mayor Tom Rooney told the Rolling Meadows Chamber of Commerce during his annual State of the City address Monday.
Standard & Poor's gave the city a AA+ rating, with a stable note that means the positive trend in the city's finances is expected to continue, Rooney said. That is up from last year's A+.
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"The work that we've done to bring the debt level down means that we could (borrow)," Rooney said in response to a question about how the city would pay for one or two new fire stations.
The city reduced its debt level to 44 percent of its annual budget, compared with 65 percent not long ago, he said. On the other hand, the city's cash on hand has risen from 12 percent to 31 percent of the budget in about 18 months.
The city has scheduled meetings to explain options and get residents' input on the possible rebuilding or moving of one or both fire stations.
Rooney displayed a map showing that the city's largest threat of serious fires is in older multifamily residences. They are concentrated on both sides of Route 53 between the Jane Addams Tollway (I-90) and Algonquin Road, and on the east side of Route 53 between Central and Algonquin.
Moving the 50-year-old downtown fire station from 3111 Meadow Drive to the area of Wilke and Central roads would put those homes within the desired four- to six-minute response time, he said.
It also would mean ideally the second station at 2455 Plum Grove Road should move east to the vicinity of Kirchoff Road and Route 53.
"Moving a fire station is a political football no matter how it's sliced and diced," Rooney said. "Nobody wants to see a fire station moving any further from them. It's at the heart of what people fear for their safety."
Aldermen have said the downtown station is in deplorable condition, and the city council has committed to making a decision on the future of the fire stations in April. Fire Chief Scott Franzgrote has said building two new stations could cost up to $9 million.
The public meetings:
• 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 25, city hall, 3600 Kirchoff Road.
• 6 p.m. Thursday, March 27, Fire Station 15, 3111 Meadow Drive.
• 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 8, city hall
• 6 p.m. Thursday, April 10, Fire Station 15.
Unlike last year, when Rooney announced a new grocery store would go into the nearly deserted downtown shopping center that once housed a Dominick's, the mayor made no major announcements Monday. He indicated, however, he still remains hopeful about the future of the former Dominick's site, even after the plan for the grocery store fell through.