With a 4-3 vote the Rolling Meadows City Council reached a preliminary decision Tuesday to build two new fire stations -- starting with moving the downtown station to the east side of town near New Wilke and Central roads.
Eventually the second station would also be moved from 2455 Plum Grove Road west of Route 53 to Hicks Road between Kirchoff Road and Euclid Avenue.
Eight residents spoke, with no one endorsing the chosen plan, although a few did call for three fire stations. Objections included the cost of new stations as well as the ramifications of removing one more thing from downtown.
But there was support both from residents and aldermen to improve service to residents in multifamily homes along Algonquin Road. Studies have shown that is the area most at risk for serious fires and where current response times most frequently miss the desired six-minute range.
"The majority of the community is going to be better off," said Alderman Brad Judd of the 4th Ward. "Some people will get service not quite as good, but overall our numbers are going to look better if we move the station. We are supposed to do what's best for the community as a whole."
Voting for the plan proposed by Fire Chief Scott Franzgrote were Judd, Mike Cannon of the 1st Ward, Robert Banger Jr. of the 5th Ward and Jim Larsen of the 7th Ward.
Mayor Tom Rooney also endorsed the plan but said if the city moves one station it must move both. He also said the stations will be built only if the slim majority holds through future votes.
Opposed were Len Prejna of the 2nd Ward, Laura Majikes of the 3rd Ward, and John D'Astice of the 6th Ward.
Both Prejna and Majikes said many residents had contacted them opposing the new stations, mostly because of the estimated cost, which could be as high as $10 million.
D'Astice, who also objected to the cost, pointed out that most of the areas where response time is more than six minutes are in his ward. He said most of the calls are probably for ambulance service and proposed stationing an ambulance in the area to improve that response time. He also suggested the question should go to a referendum.
While the city council has discussed the future of the city's fire stations for years, the consensus that something needs to be done about the poor condition of Station 15 at 3111 Meadows Drive pushed the council to a decision. Refurbishing the station would cost at least $500,000, Franzgrote said, and its design is obsolete.
Franzgrote based his recommendation on the results of a study the city commissioned, as well as the fact that the council insisted the city have only two stations. Although New Wilke Road is on the east edge of the city, it is one of the few arteries providing north-south access. Mutual aid pacts with Arlington Heights and Palatine also entered into the recommendations.
The city once had a grant toward the costs of a third station, but the council decided that times were so tough the city could not afford to build and staff another station.