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posted: 7/10/2014 6:06 AM

East Dundee to redevelop village hall, former firehouse

In East Dundee, the fire department's relocation makes more room for police and a reconfigured village hall

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  • East Dundee's village hall, police and fire departments were previously located all in the same square block in downtown East Dundee. With the fire department moving to a new station, its former space will be part of a renovation of the municipal campus.

      East Dundee's village hall, police and fire departments were previously located all in the same square block in downtown East Dundee. With the fire department moving to a new station, its former space will be part of a renovation of the municipal campus.
    Daily Herald File Photo


The lights are off at 115 Third St., the old East Dundee firehouse, and now it is up to village officials to decide how they will reconfigure the 63-year old building, so it can house their police department.

This month when firefighters moved their trucks and ambulances to their new station along Route 25, village board members began seeking bids from contractors who will build offices and holding cells in the former two-story fire station.

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If their schedule holds, the building will be ready for police use in April 2015, said East Dundee Village Administrator Robert Skurla. And just as firefighters welcomed the move to their spatial headquarters, police will be more than ready to get out of their cramped station, a building they share with village employees.

"The village hall is so crowded. There's no place for people to go now," Skurla said. "The move is just one part of the redevelopment plan for the village hall."

The other parts include temporarily moving some employees to the annex, a double-wide trailer west of the village hall, knocking down the one-story portion of the building and replacing it with two stories.

That could cost a total of $5 million, the administrator said.

"Maybe then we can finally get rid of the trailer," Skurla said.

In the trailer, the village board and commissions hold meetings. It was supposed to be a temporary solution to the space problem. It also allowed the village to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. With no elevator in the current village hall, more than 10 years ago, village leaders were forced to move their public meetings from the second floor to ground level.

Meanwhile they continued to look for solutions to their space problems, as did officials of the fire protection district, a separate taxing body.

Two years ago, voters and village board members came to the rescue when a property tax was approved to sell bonds for the new fire station. Village officials donated the land, north of Route 72, and the plan to move firefighters out and police officers in was put into motion.

"Now, we are centrally located," said fire Chief Steven Schmitendorf. "Most of our calls involve traffic accidents up on (Routes) 25 and 72. "The old station served the district very well for a lot years, but the nature of calls has changed."

Consider when the fire station was built in the 1950s: many families only had one car, and East Dundee's population was still in the hundreds. The fire department was all-volunteer then, and no one slept overnight at the firehouse.

"The new station is not extravagant, but it gives us enough room and allows us to do our jobs," the fire chief said. "Now we can have six people sleep at the station at night in rooms that were built for sleeping. In the old station, we had to rehab the building to add a sleeping room. When it was constructed, sleeping rooms weren't included."

The new fire station cost $5.1 million to build. Fire trustees have enough money left over from the $5.5 million bond sale to retire an aging truck and replace it will a new one.

"That was our goal: to have enough money left over for the new truck," Schmitendorf said. "The engine we are going to trade in we bought in 1999."

Even though the new building is not luxurious, the convenience of responding to calls is. The old station was sandwiched into a neighborhood between homes and businesses. The drivers of fire engines and ambulances were forced to snake though neighborhood streets and around delivery trucks.

The East Dundee Police Department does not have vehicles the size of fire engines or ambulances, so quick entrances and exits will not be a problem. Deciding where to hold prisoners will no longer be a problem as well.

Twenty years ago the East Dundee police stopped using their holding cells because they were outdated and small. Its future building will have room for cells and offices.

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