After a decade of discussion and contradictory decisions, the Rolling Meadows City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday to direct staff members to work on plans for a third fire station and rebuild the old downtown station where it stands.
In a report to the council, Fire Chief Scott Franzgrote said he could move the three-person fire engine from the station at 3111 Meadow Drive to a new one on Algonquin Road and keep the two-person ambulance downtown. No additional staffing would be needed, he said.
Mayor Tom Rooney said he supports building the third station rather than the council's controversial decision in April to move both of the current stations. He added that building a third station will cost less in the short run but could be more expensive in the long run.
The downtown station needs considerable work, the council agrees. The second station at 2455 Plum Grove Road is newer.
"We are voting to give direction to the staff to switch off moving both stations and switch to three stations including something that makes Station 15 (downtown) something we can all be proud of rather than something we have to talk about," Rooney said.
Rough estimates show a new, small station could be built for as little as $650,000, and a more expansive one for as much as $2.5 million, Franzgrote said. The city owns land on Algonquin between Meadowbrook and Weber drives.
The third station would be built with the goal of speeding response time in the southern part of the city where older multifamily buildings represent the highest risk of serious fire.
Franzgrote had presented the idea of moving both current stations to provide more equal protection throughout the city after the council made it clear it did not support building a third station. The idea of a third station came up in 2004, but in 2010 the council rejected a grant toward building at the Algonquin site, saying the city could not afford the staffing and equipment.
Aldermen and residents who opposed moving both stations said it was too expensive, and a referendum on the issue was suggested for the November ballot.
Alderman John D'Astice, whose 6th Ward includes most of the area in south Rolling Meadows where the fire response is considered too slow, voted in April against moving the two stations and pushed for the option of a small third station.
Alderman Brad Judd of the 4th Ward, who supported building two new stations, said this latest plan will give his ward and other northern parts of the city less fire protection.
Rooney called Judd's proposal to take Tuesday's decision to a referendum sour grapes. He said he once represented the 4th Ward and ambulance calls far outnumber fire calls in that area.
He said moving two stations is a bigger decision and worthy of being on the ballot, but the council did not call for a referendum in 2010 when it decided to reject the grant and a third station.
The council will have to act by early August if it wants a referendum in November, he said.