Pingree Grove fire stations would cost $8.5 million

The Pingree Grove and Countryside Fire Protection District will have a referendum on the ballot April 4 asking voters permission to borrow $8.5 million to build two new fire stations.

The goal is to be better positioned geographically to reduce response times for an increasing population, Fire Chief Mitch Crocetti said.

The district has three fire stations, one of which - Station 4 on Plank Road - would be closed and sold if the two new ones are built.

The district would repay the bonds with $2 million out of its general fund and $6.5 million with a 20-year property tax increase that would amount to about $117 per year for a house valued at $300,000, Crocetti said.

"That's about a Starbucks coffee per week," he said.

The 50-square-mile district serves about 15,000 residents in Pingree Grove, the northern end of Campton Hills, and unincorporated areas.

Pingree Grove officials said it has added about 300 new housing units per year the last several years.

The two new fire stations would be built in the vicinity of Plato and Rippburger roads, and on Highland Avenue just east of Coombs Road, Crocetti said. The locations were picked based on the largest population centers within the fire district boundaries, which originally were set in 1957 and later extended east, he said.

"For us to get to the far southwest part of our distinct, south of Burlington Road toward McDonald Road, it takes about 11 or 12 minutes on a good day, without snow or other conditions," he said. "(With the new stations), we are shooting for an average response time of six minutes. That's the standard for EMS (emergency medical services)."

This would be the first bond issue for the district, which employs 54 firefighters who responded to 1,090 calls last year. Its annual budget is about $3 million per year; the district saved up for nine years and paid cash to build the fire station that opened in 2015, Crocetti said.

"We could pay cash (for two more stations) if we want to wait 20 years," he said.

Its newest fire station was built in 2015, replacing Station 1 that was sold for about $160,000 to Anchor Spa & Pool Inc., Crocetti said.

If voters approve the April 4 referendum question, the new property tax would show up on tax bills in June 2018.

Crocetti said the district's assessed property value has grown steadily the last three or four years. If that continues, the added property tax might be lower than $117.

Referendum meetings

The Pingree Grove and Countryside Fire Protection District will host two informational meetings on the April 4 referendum question seeking to borrow $8.5 million to build two new fire stations.

• 7 p.m. March 28 at Cambridge Lakes Community Center, 1125 Wester Blvd., Pingree Grove

• 7 p.m. March 29 at Station 2, 10N980 Rippburger Road, Plato Center

Call (847) 741-3151.

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