Rolling Meadows sticks with plan to move fire stations, for now

For now, Rolling Meadows will proceed with plans to relocate and build two new fire stations, though the controversial proposal still isn't a done deal.

Aldermen voted 4-2 Tuesday night in an informal straw vote to support current plans to replace Fire Station 15 at 3111 Meadow Drive with a new station to the south, and Fire Station 16 at 2455 S. Plum Grove Road with a new station to the east.

Tuesday marked the first time the newly seated council weighed in on the issue since the April local elections. Returning council members Mike Cannon, Robert Banger Jr., John D'Astice and Tim Veenbaas voted to support the current plans, while new Aldermen Jerry Hill and Joe Gallo voted against. Alderman Laura Majikes was absent, but she has opposed fire station relocation plans in the past.

Mayor Len Prejna, the former Ward 2 alderman, ran on a platform that included replacing only Station 15 and holds veto power over any future council decisions to purchase properties or pay for construction. He wouldn't say after the meeting whether he intends to veto any future decisions, but he wasn't optimistic things would go his way because he believes the council may eventually reach a five-vote, veto-proof majority.

For the past decade, the city's elected officials have debated what to do about the aging downtown Fire Station 15 and how to improve response times citywide. The council decided to build a third station on Algonquin Road in 2014 but reversed course the next year, deciding to remain with two stations but in new locations.

Fire Chief Scott Franzgrote has endorsed the plan to relocate both stations. He cited data Tuesday that showed the area with the greatest fire risk is on the south side, with its preponderance of multistory apartment buildings that don't have fire sprinklers. And the highest call volume is from the east side.

"Our fire stations are in the wrong location to meet the risk profile and service demands of our community," he said. "We've known this for some time."

Critics, meanwhile, have said the $9 million cost to build two new stations is too much.

Aldermen have been meeting in closed session since January to consider about a dozen sites for the two new stations. Those discussions were expected to lead to making purchase offers to private property owners, but Cannon said Tuesday no land has been purchased yet.

Gallo added that estimated land costs have increased.

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