Greater Round Lake Fire District seeks $4.5 million to update stations

When a fire station alarm rings, the race is on for firefighters to get into their vehicles and to the scene.

But at Greater Round Lake Fire Protection District's Fire Station 1, firefighters first have to contend with an outdated building that makes getting from their second-floor living space to their trucks an unnecessarily long and potentially dangerous journey, according to Fire Chief Greg Formica.

The problem is just one of many the district hopes to address if voters give them permission to borrow $4.5 million through a Nov. 6.

Fire Station 1 was constructed in 1946 to be used by a small volunteer crew. In the 72 years since, the population of the 15-square-mile district has jumped to about 53,000 people.

Now a crew of 7 to 8 firefighters stay in the building 24 hours a day. Formica said the crew stays in a converted space on the second floor far from their trucks. While there is a fire pole, it isn't in a good location so the firefighters use the stairs, Formica said.

"It's dangerous running up and down a flight of stairs," Formica said. "Especially if you are woken up in the middle of the night and your muscles are cold."

Formica said they would solve the issue by building a new living area on the first floor next to their garage. Other building issues that the borrowed money would address include leaky roofs and patchy parking lots at several district stations.

"Our people work really hard every day. I want them to come back from a call and have a place they can relax and get ready for the next call and not have to worry about water dropping on them," Formica said.

Officials don't have detailed plans drawn up yet, but Formica said the district paid an architect to help estimate the cost of the Station 1 plan and other projects they hope to fund.

"We didn't just randomly pick the number, we did our research," Formica said.

Formica said the district hasn't gone to voters for a referendum since 1979. That was to provide ambulance service.

"We've tried hard to be fiscally responsible," Formica said. "Our rate of tax to residents is the lowest of any fire district in Lake County and we're the busiest fire district in all of Lake County."

The Greater Round Lake Fire Protection District includes most or all of Round Lake, Round Lake Beach, Round Lake Heights and Hainesville.

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