With $4.5 million secured, upgrades at Greater Round Lake Fire District begin

Voters Tuesday overwhelmingly supported the Greater Round Lake Fire Protection District's request to borrow $4.5 million to modernize facilities and equipment. Now, the district is putting the money to use.

"It really made us feel good and glad the community trusts us," Fire Chief Greg Formica said of the 71.6 percent of voters who supported the referendum. "I think it says a lot about the work that firefighters do every day and the respect it garners."

The district asked to borrow the money primarily to modernize and maintain fire stations. Among the concerns district officials hope to address is the outdated, inefficient layout of Fire Station 1, which was built in 1946.

Currently, the crew stays in a converted space on the second floor, far from their trucks. Formica said they want to redesign the building so they can have the crew quarters next to the garage to speed up response times and eliminate a potentially dangerous middle-of-the-night rush from the beds to the trucks.

District officials had already hired an architect to help estimate the cost of the Station 1 plan. Now that the money is on its way, Formica said they will form a committee and devise a plan.

"I wouldn't expect to see guys with crowbars and hammers here for a little while," Formica said.

Formica said they will tackle projects that don't involve construction first, including putting a new roof on Fire Station 3 and upgrading the sleeping quarters in Fire Station 2.

The district already has a head start on ordering a new fire truck funded by the $4.5 million. Formica said they went out to bid and, with voters' approval, the work to custom build the truck will begin.

"We're going to make the best use of the money," Formica said. "People trusted us to have it and be as responsible and careful and thoughtful as everyone would expect good government to be."

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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