Despite pleas for a delay, Rolling Meadows OKs second new fire station

Despite pleas by residents to postpone a vote, Rolling Meadows aldermen Tuesday approved a $5.3 million contract to build a second new fire station and a borrowing package to help pay for it.

The agreement with R.C. Wegman Construction Co. for a new, 12,700-square-foot Station 16 at 2340 Hicks Road comes as construction has slowed on the $5.8 million Station 15 at 3201 Algonquin Road due to weather.

Five residents who spoke during public comment and the two aldermen who ultimately voted against the contract - Nick Budmats and mayoral candidate Joe Gallo - said they wanted to see progress made on the first station before agreeing to build the second one. Some proposed a vote be delayed until after the April 2 local elections, in which three council seats and the mayor's are contested.

But Alderman Rob Banger Jr., who isn't running for re-election, noted he's been among the majority on the council that have voted for 15 resolutions or ordinances related to relocating the fire stations since 2016.

"Where we are today - it's not like it's a surprise," Banger said. "I'm not willing to stop the project from going forward because we need to relocate and rebuild two fire stations at the end of the day."

On Tuesday night, Banger was among five aldermen who voted to approve a contract for Station 16, while all seven agreed in a first reading vote to issue $8.5 million worth of bonds for the fire stations and an estimated $4 million worth of underground utility work. The council last fall approved taking out $9.5 million in bonds to pay for most of the fire stations' cost.

Dave Whitney, who is also running for mayor, told the council the project should move forward, even though he opposed it to begin with. "It's almost too late to stop," he said.

Gallo, the mayoral candidate who's been a vocal opponent of the project, called R.C. Wegman a "poor" contractor that hasn't yet built a foundation for the first fire station, even though aldermen were asked to hurry up and vote for it last September.

"I have no faith in moving forward with them for this station before they produce for the first fire station," Gallo said.

Aldermen John D'Astice, who is also running for mayor, has supported the project but didn't comment during Tuesday's meeting.

Neither did Mayor Len Prejna, who in 2017 ran on a platform of building only one new station - not two - due to cost considerations. As mayor, Prejna doesn't get a vote.

In a statement, a R.C. Wegman official said the firm is pleased to begin construction following the council's vote Tuesday night. "Approval to move forward and relocate and rebuild two fire stations will allow fire personnel quicker response times when minutes count," wrote Colette Rozanski, the company's business development director.

Construction of Station 16 is scheduled for completion in February or March 2020, while Station 15 is set for November or December 2019.

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Rolling Meadows' new Station 16 will be built at 2340 Hicks Road, where the city purchased and demolished these buildings. The city council Tuesday inked a $5.3 million contract to build the new station. Daily Herald File Photo, October 2017
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