Years in the making, first of two new Rolling Meadows firehouses opens

A decade in the making, a new Rolling Meadows fire station officially opened its doors Wednesday.

But it came without much fanfare, as firefighters settled into their new quarters and IT workers hooked up wiring nearby.

Even while employees were busy unpacking boxes on move-in day at the new Station 15, 3201 Algonquin Road, they were still ready to be dispatched from the new firehouse to any emergency in the city.

Fire department officials say fire and ambulance services weren't interrupted, but as a backup during the move, each firefighter/paramedic carried around a radio to listen for any calls.

The official switch-over took place at noon, and lock and key was placed on the 61-year-old former downtown firehouse at 3111 Meadows Drive.

The other city firehouse, Station 16 at 2455 Plum Grove Road, also remains in operation until its expected move in March to a new $5.3 million, 11,960-square-foot station at 2340 Hicks Road.

"We're not having any down time," said Chief Terry Valentino. "It's business as usual."

The opening of the $5.8 million, 11,925-square-foot Algonquin Road station on the city's south side is one piece of the fire department's long-planned effort to relocate both stations, with an eye toward improving response times and reducing fire risk throughout town.

But it's also been a long-running political controversy debated by multiple city councils over the course of the past decade. Before aldermen narrowly agreed in March 2016 to build two new stations in new locations, they had also considered only relocating Station 15, rebuilding it at its original site, and constructing a smaller substation on Algonquin Road.

Critics of the relocation plan also were concerned about rising costs estimates, from $9 million in 2012 to more than $13 million. But city officials contended early plans took into account smaller stations of only two trucks bays - not three - while prices to buy land also increased.

Throughout 2017, 2018 and earlier this year, there were enough votes on the council to approve the land purchases and building contracts - and issuing debt to pay for it. The city is getting appraisals for its old fire station sites, and a small piece of property it owns on Algonquin Road once contemplated for a substation.

Among features in the new Station 15 are six semiprivate cubicles in the sleeping quarters, with the on-shift lieutenant and battalion chief in rooms down the hallway. A large kitchen opens to a living room with seven recliners facing a TV and a digital box mounted above.

If a red light is flashing, an ambulance has been dispatched. Yellow calls out fire trucks, and green means everybody.

As firefighters race to the garage to get in their vehicles, a scrolling panel above the door shows the address they're being sent to.

The front of the station is the department's administrative offices. The layout of the new Station 16 is virtually identical, except the front office space will be replaced by a training classroom instead.

The new firehouse is operating under a temporary city occupancy permit, but once the move-in has been completed, a ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned, officials say.

  Rolling Meadows Fire Chief Terry Valentino makes a phone call Wednesday to R.C. Wegman Construction Co., builder of the new three-bay Station 15 on Algonquin Road. At noon, officials formally put the new firehouse into service. John Starks/
  Rolling Meadows Fire Chief Terry Valentino gives a tour of the sleeping quarters at the new Station 15. The semiprivate cubicles are a long way from the open sleeping area filled with mattresses at the now-closed old firehouse on Meadow Drive. John Starks/
  The living quarters of new Rolling Meadows Station 15 on Algonquin Road features lounge chairs, a big-screen television and a modern kitchen. John Starks/
  The main lobby and administration offices of new Rolling Meadows Fire Station 15 on Algonquin Road is now open. John Starks/
  Exercise equipment was relocated from Rolling Meadows' old Station 15 into a new rubber-floored exercise room in the new firehouse on Algonquin Road. John Starks/
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