Rolling Meadows reverses again on fire station decision

Updated 3/5/2015 12:55 PM
  • Fire Chief Scott Franzgrote talks about the shortcomings of Rolling Meadows' outdated Fire Station 15 in 2012.

      Fire Chief Scott Franzgrote talks about the shortcomings of Rolling Meadows' outdated Fire Station 15 in 2012. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Rolling Meadows officials have been discussing what to do about the city's fire stations for a decade and have reversed positions several times within the last year alone about what to do.

Now the city council has flip-flopped again, voting to relocate the two stations in Rolling Meadows rather than build a third station, as they voted to do in July. The two-station plan is something the council approved in April, reversed in July and is now back to after a vote at a committee of the whole meeting in February.

"We're back to where we were about a year ago," said Fire Chief Scott Franzgrote.

Carrying out the decision, if it remains final, could cost the city as much as $9 million, making funding it the largest bond issuance in more than 20 years, said Mayor Tom Rooney.

The plan involves building two new fire stations, starting with moving the downtown Fire Station 15, which needs at least $500,000 in repairs, to the east side of town near New Wilke and Central roads. Eventually, the second station would be moved from 2455 Plum Grove Road west of Route 53 to Hicks Road between Kirchoff Road and Euclid Avenue.

The other plan involved building a third station to help reduce response times and provide better coverage for the whole city.

"I think that both options are good solutions to our coverage issues; I just want us to settle on one and run with it," Rooney said. "The two-station option is definitely more expensive in the short run, and the three-station option has serious potential to be more expensive in the long run."

Because of the large amount of money involved, Alderman John D'Astice asked that a referendum question be placed on the ballot to get voters' opinions. The city council will vote on Tuesday on putting a question on the ballot for the spring 2016 election, as the deadline for the upcoming April election has already passed, Rooney said.

The switch in opinion came about because of a new member on the council since the last vote in July.

Alderman Tim Veenbaas replaced Jim Larsen as the 7th Ward representative in October after Larsen moved out of Rolling Meadows. Larsen had been in favor of building a third fire station, but Veenbaas voted for the two-station option instead, flipping the vote in favor of that idea. Aldermen Brad Judd, John D'Astice, Mike Cannon and Robert Banger Jr. also voted in favor of moving both stations.

As the council has moved back and forth on the issue over the past few years, residents have expressed concerns about the costs of both options and the possibility that moving Station 15 would create another vacancy near struggling Kirchoff Road.

Asked if the board could change its mind again, Rooney said anything is possible.

"We've had two decisions that were supposed to be final decisions before, and both evaporated," he said. "This decision, like the other ones, is the final decision, in theory -- unless its support evaporates, too."

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