Glen Ellyn considering space issues at aging fire stations

  • Glen Ellyn officials are planning what they call a long-overdue study of the village's fire stations to determine what long-term repairs and renovations they may need.

      Glen Ellyn officials are planning what they call a long-overdue study of the village's fire stations to determine what long-term repairs and renovations they may need. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • "If you ever were to look at Station One you'd see that it's time to start thinking about doing something with the station," says John Chereskin, the treasurer of the Glen Ellyn volunteer fire company.

      "If you ever were to look at Station One you'd see that it's time to start thinking about doing something with the station," says John Chereskin, the treasurer of the Glen Ellyn volunteer fire company. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/19/2016 7:25 PM

Glen Ellyn officials are planning what they say is a long-overdue study of their two fire stations.

"It's time to start having these dialogues because I constantly hear it was ignored for 20 years," Village President Alex Demos said. " ... And now we're sitting on two aged buildings that maybe haven't had the maintenance that they need."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Roughly 60 volunteer firefighters, who are each paid $1 a year, work out of two stations owned by the village. While that model has yielded major savings, officials say, revenue from a fire service fee and special taxing area isn't enough to pay for long-term fixes to the buildings, last renovated in the 1990s.

So Demos this week called for a committee to work with the fire company board to define the scope of the study, set priorities and talk funding.

The 1950s-era Station No. 1 downtown apparently would be a "tear down" and replaced because of space and height constraints, Demos said.

"We've got a real need to address fire station one probably within the next 10 years," Village Manager Mark Franz told the board.

But fire board officers stress their immediate priority is replacing aging apparatus such as a 27-year-old ladder truck (a new one is due to be bought later this year).

"We're not saying we wouldn't like another station, a new modified station," Chief Jim Bodony said. "We just want to make sure that the focus is on this (vehicle) fleet, which is something we use every day and we've adapted to these stations."

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"We want to keep some options available, and that's why we're a little hesitant to dive in and dump a bunch of money into a building when there's some unknowns out there," Assistant Fire Chief Chris Clark said.

The fleet, valued at more than $4 million, was purchased by donations over the years, Bodony said. But those donors started to dry up, with only 20 percent of residents and businesses voluntarily contributing before the village decided to charge a fire service fee that now raises about $790,000 annually.

Adopted in December 2013, the fee was intended to help pay for operations and some equipment, officials say. The village could double the rate -- generating an estimated $1.6 million annually -- to help fund station improvements. A homeowner would then pay $15 a month. Businesses, depending on square footage, would pay $16-$80 a month.

This year, the special taxing area also is expected to generate $150,000 for the fire company.

On the south side of town, meanwhile, the 1970s-era Station No. 2 needs more storage and parking, Franz said. The Taft Avenue station also could house administrative offices that Bodony said currently occupy a "very small" portion of the downtown station.

Trustees Mark Senak and Tim Elliott said they wanted a clearer view of potential projects.

"I think I need to get a much firmer idea of (what) you see (the) 20-year picture looking like and much firmer ideas of what the costs are," Elliott said. "Because then that's going to drive how much more revenue we need to raise."

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