Mundelein eying land for third fire station

Mundelein trustees have approved a plan to reserve land that one day could be the site of a new fire station.

The property is in a heavily wooded area on the southeast side of the University of St. Mary of the Lake campus, just inside the main entrance on Route 176 and east of the Hawley Street split. Carmel Catholic High School is across Route 176 from the site.

The village board on Monday approved a letter of intent to lease the land from the Archdiocese of Chicago. The letter doesn't commit the village to a lease or to building a new fire station.

"This basically gives us a placeholder for a third station," Fire Chief Bill Lark said.

According to a joint statement from the university and the archdiocese, the university values its relationship with Mundelein "and was glad to be able to accommodate the new fire station."

Both of Mundelein's fire stations - the headquarters at 1000 N. Midlothian Road and a small station at 1300 S. Lake St. - are west of the Canadian National tracks that divide much of the town.

Officials long have discussed building a fire station east of the tracks to be closer to residents and businesses in that part of town. Putting a station east of the tracks would eliminate train-related response delays to calls east of the tracks.

Village officials have been talking with the university and the archdiocese about a land deal on and off for four years. But an agreement was delayed by leadership changes at village hall, in the fire department, at the university and within the archdiocese, Mundelein Trustee Ray Semple said.

"It's delightful that we're here," said Semple, a member of the village's public safety committee.

Other possible sites for a third station that were discussed but rejected include the old village hall on Hawley Street and a former fire station on Seymour Avenue that's now a public works facility.

The lease won't cost the village anything right now. The deal gives Mundelein 30 rent-free months to examine the town's fire safety needs, to ensure the location is the best spot for a station and to do financial analysis for the project.

Trustee Dawn Abernathy asked if it makes more sense to build a new station on the west side of town, which has been experiencing residential growth for years.

That will be considered as part of the assessment to be done, Lark said.

If the village eventually builds a fire station on the property, rent will begin at $100,000 annually, according to the agreement. The rent may increase or decrease up to 5 percent annually based in inflation or deflation, the deal states.

As part of the project, a four-way traffic signal could be added to the university entrance's intersection with Route 176. The main entrance to Carmel Catholic High is on the south side of the street and completes the four-way intersection.

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