Pingree Grove Fire District to hold special meeting in January about referendum, construction costs
The board of the Pingree Grove & Countryside Fire District delayed a vote on placing a referendum question on the April election ballot to hear details regarding a cost analysis and alternate proposal by one trustee.
Voters rejected a request in November to approve borrowing $8.5 million to replace two of the district's three fire stations. Voters also said "no" in March 2018 and April 2017.
The board was scheduled to discuss Tuesday night placing the referendum question on the April 2 ballot with a lower amount of $6.5 million, with the rest of the money, or $2 million, coming from reserves, Fire Chief Mitch Crocetti said.
The plan would be to close and sell Station 2 on Rippburger Road and Station 4 on Plank Road, and build new stations on Highland Avenue just east of Coombs Road, and on Dittman Road about one-third mile south of Plato Road. The land on Dittman Road was purchased earlier this year.
However, Trustee Todd Harris said an architectural/engineering estimate he obtained on his own shows construction costs would exceed the projected amount by several million dollars. Harris said he favors an alternate plan of building only one new station, on Dittman Road, and remodeling Station 4 on Plank Road.
Harris asked to delay the vote until a special meeting can be held sometime the second week of January, and the board agreed. Jan. 14 is the deadline for local governments to adopt resolutions regarding binding referendum questions.
Crocetti and board members supportive of the original plan say it's about optimal locations for fire stations based on response times, increase in calls for service and population growth.
Board President John Payson said his main objection to keeping Station 4 in its current location is that it will be poorly positioned to serve district residents, particularly as Elgin continues to build westward. "We need to build a station for the next 50 years," Payson said.
Crocetti said there are inaccuracies in the estimate obtained by Harris, such as the acreage needed for one of the new fire stations.
Harris and Trustee Karel Jones previously voted "no" to placing the referendum question on the November ballot. Jones said Tuesday she's concerned that construction cost have gone up since the district's original $8.5 million estimate.
The district, which has a $3.6 million budget, currently employs five full-time firefighters/paramedics -- including the chief -- and 38 on-call or part-time firefighters, Crocetti said. Several firefighters left this year, many to take full-time positions, and he's actively recruiting to replace open positions, he said.