Council to add new fire station

By Markos Moulitsas

After several years of consideration, a west side fire department for DeKalb finally will become reality.

The go ahead for the plan was given last Monday during a workshop meeting of the DeKalb City Council, where the council unanimously “voted to pursue the steps necessary to begin construction of the fire station,” said 6th Ward Ald. Brad Strauss, who made the issue the central theme of his aldermanic campaign.

The fire station will be located on the Dresser Farm on Dresser Road, north of Hillcrest Drive. The city already owns the property so the whole process will be simplified and less expensive, Strauss said.

The station will be located in a relatively unpopulated area of town but will be able to handle further expansion of DeKalb, while at the same time putting NIU and the western edge of DeKalb in the fire department’s 3-to-5-minute response time target. This is the time frame recommended by national underwriters and fire prevention experts.

Testimony regarding the fire station at a city council workshop on April 20, 1992 concluded, “Many of the high-density, multi-family units in the campus area and along the Annie Glidden corridor north of Lucinda Avenue could not be reached from the nearest fire facility within the 3-to-5-minute time frame.”

The testimony also pointed out that “a disproportionate and increasing number of emergency responses were in the northwest quadrant of the city.” This quadrant makes up 35 percent of the city’s total emergencies, further stressing the need for a new west side fire facility.

New money does not need to be allocated from the city budget this year to pay for the fire station since the fiscal year 1994 city budget took into account the possibility of the station being approved, Strauss said.

Seventh Ward Ald. Jordan Kagan was pleased with the council’s decision.

“One of my biggest, most important issues I ran on was a fire station for the west side of DeKalb. As alderman I’m committed to the safety and welfare of all the citizens of DeKalb,” Kagan said.

Kagan went on to say at first some people had been interested in only an ambulance station instead of the full fire station, but that view had been overruled.

The council had approved $100,000 for FY 1994 to start the project, including $50,000 for land acquisition. Because the Dresser Farm already is owned by the city, the land acquisition funds will be used to buy a parcel of land in the southwest side of the city for future consideration, DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas said.

The actual construction of the new fire facility will not take place until late 1994 or 1995, but in the meantime the city has budgeted for increased overtime pay to keep larger personnel shifts at the current fire stations. The city also plans to hire three more firemen next year to augment the current force. The city has allotted between $50,000 and $60,000 for overtime costs, while the annual cost of the three new firemen will be $150,000.

The council estimates construction of the fire station will cost up to $500,000, including the station, site preparation, utilities and paving.

The council also is considering adding a small room to the west side fire station as a booking office for DeKalb Police and possible storage space for DeKalb Public Works vehicles, Kagan said.