New Town of Wheatland Fire Department station proposal headed back to committee

A proposal to build a new fire station for the Town of Wheatland Fire Department at an approximate cost of $3.76 million has been sent back to committee by the Wheatland Town Board.

The proposal’s fate came at Monday’s Town Board meeting when no motion was made to move forward the proposal as developed by the fire station committee.

Last week, a committee composed of representatives of the fire department, the town government and a local construction company presented plans for a new fire station to be located just south of the current building in New Munster. The new proposal was presented as a 16,757-square-foot facility that included many features that the current building lacks and that would bring the department up to date and enhance operations. At the meeting last week, TWFD Chief Lou Denko called the proposal an “honest, lean” plan that sought to anticipate needs for the next 50 years and avoid some of the mistakes made by other departments in the region that have recently built new facilities.

The current fire station is 42 years old.

Board reaction to the proposal last week seemed in favor of moving forward with only town Chairman Bill Glembocki clearly opposed to the project as proposed.

After a week of hearing from the community, Supervisor Andrew Lois on Monday said he now also felt the project as proposed was too expensive and the process was moving too fast.

“I had people tell me, this is going to paralyze Wheatland,” Lois said. “I think we need to gear it down and I don’t think we want to chase people out of town … They’re not saying we don’t need a new firehouse. They’re saying we have to get the cost down.”

Glembocki on Monday continued to say he is not opposed to a new fire station, but he feels the plan proposed last week was too expensive, an opinion he said was backed up by every resident he talked to about the issue. No one he talked to supported the full $3.76 million project, said Glembocki, who added that he has kept a floor plan in his truck all week to discuss the project with residents he meets.

“There’s a lot on this building layout that is much needed,” Glembocki said. “A lot of people are against the $3.8 million.”

Supervisor Kelly Wilson, who served on the committee that developed the new station plan, questioned whether people had full information when they opposed the plan since only about 30 people attended the meeting last week and no public information meetings have been held yet.

“I don’t know what these people are basing their information on if they haven’t seen a plan,” said Wilson, who added that she received both positive and negative comments about the station in the last week.

Glembocki suggested the committee re-examine the plans and come up with a lower cost.

“I’d like the committee to go back,” Glembocki said. “We’ve got to get the cost down.”

Wilson said she would bring the matter back to the committee and look for ways to trim the cost.

“We want everyone to be on board with this,” Wilson said. “There’s going to be opposition, but we need a happy medium.”

If another plan does come forward, Glembocki suggested the matter be put before the voters in a referendum. The plan had been to have the project face approval at an electors meeting — where all adult residents present at the meeting can vote. But Glembocki argued a referendum would be more fair because people would not have to be present at a specific time and place like with an electors meeting. Absentee and early voting also could be used with a referendum.

“I think it’s only fair to the voter of Wheatland that we go to referendum,” Glembocki said.

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