Lower cost fire station plan presented at Wheatland Town Board meeting

The floor plan of the $2.5 million proposed fire station. (Click here for larger view)

Due to COVID-19, the Wheatland Town Board has not held a meeting in April and May.

At its first in-person meeting in a while on Monday, the Town Board revisited an old and controversial topic with familiar indecisive and confrontational results.

Jim Scherrer of Scherrer Construction, acting at the direction of the town, presented a plan for expansion of the Town of Wheatland Fire Department Station in New Munster. This time around the price tag was $2.5 million.

Scherrer, working with a committee of fire department and other community representatives, also designed the $3.8 million fire station that was defeated in a referendum in February.

The new proposal utilizes the old station and adds four bays and meeting-office space in a new building, Scherrer said. There is room for additional expansion to the south when needed.

“This is the kind of building we could provide for $2.5 million budget,” Scherrer said.

Fire Chief Lou Denko was critical of the new design.

“People think I’m not willing to make compromises,” Denko said. “I am willing to compromise, but we’re just cutting and cutting and cutting.”

Denko said he favored building a station that would work for the long term instead of a building that could need to be added to relatively soon.

“Let’s do this once and do it right,” Denko said. “I don’t feel building onto the old building is a good move … I don’t see this building as a solution for us.”

As it has in the past with this issue, the discussion grew heated. As Denko defended himself from charges of wanting to build a Taj Mahal, Supervisor Andy Lois loudly answered that those comments were directed at him and he was tired of being attacked and he left the meeting.

“Get someone new to sit here,” Lois said before he walked out.

Supervisor Kelly Wilson, who was part of the committee that designed the $3.8 million station, said she was still in favor of building that proposal due to its long term approach.

“I’m all for building what we proposed,” Wilson said. “I don’t want to ever go through this again in my lifetime. I don’t like how this has really divided our community at all.”

Chairman Bill Glembocki favored the $2.5 million plan, saying it would be a step up from the current 40-year-old facility.

“This is a great plan,” Glembocki said. “I think we can get something done here.” He added that residents he has talked to are supportive of spending $2.5 million for the station.

However, Glembocki acknowledged there needed to be more work done to build consensus, perhaps starting with a meeting between Glembocki, Scherrer and Denko.

“This seems to be not going very far,” Glembocki said.

During citizens comments, former fire Chief Alan Kaddatz called for the Town Board and fire department members to work together to resolve the issue.

“We need the fire department members to work with the Town Board,” Kaddatz said. “We also need the Town Board to work with the fire department members.”

Exterior rendering of proposed $2.5 million fire station. (Click here for larger view)
Site plan for new proposed $2.5 million fire station. (Click here for larger view)
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