Ground shifts for new Darien Fire Department location

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Wednesday, August 7, 2013

DARIEN—When budgets are tight, there's a significant difference between getting land for free and paying more than $80,000 for it.

On Tuesday, leaders from the village and town of Darien met with their ad hoc fire station committee, hoping to move forward on a new building.

Instead, they found the land shifting unexpectedly.

The current site for the new fire station is on four acres on Gerry Way in the village's industrial park.

The industrial park was originally owned by Gerry Pelishek, a Darien businessman and philanthropist. He set up a charitable trust and transferred the ownership of the park to the trust, explained Kurt Zipp, president of the village board of trustees. Pelishek and wife are beneficiaries, as are other organizations.

Pelishek offered to give the land to the town and village so they could build a new fire department.

However, the trust is overseen by a trustee, and he has the ultimate say over whether the land can be given away or sold, said Zipp.

At Tuesday's meeting, town of Darien attorney Kim Howarth said he had spoken with the trustee, attorney Dave Rasmussen, and he was not willing to give the land away.

Town of Darien Supervisor Jim Tepresa said he believed that Pelishek “had it in his heart” to give away the land, and the dispute could be resolved if all the parties sat down together.

The assessed value for the land is $20,000 per acre. 

Meanwhile, officials would like to test the soil on the site to make sure it can support such a structure. But Howarth advised them to wait until they had an offer on paper before spending any money.

Zipp said he'd like to see some resolution on the issue by the end of August. If not, the ad hoc committee would consider its other option: A building on land already owned by the village. The site was discarded early on in discussions because it would cost more than $140,000 to bring in fill and other materials to make it suitable.

The new fire station will replace the station at 311 W. Madison St., Darien, that was built in the mid-1970's

The Darien Fire Department and Darein EMS are separate departments that work together.

“We have two feet—probably less than two feet—between apparatus,” said Fire Chief Justin Schuenke.

That can lead to dangerous situations when firefighters are rushing to get out of the building.

Some of the vehicles, such as a heavy squad that carries equipment and the second tanker truck, are trapped in by other vehicles.

Volunteer firefighters drive in the same driveway that fire trucks drive out of, said Robert Krueger. Often, volunteers heading for their apparatuses have to cross in front of emergency vehicles on their way out.

Last updated: 8:34 am Wednesday, August 7, 2013

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