Joint town-village fire station moves forward

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Wednesday, September 18, 2013

DARIEN—If everything goes as planned, the town and village of Darien could break ground on a new fire station as soon as spring 2014.

On Monday, the Darien Village Board approved a contract that would allow the village to buy land for the new station.

On Tuesday, the Darien Town Board approved a similar contract.

The two municipalities have long shared fire and rescue services. The new station will be on Gerry Lane in a privately owned industrial park in the village.

The current fire station at 311 West Madison Ave., Darien, was built in 1972.

“Since that time, equipment has gotten bigger and bigger,” said Kurt Zipp, village president and member of the ad hoc fire station committee. “The space between the engines went from about 6 feet to about 2 feet. This is a safety issue.”

The station will sit on four acres, and the two municipalities agreed to pay $140,000 for the site.

At a meeting in August, officials heard that the land was valued at $20,000 an acre.

Zipp said the original estimate had not been formalized but was a rough guess by the village assessor.

An independent assessor put the value of the four acres at $134,000, Zipp said.

Gerry Pelishek, a Darien businessman and philanthropist, originally offered to give the land to the village and town. Pelishek was the original owner of the industrial park. At some point, he set up the Gerald Pelishek Charitable Trust and transferred ownership of the land to the trust. Pelishek and his wife are beneficiaries, as are other organizations.

The attorney representing the trust told the ad hoc committee that the land could not be given away, and the new price was negotiated.

Several contingencies were attached to the sale of the land, including:

-- Soil tests.

-- The industrial park tax incremental finance (TIF) district must not expire before its original expiration date of 2017.

A TIF district is an economic development tool that helps municipalities finance improvements to attract development. New businesses generate tax revenue that repays the city for its investment.

The village is currently on track to close the TIF district in 2016, said Diana Dykstra, village administrator and clerk/treasurer.

In order to keep it open, the village would have to fund more projects.

-- The village of Darien must also make an effort to extend the TIF until 2021. Extending the TIF would help the trust continue to attract businesses to the industrial park.

The industrial park site was picked over a site on land that the village already owned. That site was deemed unsuitable because it would have required an estimated $140,000 of fill and other work.

The industrial site also has the advantage of being close to Highway 14, Zipp said.

Zipp estimated that the total cost of the fire station would be between $1.2 million and $1.6 million.

Basic architectural drawings have been done, but the committee will have to bid out the major architectural and construction work, Zipp said. Both boards must approve each step.

Zipp said that at least another six weeks of work would be needed before the bid process could be considered.

At Tuesday's meeting, the Darien Town Board voted 4-0 with one person absent to approve the spending.

The vote on the contract at Monday's village board meeting was 5-2.

Jim Abbott, village trustee and ad hoc committee member, voted “yes.” Abbott said the people who voted “no” were concerned about how the village would pay for the fire station.

Abbott said he wasn't concerned about the cost and said he had “every confidence in the world that our administrator and clerk/treasurer will be able to find the money for a fire station. She was able to find the money for a million-dollar village hall.”

In an e-mail, Dykstra said that when she was hired, the board told her a new village hall was a priority.

“The village applied for and was awarded the USDA Rural Development Public Facilities Grant program that allowed them to fund the village hall,” Dykstra wrote.

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