Sycamore OKs next phase of new fire station planning

City Council hires FGM Architects to finalize designs, costs

First Ward Alderwoman Alicia Cosky looks on during a Sycamore City Council meeting on May 6, 2024.

SYCAMORE – The new Sycamore Fire Station No. 1 moved one step closer to reality Monday after the Sycamore City Council unanimously approved an agreement with an architecture firm.

Sycamore City Manager Michael Hall told alderpersons the vote was not about whether to approve the fire station, but instead to allow Oak Brook-based FGM Architects – the firm Sycamore hired in 2023 to design a new fire station – to continue its services into the next phase of design necessary to take the project out to bid with contractors.

“This is the design, development phase,” Hall said, before saying two optional additions to the proposed fire station are included in current cost projections.

One of those options, a regional emergency operating center, has received several endorsements from area law enforcement officials, including DeKalb County Sheriff Andy Sullivan and Northern Illinois University Chief of Police Darren Mitchell, Hall said.

The other option, an expanded lobby area or museum – officials have used both words to describe the optional building addition – would house Sycamore Fire Department’s 1923 Stutz fire truck, officials have said at previous meetings.

Regardless of what the City Council decides to do about the proposed building additions, the new fire station would be built on the southeast side of town, on property donated by Ideal Industries. This next design phase will run May through July, Hall said. The project will likely go out to bid and construction begin in 2025.

Hall said the city has also applied for a grant that could provide up to $4.2 million for the new fire station. In April, representatives from FGM Architects said their first option for a new facility could cost $10.4 million to $11 million.

“The grant is for 35%; not very many people get 35%. We’re shooting for the moon. It’s $4.2 million, but again, not very many people get that. We’re hoping we will. We asked for endorsements from others,” Hall said.

The Sycamore Park District, Sycamore Chamber of Commerce, 1st Ward Alderwoman Alicia Cosky and Sycamore Community School District 427 also endorsed the city’s effort to secure the grant.

The project would also be paid for using debt, a process that would begin in January and likely see approval in March 2025.

Fourth Ward Alderman Ben Bumpus asked when alderpersons will be able to “take a look at the actual proposed total amount of what we’re looking to design.”

Mike Elliott, with FGM Architects, said once the design development phase is complete and estimated costs of the building and expanded spaces are determined, the City Council could make a decision on whether to pursue the proposed emergency operations center and museum.

“I describe our work as, I’ve used this scenario before to where our initial work that we presented, we were doing work with like a Sharpie pen,” Elliott said. “As we go to this next level of work, we’ll have a much finer pen as we go through, to work out much more of the detail, and all that, to get more accurate with the pricing and dial those things in.”

The City Council will make its firm yes-or-no decision on what’s included once it has gone to bond counsel and determined how much the city should borrow, Hall said.

Bumpus asked if prices “could come in lower” than estimated, and Elliott said things have stabilized in the bidding market.

“If it is the desire to where we want to be lower than what we presented is what I’m hearing, we’ll have to make those adjustments to pull that in,” Elliott said. “I don’t have a crystal ball, so I’m not sure where things are going to drop, but if the true desire is to be less than what we presented early on, we had some contingency built in there, we’ll work our best with everyone to get there.”

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