Grand Bear in Utica says cabins will be rebuilt

Fire chief spoke to village trustees, firefighters applauded

Utica officials heaped praise Thursday on the dozens of fire companies who helped extinguish the Memorial Day fire at Grand Bear Resort at Starved Rock.

Utica Fire Chief Ben Brown appeared before the Utica Village Board to deliver an update on the May 30 fire that destroyed 28 residential units at the resort. The buildings will be replaced, Brown said, and the fire district is working with the resort to ensure a similar incident doesn’t happen again, such as rebuilding the cabins with fire-resistant materials.

Brown is scheduled to address the homeowners association at a Wednesday meeting.

Brown confirmed “at least” 5 million gallons of water – drawn from seven fill sites because there are no hydrants at the resort — were consumed and the village’s water was up to the task.

While the damage was substantial, Brown summarized the effort thusly: “No injuries. No lost equipment. It was fantastic. The best way it could go.”

The board applauded Brown and his peers.

“I’ve never seen a community rally quite like that,” said Mayor David Stewart.

Separately, the Village Board terminated a traffic control agreement with the Utica Fire Protection District.

The fire station had been equipped, since 2018, with an override to the traffic signals at the nearby intersection of Route 178 and U.S. 6, ensuring quick access when first-responders were dispatched. But with the roundabout coming in, and the stoplights now gone, the override is unnecessary and the agreement is moot.

Finally, the Village Board voted 6-0 to grant a pre-annexation agreement to Ano de Gallo (formerly Papa Murph’s), which plans to develop its roughly 3-acre parcel starting with a freestanding restaurant targeted for construction in 2023.

“We want to be more a part of the Utica community,” said owner Ben Ruiz.

Other matters:

  • Stewart announced changes to the sign ordinance will not be made piecemeal. The village will address any and all changes with a single ordinance.
  • The board approved a proclamation celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Utica Fire Protection District. Firefighters will hold an open house 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, July 16.
  • Utica is sticking with Ameren for its residential power, at least for now. Consultant Arnie Shramel advised the board Ameren’s rates are better than any available through electrical aggregation.
  • The village is exploring the possibility of installing solar panels to defray the village’s power costs.
  • The board approved an appropriations ordinance, giving the village emergency spending authority for the coming year.