Mt. Morris fire district seeking to construct new station

Estimated cost is $4.5 million; district officials say goal is to use grant, donation funding so as to not raise taxes

The Mt. Morris Fire Protection District's fire station in the 1960s. The fire department is seeking to construct a new fire station. Their current one was built in 1924 and is too small to offer a safe environment from which to serve the community, Fire Chief Rob Hough IV said.

MT. MORRIS — The Mt. Morris Fire Protection District is looking to construct a new home base, although personnel still are working on determining where it will be located.

The existing 98-year-old fire station — which originally served as a car dealership and farm implement service station — has outlived its usefulness, Fire Chief Rob Hough IV said. It was built in “a different time,” and features low ceilings and narrow overhead doors, is constructed with porous brick and doesn’t have space for outdoor work, he said.

“It’s not an environment conducive to safety, and that’s a big concern of ours,” Hough said.

Low ceiling heights especially are a big concern, he said. Firefighters must load the hoses and do all vehicle maintenance outdoors because the ceilings are too low for them to be able to stand on the trucks.

“It’s not that bad in July, but in subzero weather? It’s not fun. It’s not safe,” Hough said.

Mt. Morris Fire Protection District engines have to be serviced outdoors, regardless of weather conditions, because the fire station's ceiling is too low for the cabs to be raised inside. The fire department is seeking to construct a new fire station. Their current one was built in 1924 and is too small to offer a safe environment from which to serve the community, Fire Chief Rob Hough IV said.

Hough said there are a couple different properties the district is looking at as potential locations for a new fire station, but nothing is set in stone.

“We’re doing our due diligence,” he said. “We’re looking at the grade on site, what building removal would cost, what utilities we would need to extend. … The site we choose will be a good value and be able to serve our community for the next 50- to 75 years, the lifespan of the building.”

He declined to provide specifics on what locations are being considered, citing ongoing negotiations.

The estimated cost of a new building is between $4 million and $4.5 million — up from the $2.5 million estimate they had about 18 months ago when talks began in earnest, he said.

Nothing in the proposed design has changed, Hough noted. The cost has risen because the cost of building materials has risen, he said.

The cost of the new building reflects fiscal prudence and is in line with stations in similar-sized communities in northwest Illinois, according to a press release from the Mt. Morris Fire Foundation, which is a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

The Foundation is shooting to raise $2 million through donations and various fundraisers, Hough said. They don’t yet have any solid plans for events, but “they’re just getting this ball rolling,” he said.

Fire District trustees and staff are working to secure $2 million to $2.5 million in grants, and have hired a specialist to help them seek and secure such funding, he said.

“Our goal is to build this building and have a nice, safe building to serve the community that doesn’t cost any additional money to the taxpayers,” Hough said.

They are looking at local-, state- and federal grants, as well as private foundation funding opportunities, Hough said. Some applications already have been submitted, and others are in the process of being prepared.

On June 21, Ogle County Board members approved the fire district’s application for a $42,500 economic development grant. Those funds are coming from the county’s American Rescue Plan Act allocation.

“No stone is going unturned,” Hough said.

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner covers Ogle County for the Oregon Republican Reporter, Forreston Journal, Mt. Morris Times and Polo Tri-County Press. She has six-plus years of experience in journalism and has won numerous awards.