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DOMINANT

Tim Neisslie of Neiss Masonary works on the city's new $2.7 million fire station at Mound Road and Greenridge Drive. The project, the first of three planned new facilities for the Decatur Fire Department, was approved last year. 

DECATUR — While work continues on a new fire station on Decatur's north side, officials say lengthy land acquisition efforts have slowed progress on two others they hope to start building before construction season ends.

Fire Chief Jeff Abbott said his department has found ideal locations for new facilities to replace Fire Station 3 at Fairview Park and Fire Station 7 at Decatur Airport, but negotiations with land owners to buy the parcels has taken longer than expected. "It's really proven to be quite challenging," Abbott said, adding that he expects talks to finish in the next few weeks. He declined to identify the exact locations being considered while negotiations are underway. 

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The design of the new Fire Station 5 takes up 5,450 square feet, much of the property that used to include a single-family home.

Replacing the fire stations is a part of an $8.5 million plan approved last year by city council members to build three new stations and renovate four existing ones. Funding comes from bonds, which will be paid back to the cost of about $400,000 a year for the next 20 years. 

Abbott said the new stations will not only replace aging facilities, but will also help improve response times in their respective coverage areas. 

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A sign at the construction site off Mound Road shows the home of Decatur's new Fire Station 5. 

"We're trying to come up with the best land that we can within an affordable amount of money," he said. "It's not like we have an open checkbook to spend an exorbitant amount of money for this land."

Work has already started on building a new Fire Station 5 at West Mound Road and Greenridge Drive. It replaces a station at 225 Christine Drive, the northernmost fire facility in Decatur. Officials in January said delays have pushed their initial completion date for the $2.7 million station to April or May.

Abbott said the "challenging" construction of that facility has motivated the department to move quickly and start building the two other new stations before the winter.

"That project was approved Sept. 4, the contractor was awarded the construction project and it is now April," he said. "We still don't have a basement for that fire station. We've got to get into the construction season before the winter strikes."

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Decatur Fire Station 3, 1308 W. Eldorado St., is the oldest in the city and targeted for replacement. 

Fire Station 3, 1308 W. Eldorado St., was built in the 1920s near the entrance of Fairview Park, making it the oldest fire station in the city. The South Airport Road building that houses Fire Station 7 was built in the 1970s, Abbott said, and is owned by the Decatur Park District. 

The latter station particularly is not as efficient as it could be because the response area to its east is mostly farmland, according to Abbott. 

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Decatur Fire Station 7,  1250 S. Airport Rd., is built on land owned by the Decatur Park District. It is among those targeted for replacement. 

"We need to be able to respond back to the city of Decatur, and run north and south of all areas of the lake and east of the lake in Decatur," he said. 

Abbott said the city still plans to build the two new stations at the same time with a similar design plan as a way to save money.

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Work continues Thursday on Decatur's newest fire station. It is the first of three stations to get new buildings under an $8.5 million city plan. 

He said once the land for the stations is acquired, the fire department will inform people living in the areas and field questions from them as they did for the Fire Station 5 proposal. The Decatur City Council will also have to approve the land agreement and the construction bids for Stations 3 and 7. 

"We're hoping to have council approval (on bids) by late May, maybe June," Abbott said. 

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Delays on the $2.7 million facility for Decatur's newest fire station have come from issues with grading of the lot and positioning heavy equipment to pour concrete in a relatively small area, Fire Chief Jeff Abbott said earlier this year. 

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Contact Jaylyn Cook at (217) 421-7980. Follow him on Twitter: @jaylyn_HR

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Government Reporter

Government reporter for the Herald & Review.

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