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Aurora, Ill., Creating Campus to House Police and Fire

The new headquarters will make it easier for police and fire to communicate with each other, eliminating a 10-minute drive for meetings, and it will put a fire station in position to cover more of the city.

(TNS) - The city of Aurora is planning to move its fire department’s headquarters into a new building on the same site as the current Aurora Police Department headquarters, creating a joint public safety campus.

The plans were announced by Mayor Richard Irvin at Wednesday’s public safety and community engagement-focused State of the City address. He said the campus will also serve as a “regional training laboratory” for other public safety officials to learn best practices from Aurora’s police and fire departments.

“This will set the standard for public safety in the region, the state and the nation,” Irvin said during his speech.

In a phone call on Friday, Aurora Fire Chief David McCabe said the new Aurora Fire Department headquarters will give the department’s administration some much-needed extra space.

The department’s current headquarters — which is located within the downtown Central Fire Station — was built in the 1980s, according to McCabe. He said that, at the time, the fire department was about half the size it is today and had only three chief officers.

Now with six chief officers, not including administrative support staff, the current headquarters is “bursting at the seams,” McCabe said. So, the new headquarters building will include lots of space for offices and for training, both of which McCabe said are lacking at the current headquarters.

Some of the offices under the fire department, such as the Emergency Management Agency, aren’t even located in the current headquarters, McCabe said.

The Emergency Management Agency is currently located in the Aurora Police Department headquarters at 1200 E. Indian Trail Road alongside the city’s Emergency Operations Center, but he said they both will be moving to the new Aurora Fire Department headquarters when it opens to free up room in the police headquarters, which is also running out of space.

The new Aurora Fire Department headquarters building will be constructed with more than enough space to meet the department’s current needs, according to McCabe. The idea, he said, is to balance the need to remain frugal with the need to stay proactive about the department’s future space needs.

“This building, when it opened 44 years ago, they probably imagined they had all the space they’d ever need,” McCabe said about the current headquarters. “They never imagined the fire department being as big as it is. We’re trying to make sure that that’s not the case 30, 40 years from now.”

In addition to the extra space, the new building will have new technology, especially in the classrooms, he said.

Like its current headquarters, the department’s new administrative building will also be paired with a fire station.

The current Fire Station 4 building at 800 Michels Ave. needs over $500,000 in maintenance work over the next five years to remain operational, according to McCabe. So, instead of sinking that money into an aging building built in the 1960s, the city plans to combine a new Fire Station 4 with the planned Aurora Fire Department headquarters.

McCabe said the location of the new headquarters will be helpful for two reasons. First, it will make it easier for the police and fire departments to communicate with each other, he said.

“Their administration and our administration meet on a fairly regular basis. This will help that flow,” McCabe said. “Right now, you know, it’s a 10-minute drive back and forth to get to each other’s offices.”

Second, it will put Fire Station 4 in a better spot to cover a larger part of the city, helping to reduce response times, he said.

A study from several years ago that looked at the ideal placement of fire stations around the city showed that the best spot for Fire Station 4 was just northeast of where its new location is planned to be constructed, according to McCabe.

He said the department is planning to move Fire Station 9, which is currently located on Diehl Road, to a new location on Eola Road between Liberty Street and New York Street.

The city is also planning to construct a new Fire Station 13 at Bilter Road and Nan Street, which is north of Interstate 88.

The goal in moving and constructing new stations, he said, is to get response times below six minutes for regular fire responses and four minutes for emergency medical responses.

Plans for the fire stations and the new headquarters should be finished within the next four to six weeks, according to McCabe. After that, the plans and budget proposals will go before the Aurora City Council for final approval, he said.

Currently, he said there is no way to say how much the projects will cost until those plans are completed.

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