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NORMAL — Normal is pushing northeast for its next fire station.

The town plans to buy land at Hershey and Shepard roads for a new station to open in 2020 or 2021, part of a long-term plan to replace and realign all three stations to improve emergency response times.

"It will improve our response times to that whole northeast section of town: Normal Community (High School), Eastview (Christian Church), (the Village at) Mercy Creek and all the residences out there," said City Manager Pam Reece. "That's a big improvement for our fire service."

The town will spend up to $450,000 and defer development fees on an adjacent subdivision in exchange for 1.75 acres at 1438 Hershey Road, pending city council approval on Monday night.

Reece said it's too soon to know how large and expensive the new station will be, but it should be smaller and cheaper than the $8 million headquarters fire station at 606 S. Main St. that opened in 2017.

"The next station will be more typical of a fire station. It won't house any administrative offices or meeting space. It's primarily for the apparatus and the staff," said Reece.

The Main Street station replaced Normal's fire station at 604 N. Adelaide St, and the new station will replace Normal's fire station at 1300 E. College Ave.  That leaves the 1200 E. Raab station to be replaced at some point after the Hershey Road project is finished.

"Funds are available because when we issued bonds in 2014 and 2016 for the new headquarters fire station, we had money in that bond issue to pay for land acquisition for the next fire station," said Reece. "We'll certainly consider that (for the third station, too). I don't know if that will for sure be the plan."

Reece said officials are still considering what to do with the stations on College and Raab after they're vacated.

"There might be some sort of alternative use, maybe another department or another municipal operation, or we sell it. We have to determine that," she said. "Probably by some time next fiscal year we'll give council a plan on what the future of those two properties will look like."

The Adelaide Street station is now owned through a land swap by Illinois State University, which planned to demolish it for redevelopment, but has not yet done so.

Because that station is adjacent to the Cardinal Court housing area, the university saw it as an opportunity “to allow us flexibility to expand in the future if we choose to do so,” spokesman Eric Jome said on Friday.

The Hershey Road land is currently owned by iDev, a company partially owned by Trunk Bay Companies CEO Marty Trunk, and was planned to be phase two of the Blackstone Trails subdivision. Instead, the developers will reduce lot sizes on another phase of the project, which is planned to stretch from Shepard to Raab roads.

Normal City Council meets 7 p.m. Monday on the fourth floor at Uptown Station.

Lenore Sobota contributed to this report. 

Contact Derek Beigh at (309) 820-3234. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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Normal and McLean County Reporter

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