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From school to station

BUREAU — The former Leepertown Grade School building will be put to good use when it closes its doors in June to the education of children.

On Monday, Bureau Fire Protection District (BFPD) Fire Chief Tim Shipp said the school building will be used to house the BFPD fire station. The BFPD currently houses its fire station within the village hall building.

The BFPD is entering into an intergovernmental agreement with the Leepertown School District, which is dissolving at the end of this current fiscal year, June 30.

The BFPD will pay a “minimal fee” for the school building and yard, Shipp said. However, with the final agreement not yet signed, Shipp declined to give more specifics of that agreement.

Shipp said the Bureau Fire Protection District has been working on getting a new facility for a couple years, but the district is just now finally going to get its $215,000 grant money awarded in 2009 through the Illinois Jobs Now! program.

The grant money will be used to build a 54 foot-by-80 foot pole building which will house the BFPD fire trucks and will also be used to house Bureau County’s Region 2 mobile command unit. The grant money will also be used to install a 50-foot communication tower. The Bureau County Board approved the conditional use permits for the BFPD project at the board’s April 17 meeting.

Concerning the school building itself, Shipp said plans are to use the single story portion of the school building for offices and training rooms, with a kitchen to be installed. The school gymnasium will be used for fundraisers and other activities. The older portion of the school building can also be used for training, Shipp said.

The BFPD has hired North Central Council of Governments to administer the grant money. The BFPD is also working on a grant survey as required by the Department of Economic and Commerce Opportunity (DECO) to get the grant money, Shipp said.

Hopefully, the BFPD can go out for bids on the new fire station project by July, with work to begin by the middle of August, Shipp said. The goal is to be in the new location by the end of this year, the fire chief said.

Looking at the additional space provided by the move to the school building, along with the new pole building to be constructed, Shipp said the new location will allow for the district to have all five fire trucks in one location which will make for a faster response time in emergencies.

The Bureau Fire Protection District covers 21 square miles as well as Route 26 from Interstate 180 to the Putnam County line and serves an estimated 500 people. The fire district has 14 volunteer firefighters and five junior firefighters.

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