BISMARCK — Almost 30 years ago, the late Agnes Hornor donated a piece of property on the west edge of Bismarck to build a new station for the volunteer fire department.
On Sunday, the Bismarck Fire Protection District will dedicate a new fire station that was finally built this year on that donated piece of land. Construction on the station just east of Bismarck-Henning High School began about six months ago, and it officially opened for service less than two weeks ago, according to Dan Wright, board member of the fire protection district. Including construction and site work, it's a $1.2 million project that the fire protection district is paying for with its own funds and a partial loan that will be paid off over the next 20 years with district funds, he said.
"We are dragging ourselves across the finish line," Wright said of realizing the long-time vision of a new "central" fire station that replaces the previous building that wasn't large enough to store all the equipment or trucks.
The old building was constructed around 1962, about five years after community members founded the fire district, which has grown geographically over the last 50 years to include the Henning area to the northwest, Alvin to the north, Lake Boulevard to the south and east to the Indiana state line. The district has 23 volunteer firefighters who work out of three small stations on Lake Boulevard near Danville, Henning and Alvin, and the new building in Bismarck will be the main, central station with its three high bays, training room, small kitchen, lounge area and multiple bathrooms.
Don Rice, president of the fire protection district board for the last seven years, said the other stations have required attention through the years, and that's one reason the new building in Bismarck was put off until the district had enough money to do the project.
Rice has been involved with the department since 1968 along with Don Evans, who coordinated Sunday's open house and dedication ceremony. Rice said there were times when the board was "right up to" the point of moving forward with the new building, and there would be an interruption. Once, he said, it was buying a new rescue truck, about a $120,000 expense. But, he said, the district is "very frugal" with its money and eventually had $240,000 in the new building fund and reached the point where the plan moved forward.
"We are very proud of it," he said.
On Sunday, the public is invited to an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. at the station, which is on Bismarck Road, or 2750 North Road, immediately east of the high school and west of Bismarck-Henning Elementary School. At 2 p.m. there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony and dedication of the new building with several speakers, including the Illinois state fire marshall and presidents of the Illinois Association of Fire Protection Districts and Illinois Fire Chiefs Association and David Wisher, a member of Urbana Fire Rescue who wrote the book, "Answering the Call." There will also be safe house tours, which teach children about fire safety, including what to do if they find themselves in a fire.
Members of the James and Agnes Hornor family plan to attend the ceremony Sunday, according to Wright. Long-time Bismarck community member Mary Morrison also will be involved in the dedication. Her late husband, John Morrison, was instrumental in the group of Bismarck men who formed the fire department in the late 1950s. Prior to the 911 system, fire calls were answered at their Morrison Funeral Home in Bismarck.
Morrison, who's already been through the new building, said she's glad that the new station has been built and is operational.
"It's marvelous," she said.