With the public hearing on Syracuse's city budget set for next Monday, Syracuse firefighters are planning rallies to keep theri two busiest fire stations in business.
The proposed budget would close Fire Station 7, just north of the SU campus on West Fayette Street. And Fire Station 6, on West Street on the west side, would no longer be a fire station, with the rescue operation to be moved there from Fire Station 1 downtown. "Between Engine 6 and Engine 7, it's over 10,000 calls." Local 280 President Lonnie Johnson says that's "a third of the calls in the whole city."
One worry is the timing, which comes along with a growth spurt in the main areas the two fire stations serve. "The redevelopment of downtown" says Johnson, "and right here at Kennedy Square that's the development of Loguen Crossing (just behind Station 7), there are projected another ten thousand people in the area, and we just think this time is the wrong time."
Newly appointed Fire Chief Paul Linnertz disagrees. "I think that their concern is felt in the heart, instead of in the facts of the matter." Linnertz points to Saturday morning's major fire on Beech Street, just blocks from Station 7. The fire crew there, and at another close-by station were both out on other alarms. "It's a remarkable response time. The slowest engine that came from Burnet and Teall took 4 minutes." Linnertz told us 'I don't think that the citizens of the city will notice any difference in their fire service response."
But both the chief and the union told us there will be changes in the types of responses, with fewer 'low priority' calls, like for low-risk maternity cases. And, the number of firefighters on duty will also be cut, from 69 to 65 on duty in each shift. We heard firefighters' concerns about having enough people at alarms, to do the job safely.
The Syracuse Common Council is reviewing department budgets. The Fire Department review is done, and Councilor Jake Barrett, chair of the Public Safety Committee, told us today that 'Keeping Station 7 open at this point has not been revisited.'
The firefighters point out that in their last contract, they agreed to no pay raises and a giveback on health insurance. 'We understand that the city's having fiscal issues," says union head Johnson. "We worked with them. This is ridiculous right now."
The firefighters plan 'No Cuts' rallies on Thursday, 4 - 5pm at Station 6, and on Friday 4-5pm at Station 7.The public hearing on the budget is Monday, April 29th at 6pm in City Hall.A third 'No Cuts' rally is set for May first, noon -1pm in front of City Hall.