Race to find funds to keep fire station open
Fire station set to close by Dec. 16
YOUNGSTOWN — City officials and state Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan will seek state funding for a new North Side fire house, but it won’t arrive in time to replace the existing station that’s to close in a couple of weeks.
Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, met Monday for more than an hour with Mayor Jamael Tito Brown; Nikki Posterli, chief of staff; and Councilman Julius Oliver, D-1st Ward; to discuss what can be done for fire services on the North Side.
“We talked about developing a plan that would find some resources and find property on the North Side for a new station,” said Lepore-Hagan, who described the meeting as “productive.”
She said she’d seek funding for a new station from next year’s state capital budget.
“That is what the capital appropriations (are) set up for — brick and mortar, public safety properties,” Lepore-Hagan said.
She said she wants a new station to be combined with a training center, and also plans to discuss ways to obtain federal money for the facility.
Lepore-Hagan will meet again next Monday with city officials for further discussions.
Brown said: “We talked not just about the fire station but other appropriations the city can get” from the capital budget.
Lepore-Hagan, who lives on the North Side, doesn’t want Station No. 7, 141 Madison Ave., to close.
But the city is still moving ahead with closing it by Dec. 16.
Fire Chief Barry Finley said Nov. 13 that the station would close Dec. 1, but last week he moved that to Dec. 16 as the original date was right after Thanksgiving, and to give movers and firefighters more time to make the transition.
Oliver said “progress” was made during the meeting though he declined to talk about what was said during the private session.
“We mapped out a few ways to go forward and we’re exploring them,” he said. “Nothing has really changed (with the closing) except for a direction forward. But it could change next week. We’re hoping next week we can get something set in concrete and have a real direction. I’m happy with the outcome” and most people will feel the same way once information is made public.
The city administration has said it doesn’t want to extend its lease with NYO Property Group, which owns the station, that expires at the end of the month.
When Station No. 7 closes, the downtown station at 420 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. would respond to fires on the North Side and it won’t cause any safety issues, Finley said.
That’s something strongly disputed by Charlie Smith, the fire union president, who says there will be safety concerns and longer response times once the North Side station closes.
The union is having a vote of no confidence for the chief today and Wednesday.
Smith said Finley has used profanity when referring to firefighters and tries to bully and intimidate them. Other issues include a plan, supported by city council, to reduce half of the battalion chiefs through attrition, and not doing enough to address problems with the department’s radio equipment.
As for the issues with the chief, Brown dismissed them saying: “It’s personal. It’s not professional.”
The no-confidence vote “doesn’t carry any weight with me,” Brown said.