YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – In an effort to save a fire station and battalion chiefs in Youngstown, the people spoke, but city council and the mayor decided to go the other way.
Some important issues were brought before Youngstown City Council Wednesday night, one of which was decided and two of which were not.
The council sent a proposal to its finance committee to increase wastewater rates by 4% a year for five years.
It also requested to increase the payment to financial consultant Michael Abourserhal from $25,000 to $50,000.
However, the council did approve a reduction in the number of battalion chiefs in the fire department from six to three and spent nearly 30 minutes hearing from people opposed to the closure of Fire Station 7.
“This station does not have to close,” said Jonathan Blackshire.
Blackshire, president of the Wick Park Neighborhood Association, was the first of eight people to speak at the meeting, opposing the closure of Fire Station 7 on the north side.
“Especially for the poorest of the poor. That’s a crime,” said Sr. Ann McManamon, of the Dorothy Day House.
“I am asking that you as council put ‘The City of You’ first and you make the safest decision possible,” said Marie Rupert, wife of one of the firefighters.
“Is our coverage for our insurance going to go up because we don’t have a fire station? I really would like to know,” said Daryl Harvey, a north side resident.
But even after all the passion from the people, Mayor Tito Brown said keeping Station 7 was not an option. He was relying on the advice of Fire Chief Barry Finley.
“I trust the chief. He’s a constant professional and he has a bigger vision than just where we are today. He wants to take us into the 21st century. Let him lead the way with his comprehensive vision,” Brown said.
The vote to reduce battalion chiefs was six to one, with only councilwoman Lauren McNally voting no.
“I don’t want to support any changes in the fire department right now until I get a comprehensive plan of what the fire department is going to look like or needs to look like,” McNally said.
Some council members voted for the reduction after being told the city could be sued for not filling open positions.
“That was solely based on the legal recommendation from our city attorney saying that if we leave those on the books, we open ourselves up to a potential lawsuit,” said Mike Ray, councilman of the 4th Ward.
There were many firefighters in the crowd and afterward, their union president, Charlie Smith, said he was very disappointed.
“This is something that should have never gotten this far. This should have stopped a long time ago when the facts came out of the safety issues that’s going to face the firefighters and the citizens,” Smith said.
After the meeting, Finley said there are no safety issues with eliminating battalion chiefs or closing the station. He said he would never allow any type of safety issues to occur and that anyone who thinks he would doesn’t know him.