Effective Thursday, Youngstown Fire Station 15 on the city’s west side will be closed for the next two weeks. It’s the first station to shut down as part of a newly-implemented system of rotating closures.
Alongside his battalion chiefs, Fire Chief Barry Finley decided that was the best solution to save the department money.
At Tuesday’s meeting, council shot down Finley’s other solution to the department’s overtime deficit. It would have taken funds from a maintenance account and put that money toward overtime spending.
Instead, council suggested closing one station entirely.
“This is a systemic problem, this is a city problem, and just closing one station for one group of people in one part of the town doesn’t solve the problem,” Finley said. “It doesn’t get the message out that we, as a department, we, as a city, are hurting. We need to generate revenue and it’s just not coming in as fast as it’s going out.”
Now, six of the eight stations will close for two weeks on a rotating basis.
The only exceptions will be the Central Station and the one on Indianola. They will remain open, but will take one truck out of service.
“As far as what we’re going to do, nothing will change,” Finley said.
While he and some city council members are OK with the move, others are not.
“I, personally, think that’s a bad solution to a problem that could have been avoided in the first place,” said Fifth Ward Councilwoman Lauren McNally.
McNally, who is also the chair of the Youngstown Finance Committee, doesn’t agree with the rotating closures.
“I don’t believe that the long-term solution to Youngstown’s financial situation is through cuts and I’ve said it many times,” she said.
But other members of council were OK with the move for the time being.
“I would have preferred to probably ride it out a little bit longer. Another month or two probably wouldn’t have mattered,” said Fourth Ward Councilman Michael Ray.
“If this is the best solution for now, then that’s what we have to go with,” said Seventh Ward Councilwoman Basia Adamczak. “I mean, there is no money for overtime right now, so we really have to make the best of a bad situation.”
Finley also admitted that eventually, he believes he’s going to have to permanently close one of the fire stations. If or when that happens, he hopes he won’t have to lay anyone off, but that discussion hasn’t come up yet.