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Council gets earful on proposed closure of Fire Station 7

Ellen Abbott

Syracuse lawmakers Tuesday got an earful about the pros and cons of closing down a fire station as the Common Council held a hearing on the future of Station 7 on the city's east side.

Station 7, located on East Fayette Street, was built more than 60 years ago using World War II technology. At this point, two of the three bays are structurally inadequate, and it's in need of almost $1.3 million in repairs, according to city officials.

The city can't afford that right now, so the city budget proposed yesterday by Mayor Stephanie Miner calls for closing the station. The fire department would create a new engine company out of two others, including Company 7, says Fire Chief Paul Linnertz.

"What it is going to do is combine two engine companies," Linnertz explains. "Each company is staffed by 16 people. By combining them to one engine, there will be 16 people assigned to Station 1, and 16 people dispersed through the city, which will eliminate overtime."

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Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO
Firefighters protest outside the State of the City address in January.

This plan doesn't sit well with the union that represents firefighters.

"I think safety is the most important thing. If you look at the volume of calls we have, it's our job to make sure we give the kids an opportunity to come home at night," argues Lonnie Johnson, president of Syracuse Firefighters Association 280.

He says firefighters will continue to make their case to keep Station 7 open throughout the budget process.

The council will begin budget hearing soon. They'll vote on a budget in May, and could conceivably move money around to pay for renovations, but ultimately the Mayor and Fire Chief make the decisions for the department.

It's unclear yet how much of a fight the council will put up to keep the station operating.

"The council is limited in our legislative function," says Councilor Jake Barrett. "The administration puts something in front of us and we have to make an up our down vote on what they put in front of us. There is very little opportunity to make changes."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.