MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – Mount Vernon firefighters protested a suggestion to close the Oak Street Firehouse at a City Council meeting Wednesday night.
Council member Karen Watts-Yehudah said it was her idea to close the station, but that didn’t include getting rid of any firefighters. Watts-Yehudah said that since Mount Vernon is only 4 square miles, it might be beneficial to consolidate some of the city’s four firehouses.
“I live in an 80-year-old wood-frame house, and I don’t want anything to happen to any firefighters, but we do have to look at the city as a whole,” Watts-Yehudah said. “Maybe a station should be moved. We need the firefighters to bring to us what they need.”
The idea of closing the Oak Street Firehouse was first made public by Mayor Ernie Davis at a public hearing on the proposed 2013 budget last week. Davis said that closing the firehouse would potentially save $800,000. But Ernest Richardson, president of Local 107 of the firefighters union, said that amount of savings would not be realized unless personnel were cut as well, which he doesn’t want to happen.
“We are already understaffed,” Richardson said. “We are already doing more with less. If you cut the firehouse it will hurt the taxpayers very much. We need firehouses to keep people protected, because we do save lives. We understand things need to be done to keep the city running, but there shouldn’t be any cuts in fire service.”
Currently, the proposed city budget would raise taxes by 9.8 percent.
Council President Roberta Apuzzo assured the firefighters that the Oak Street Firehouse will remain open but said the Fire Department needs to be in contact with the council in case the issue comes up again.
Council member J. Yuhanna Edwards said that although the firehouse will not be closed this year, it doesn’t mean the issue will not come up in the future.
“Safety of the public is paramount to us as a council and as a city,” Edwards said. “The closing of the firehouse is off the table right now.”
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