Zixi Wu | Staff PhotographerCity
Firefighters show support for Fire Station No. 7 at State of the City Address
While most of the crowd that filled the gymnasium of Dr. Weeks Elementary School wore dark and muted colors, the firefighters lining the walls stuck out in bright orange.
The firefighters who had come to Mayor Stephanie Miner’s State of the City Address on Thursday evening wore orange T-shirts bearing the message “Save 7s” in response to the potential closure of Fire Station No. 7 due to budget deficits.
The T-shirts listed some of the areas within the station’s range, including Syracuse University’s main campus, Upstate Medical Center, Crouse Hospital and the VA Medical Center.
Lonnie Johnson, president of the Syracuse Firefighters Association, said the firefighters’ visible presence at the speech was a sign of solidarity.
“We are concerned about the closure of any station,” he said.
About 100 members of the firefighters union from stations around the city attended Miner’s speech, Johnson said. They began passing out “Save Fire Station 7” fliers outside the school more than two hours before Miner began her speech.
Miner made no mention of the fire department during her speech.
“I can appreciate their point of view,” she said after the speech, “but we have a $21 million deficit, and we have to present a balanced budget. In that process, we’re looking at everything.”
Miner said she thought the firefighters’ actions were premature, as the budget will not be finalized until March. No decision has been made, she said.
Bill Ryan, Miner’s chief of staff, said he welcomed the firefighters union into the decision-making process. He said he had an open conversation with union representatives earlier in the day and had welcomed the firefighters inside the gymnasium to hear Miner’s speech.
The city and the fire department will have to collaborate to find the best solution to the budget deficit, he said. The fire department currently has a $30 million budget, he said, and it will have less in the future.
“The questions becomes: Is a million dollars a good investment into that firehouse?” Ryan said. “I’m not passing judgment on that, nor is anyone else, today. It’s all part of the process.”
Ryan said Fire Station No. 7, located on 1039 E. Fayette St., has been neglected since 1998. In addition to repairs to the roof, windows, locker rooms and bathroom, the station faces a major structural issue in the floor, which can no longer support the building.
But the support from the other firefighters meant a lot, said Paul Motendo, vice president of the Syracuse Firefighters Association.
Motendo said the closure of Fire Station No. 7 would hurt the city and create an immediate concern. It is the busiest station in the city, he said, and responds to most alarm activations at Syracuse University. The station also provides EMS service.
Most of the areas of development Miner spoke about during her State of the City Address are in the response range of Fire Station No. 7, Motendo noted.
Eric Yetman, an executive board member of the union who represents Fire Station No. 7, said he thought the location of the areas of development could be a good sign for the station. Because the station’s range covers many important areas of Syracuse, it’s possible the station will remain open, he said.
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