Fire station discussion close to end

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Latest: 3:55 pm, 12/6/16, Tuesday 

DANVILLE — The future of a city fire station will be decided Tuesday night.

The question is whether to close station three on Griffin Street. The city council will vote. Some people seem to think council members have made up their minds, but one alderman says it’s certainly not the case.

Lloyd Randle says the council is split for two reasons: the police and fire pension crisis and safety. He says the city is down $56 million in those payments.

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer hopes to fix that problem by 2040. He says, closing station three and gradually reducing the number of firefighters on staff will help them do that. 

He also says relying on three stations instead of four will not risk people’s safety. He says response times will remain under four minutes.

Many residents are not convinced. As they approach the final vote, one alderman says the heat is on. 

Update: 10:00 pm, 12/5/16, Monday

DANVILLE — People made a passionate effort Monday night to save a fire station. The city council is deciding whether to close station three. It has people up in arms.

Monday, they had one more chance to share their opinions. Audience members went back and forth with aldermen. It’s not the first time this question has come up, but one alderman said he’s never seen it this heated.

“Give people a chance to come out and really tell us how they feel about closing the station,” says Alderman Lloyd Randle.

A roomful of people took Randle up on his offer. Most of them are worried what closing fire station 3 would mean for Danville.

Chris Clapp says, “Even if you have no traffic, I’m pretty sure it’s going to take more than four minutes.” 

Response time is what concerns people like these former firefighters. Chris Clapp says he worries about the place he used to work. 

House calls are one thing, but some worry what closing fire station 3 would mean for the school right across the street.

Clapp says, “There are three schools probably within a mile area from station three. God forbid, if anything ever happened to one of our schools. You got kids in the buildings, and you got only one fire truck responding four miles away. I have a severe problem with that.”

At the beginning of the meeting, Randle said not having firefighters in the building is concerning.

He says, “There is a potential loss of life in terms of closing that station.” 

However, he says he is in favor of closing it. The alderman says his colleagues are split for two reasons. One is the growing cost of police and fire pensions. He says the city is $56 million deep in payments.

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer says, if they don’t address the problem now, taxpayers will have to pay more and more.

“These types of issues are potentially bankrupting cities if you don’t address them in the right ways,” Randle says.

The right way, according to several aldermen and people at the meeting, is not putting safety on the line.

Clapp adds, “If they closed station number three on Griffin Street, how is the fire trucks from the north end of Danville going to be able to get out to say a fire on the east end unless it takes him quite a long time?”

If the resolution to close the station is approved, the mayor says people would see a change in spring. The final vote is Tuesday night.

This isn’t the only fire-related item on the agenda. The council will also vote whether to reorganize the employee structure. The main change would be restoring the chief and assistant chief positions to the department. The mayor says that would be the first order of business.

Original: 5:30 pm, 12/4/16, Sunday

DANVILLE — The city council will vote on several big changes to the fire department this week. One of those is whether to close station number three.

There is a public meeting about this issue Monday. Alderman Lloyd Randle is inviting people to come out and voice their opinions on what should happen this week, but some don’t think their opinions matter much at this point.

Keith Stelzer lives just down the block from station three. He thinks the decision to close it is inevitable. The mayor has ironed out plans showing how three departments would cover the whole town.

As a former volunteer firefighter, and someone who says there are a lot of ambulance calls in his neighborhood, he says every second counts.

He says, “I can point to the houses in this area of people that I’ve known that have died. It’s kind of personal when you see people die or hear of people that die, but you need a rapid response in a rescue or a rapid response on a fire call. You just can’t get around that.”

The meeting will be Monday, at the American Legion, 201 Prospect Place, from 5:30 – 7 pm. The vote is on Tuesday. Aldermen attending the meeting say they’re ready to talk about anyone’s concerns.

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