While saving one of the two Peoria Fire Department engines targeted by budgetary cuts remains a possibility, the other station is about to close.
Fire Chief Tony Ardis issued a statement Wednesday reminding residents that Station 4 on the city’s South Side will be shut down at 7 a.m. Thursday. The station’s territory will be absorbed into Station 8’s coverage area.
Ryan Brady, president of Peoria Firefighters Union Local 50, said the station’s closure will impact service detrimentally.
“The grave concern of longer response times and how that impacts the safety of not only the citizens but our firefighters – even though we knew it was going to happen tomorrow – it’s still hard to stomach,” said Brady.
Last week, the union voted to settle a pending unfair labor practice appeal dating back to 2018 as long as the city agreed to keep the other service, Engine 20, in operation.
“This would be an opportunity to try and get this matter settled and behind us, with the city being asked to keep one of the machines from closure through the end of March,” said City Manager Patrick Urich.
“I think that that’s something that we would certainly … I’ve told Local 50 that I would support that, and it’s something that we’d have to go back to (City) Council for their vote.”
The vote likely would occur at the next council meeting on Oct. 13. Last week, a motion by council member Chuck Grayeb to increase borrowing to prevent the fire department cuts – contingent on the $500,000 settlement of the ULP – failed by a 7-4 vote.
Some council members wondered if such an agreement would constitute a quid pro quo. A statement issued by the city last week said the union presented the proposal during settlement negotiations.
Brady said the union is waiting for another meeting with city officials about a memorandum of understanding about the proposal, adding he anticipates a determination on whether an agreement will be reached in the next week.
“We will obviously continue to put our best foot forward and try to find an amicable solution, given what we’re faced with,” said Brady.
Urich said the current fire department vacancies have resulted in Station 4’s 17 positions being filled through overtime.
“At this point, what it would mean is that we would be reducing one machine ... and the daily people that would be staffing that machine,” he said, adding that additional personnel adjustments would be made “at a later date, once this other matter gets settled and behind us.”
Brady said Station 4’s territory has been the city’s busiest for decades.
“It’s a little unnerving to imagine or come to terms with the fact that if a fire does occur down there, it more than likely will not just be that one house,” said Brady.
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