Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Memphis Fire Stations: The Next Damsels in Distress?

Memphis Fire Stations:  The Next Damsels in Distress?
By Lee Harris, Memphis City Council

North Memphis, Frayser, Uptown & Mud Island

A few short weeks ago, l learned about cuts to fire services across the city, cuts that would have a direct impact on communities in North Memphis and the Downtown core. Since that time, l have been one of the major critics of these cuts.

However, long before I joined the Council, the plan to ''realign'' (as the cuts have been called) Fire Services was already out of the gate. As l understand it, the process to realign and cut Fire Services began at least a couple of years ago, prior to my arrival on the City Council.

Nonetheless, I have fought hard to try to stop the realignment from affecting our neighborhoods or at least to slow the process down. I have visited several of the affected fire stations. I have talked at length with firefighters at Station 28 (1510 Chelsea Avenue), Station 19 (2248 Chelsea Avenue), and Station 11 (1826 Union Avenue).

I called for a special City Council meeting to discuss the realignment. I also scheduled time for the Council to discuss restoring funding to the libraries that were slated to close.

At that meeting, the Council approved a plan to restore funding to the libraries, When the discussion turned to Fire Services, the director of Fire Services assured me and the rest of the Council that public safety would not be compromised by these changes. As the plan had been in place for a couple of years, no changes were made by the Council. However, I was still worried about this realignment process.

My next move was to try to restore funding for Fire Services in the budget. My hope was that if I restored money in the budget for Fire Services, we could at least save the ladder truck at Station 28 on Chelsea.

I talked with the Mayor's Chief Financial Officer, Roland McElrath, to figure out how much money we would need to fund that ladder truck. I then worked with Councilwoman Fullilove, among other members of the Council, on a proposal to restore $150,000 in funding to Fire Services so that Station 28 could keep its ladder truck in service.
That proposal that I drafted to restore $150,000 to Fire Services to maintain that ladder truck was amended at a Council meeting and, ultimately, it was unsuccessful.

Again, I am against the Fire Services cuts that affect North Memphis and the Downtown core. After pretty extensive investigation, I am not convinced these service cuts are the right move for the city and I have worked hard to try to slow down these cuts.

The communities in these areas have a high number of historic homes that can create a real fire hazard in the case of an emergency. These communities are dense, with homes built closer together, which means that a fire can spread quickly from home to home.

Our communities also have a high number of elderly residents who rely on fire services.  For these reasons, l think we need fully equipped fire stations and I will continue to do what I can.

Lee Harris
Memphis City Council-North Memphis,
Frayser, Uptown & Mud Island