Hub’s hubbub: Fire station’s closing a surprise to many

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Hub’s hubbub: Fire station’s closing a surprise to many

By Amanda Codispoti

Firefighters ran their first calls from the new Roanoke Fire-EMS Headquarters on Wednesday, the same day that at least two city council members and many other Roanokers learned that Station No. 1 had quietly closed.

The fate of the 100-year-old station has been debated for the past year and a half.

The city’s original plan was to consolidate Station No. 1 and Station No. 3 into the new $6.2 million facility.

But then, in 2005, after much clamor from the city’s Firefighters Union and others, the city council voted to keep Station No. 1 open.

So the station’s closing came as a surprise to council members Brian Wishneff and Sherman Lea, who said they hadn’t heard of the plans to shut down the historic station as an active firehouse.
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I remember vividly when City Council voted to keep the Station open. Since then, the firefighters have realized the fate of the historic Station, it will be closed. We just had to wait for the decision which we figured would come from City Council. I have said all along that firefighters can take no for an answer. If City Council had decided then to close station 1 when the new station opened life would have went on. That is easier to swallow than dragging your feet and deciding, behind closed doors weeks before the new station was set to open, to close the older station 1. But wait…did they decide to close the station?

I received a phone call just before this article was to break about Councilman Wishneff and Councilman Lea not knowing that station 1 would be closed. I could not believe that the two Council members didn’t have a clue. But I was told that Council decided to close it. In case you are just joining us, Brian Wishneff and Shermann Lea are both Roanoke City Council members. Therefore, they would have to have known that the station would close. Maybe they are not owning up to it. That doesn’t sound right either.

It seems as though something as easy as coming out and voting to close it, has turned out to be a debacle. In the beginning, there were many firefighters opposed to the plan. Over the last year and a half, I have seen most of them turncoat. That is their prerogative, just don’t act as if you never were in agreement with keeping it open. I understand that in the face of defeat it is easier to conform to the future. That is why I have embraced the new station. It was a lost cause fighting for the historic station after council decided to continue building the new headquarters station. Downtown businesses, Council Members, and Firefighters gave it a decent fight and were not victorious. That should have been the end of it. Meanwhile, those of us opposed to it just sat back and waited for the decision…and waited…and waited. Like they were worried of the backlash, which I did not foresee.

However, now it seems someone might have been caught in a a lie.
Can a department head overturn a City Council decision?
Can the City Manager overturn City Council?
Can City Council make a decision without all of them know about it?
Is it safe for Council Members to claim they knew nothing about the decision?

I hear a lot of things from all types of people. It was my understanding that City Council agreed to close the historic station 1 and station 3 to consolidate into the new station. At the same time they agreed to take Engine 7 out of service and replace it with medic 7. Now I am left asking the question of who is in charge around here?

The funny thing is that if they had decided to close it in the beginning, they could have had a big open house for the new station, had a small gathering to close the old station, and had a plan for the old station. That way the article in the paper today would have been all about the “NEW HEADQUARTERS FIRE STATION #1″ and not about the controversy over closing the old one. Instead, we are left with a small flag raising ceremony that nobody knew about. That is a shame.

Update: From what I understand, there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new station on June 2nd. That is all I know about it for now. More later.


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  1. [...] … there IS a fire truck behind them..LOL).  Read more on the closing of Fire Station #1 HERE [...]

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