By Joe Deacon • Nov 10, 2020
Kristin McHugh / WCBU
The Peoria Fire Department will reopen Station 4 and instead close Station 8 after finding increased response times were higher than anticipated.
A South Peoria fire station shuttered by budgetary cuts will reopen, but at the expense of another station that serves the Uplands, the Moss Avenue area and Bradley University.
Peoria Fire Department Chief Tony Ardis told the City Council on Tuesday the increased response times created by the Oct. 1 closure of Station 4 on SW Jefferson Street were not acceptable. “We knew it wasn’t going to be a great situation, but that was higher than we anticipated,” said Ardis. “So we sat down with the command staff to try to solve this problem as best we could with the resources we have.”
Ardis said their best plan was to reintroduce Engine 4 at Station 4, paired with the transfer of Truck 4 from Station 8 on Hurlburt Street. The reintroduction would be offset by decommissioning Engine 2 that would result in the closure of Station 8. “I want to make this clear, we have no doubt this is not going to solve the problem. It’s just not,” said Ardis. “It’s going to solve the problem in the territory somewhat, but it’s going to open up a similar issue in Station 8’s territory.”
The fire department reductions became a major issue of contention as the council worked through budget shortfalls created by the COVID-19 pandemic, as District 1 and 2 council members Denise Moore and Chuck Grayeb tried to keep Station 4 operational.
Moore, whose district is served by Station 4, said Tuesday she isn’t happy about the Station 8 closure. “But if you have to choose between two devils, the fact that Station 4 on Jefferson is reopening – because it is surrounded by some of the oldest homes in our city – it’s very important for that to occur,” she said.
Grayeb was even more adamant, stressing that public safety should always be the council’s top priority. “We should not have closed even one fire house. Whenever we get the resources, we need to reopen,” he said.
But at-large council member Zach Oyler noted cuts had to be made, and the decision of where those cuts came was best left up to Ardis and his staff. “This is the reason why we shouldn’t be in the business of picking which engines and which fire houses when we have the discussion about the budgetary needs and staffing levels,” said Oyler. “That should be left up to the professionals, and the professionals did what they needed to do and allocated resources in a different manner.”
Ardis said the territory served by Station 8 will be divided among three other houses: Station 4, Station 3 on West Armstrong Avenue, and the Central House on Monroe Street downtown. “We respect the fact that we have to make manpower decisions within the confines of what we’re given,” said Ardis. “But as far as saying we’re not going to see a dramatic increase at Station 8’s territory, I can’t give that. “As a command staff, we don’t feel good about this; it scares us. But we’re trying to solve this problem within the resources that we have.”