PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The “Save Fire Station 20” petition is catching fire to try and save a station.
The petition has gained nearly 5,000 signatures. This comes after Peoria City Council approved a recommendation to close the station down.
The petition’s creator, Josh Martin, says there are more options than just public safety cuts and raising taxes.
“The petition is important because right now it gives District 5 residents a voice. right now I’m sure the city council doesn’t want to get 4,500 emails,” Martin said.
October 1 is the set date for Station 20 on Wilhelm Rd. in Peoria to close down.
“I know there’s been some discussion about possibly staggering the shutdowns, but as of right now, we have to go with what we were told Wednesday which was October 1st when the cuts would be effective,” said Peoria Fire Chief Tony Ardis.
“This’ll be 25 percent of our department gone in 21 months,” Chief Ardis said. “I think one of the reasons this was so difficult because we went into Tuesday’s meeting with the idea that at most we would lose one machine.
Martin hopes City leaders will hear Peorians voices and enact change.
“Hopefully our council members have a chance tonight to reconsider last week’s vote and realize the importance of public safety,” Martin said.
Martin is the Wincrest Homeowners Association President. He said firefighters from Station 20 have been extremely helpful to his family.
“I’ve had to actually use this fire station multiple times, the last time being last Thanksgiving, my son had a seizure. The fire station was at my house in two minutes,” Martin said.
Peoria Fire Chief Tony Ardis believes closing down Station 20 wouldn’t just impact people in District five.
“Our command staff has to change every single response map in the City. We have to change every response in the City,” Chief Ardis said. “We have to get that to dispatch and dispatch has to plug all those changes in.”
Mayor Jim Ardis said now the City Council is discussing putting an item on the ballot in February. It would ask voters if they’d support a tax hike which would help fund both the police and fire departments.
“It’s a big issue. Taxes are a huge issue in the state, only 12 cents of every dollar comes to the City. We bear a lot of the brunt for high taxes but it’s not from the City,” Mayor Ardis said.
Mayor Ardis said the ballot item would end up being up to the next elected city council.
“Why council members would not want to afford taxpayers an opportunity to voice that would be of interest to me,” Mayor Ardis said. “There’s a strong advantage to having a binding referendum that would say if a majority of people support that, that’s what the next council will look at doing. If not, that council would have to consider going what the electorate voice is.”
Martin said the closing down of Station 20 isn’t just a loss of jobs, but it could be a matter of life and death.
“These newer houses out here burn fast, they burn hot. If you’re trapped inside you’re going to have less time to get out,” Martin said.
Station 20 is the closest fire station to Dunlap. One of its engines responded to the house fire on Route 91 last Tuesday.
Something the City Council is looking for are alternative solutions.
Martin said solutions he thought of is created a bed tax to hospitals that would be covered by insurance.
He also said the council could use capitol funds being used to build a new Station Four and instead maintain Station 20, pushing back to the new station to a later date.
Chief Ardis said this last week has been extremely difficult for him and his Department.
“I’m not gonna be theatrical, I’m not gonna say the sky’s falling, but we are concerned. You couple that with the possibility of watching 8 members be laid off. We’re family. We live together 33% of our life, that means they’re our family,” Chief Ardis said. “Waking up Wednesday morning knowing you just lost 2 machines, from an operational standpoint, from a command staff standpoint, you worry about your members.”
Mayor Ardis said he doesn’t see a decision being made for awhile.
“We’re not raising any taxes tonight. I don’t see us doing that in the near future, what we are doing tonight is having a discussion on if we want to put an item on the ballot in February if they would be in support of raising property taxes to help with police separately from another one saying “will you help with fire,” Mayor Ardis said.
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