By Abigail Cloutier
Youngstown’s Fire Department manages and operates Station 7, located on the corner of Madison Avenue and Elm Street. With the station’s plan to close Dec. 1, Youngstown residents and business owners have questions.
Station 7 is the only station in Youngstown’s North Side.
The closure will add two to four minutes of response time to the area, according to Johnathan Blackshire, president of the Wick Park Neighborhood Association.
The city discussed the closure on Oct. 24 during a safety committee meeting. The issue was not brought before general council.
In response to the closure, the Wick Park Neighborhood Association held a rally at the station on Nov. 3, encouraging community members to express their concerns and frustration.
Blackshire said eight citizens spoke against the closure of Station 7 at a Youngstown City Council meeting Nov. 13.
He said, “A fire, according to experts, can double every 30 seconds.”
“The bottom line is the station is critically located in an area where it can respond to emergencies on the North Side,” he said.
According to the Oct. 24 Youngstown Safety Committee meeting, the city budget was cited as a primary reason for closing Station 7, and the Fire Department is looking at several sites for a new station.
Building instability is also a reason for closure, according to Youngstown fire Chief Barry Finley, who spoke at the October meeting.
Tressel said student safety is a priority to the university, and he is concerned about the increased response time.
“Every minute, every 30 seconds, when you’re in dangerous situations like a fire, in this whole infrastructure discussion we’ve been having with more students living on or around campus, there are things that you have to keep in mind,” Tressel said. “We’ll have to figure out how we can be the most safe.”
According to Tressel, he does not expect YSU’s relationship with the Fire Department to change.
Businesses operating around Station 7 and residents living in the area are most concerned about the increased response time.
Though Station 1 is roughly a mile away from Station 7, issues such as rush-hour traffic and a major renovation that will narrow Fifth Avenue will increase response time by four minutes, according to Blackshire.
Melanie Buonavolonta, owner of Mel’s Habitat, operates her business on Elm Street and said she is concerned not only for her business but also for her family.
“Because I’m a business owner who happens to be able to bring my child to work with me, and I do occasionally, it’s extra concerning because there’s just one more soul to care for,” Buonavolonta said.
She said she is also worried for the safety of the surrounding businesses.
“When I’m not there, there are sweet young women that work for me, and I want to protect them and my neighbors,” Buonavolonta said.
Jim Converse, community economic development director at Common Wealth, Inc. said his concerns are directed toward the economic development of Elm Street.
“[Common Wealth] has spent almost $11 million fixing up businesses on this end of the street,” Converse said. “Most of these are older houses. They’re wood frames and would burn very quickly, so response time is critical.”
He said Elm Street is a business-invested block.
“We want to protect the investment; that’s our main concern,” Converse said. “To simply say that they’re not going to protect us anymore is not a fair way to do business as a city.”
The Jambar reached out to Mayor Jamael Tito Brown and 1st Ward Councilman Julius Oliver for a statement, but both were unavailable for comment by the time of publication. Youngstown’s fire Chief Finley also declined to comment on the issue.