For weeks, city officials said they planned on closing the west end fire hub, on Venice Road near Toft Dairy, from May to October for financial reasons.
Now they’ve backpedaled and suggested they could keep the station open for, at most, four or five days a week during this period.
“The decision to close a fire station will depend on the daily staffing levels,” Sandusky fire Chief Paul Ricci said. “If we drop below minimum staffing levels of 12 on any given day, station (No.) 7 will be closed for that day”
Staffing levels come into play after commissioners approved a $16.3 million everyday operating budget earlier this year.
The budget included $1.1 million in cuts, consisting of eventually reducing fulltime fire staffing levels to 49 and temporarily shutting down station No. 7.
This summer, the fire department will work with no more than 50 full-time firefighters, down from 52 earlier this year, after commissioners downsized staffing levels through attrition. This would include Ricci’s impending retirement, with officials not yet selecting his replacement and leaving his spot vacant.
Efforts to now keep the station open for some days, rather than closing it entirely for six straight months, resulted from residents disappointed, fearful and outraged about the decision.
Some residents voiced their wishes during Monday’s public meeting to keep the station open, operating 24 hours a day throughout the year.
“I would appeal to you to please reconsider this,” Mills Street resident Lovey Leavell said. “We have too many senior citizens over there, in addition to all the other residents. I ask you to reconsider closing station No. 7”
Ricci said this station, and not the two others located downtown or by Cedar Point, is closing simply based on demand.
“Data tells us that there are fewer fire and EMS calls in the west end,” Ricci said. “Many high-risk occupancies are protected with fire alarm and sprinkler systems, and the nursing care facilities are staffed with professional health care providers that can offer care prior to EMS arrival”
A reduced staff would equate to squads needing an additional two to five minutes on average to appear on scene in a given area in Sandusky.
In the most extreme case if station No. 7 is closed: Firefighters on Sandusky’s eastern end would need up to 12 minutes to arrive to a fire at the city’s westernmost point — but that’s only if a squad’s available. If all squads are busy, the arrival time would substantially rise.