Citizens who live on the southeast side of Mount Pleasant hope a second meeting about the closing of the Lake Park fire station – this one with South Shore Fire Chief Robert Stedman – attracts residents from all corners of the village.
“This decision affects more than just the people and business owners on this side of town,” said Paula Huck, co-owner of Wells Brothers Pizza. “When calls are answered here from the other stations – including the one out in Caledonia – that puts the rest of the village at risk.”
After a fire on Mead Street gutted a vacant home in May and forced the evacuation of nearby houses, residents say it took longer than the 10 minutes cited by SSFD for crews to arrive. The group Let’s Reopen the Lake Park Station came together a few weeks later.
Village Trustees Sonny Havn, John Hewitt and Rick McCluskey attended and listened to residents’ concerns about the station closing and they assured people that the neighborhood hasn’t been forgotten though they did admit to it being neglected.
Stedman announced last fall that Lake Park would close and personnel would be redeployed to other SSFD locations to save money and increase efficiencies within the department, McCluskey told residents at that first meeting.
“We needed an administrative fire chief to make the fire department more efficient,” he said. “Overtime was out of control and now that has been greatly reduced, but we understand where you’re coming from and as long as we work together, things can change.”
Mike Langendorf, a member of the family who owns the Draeger-Langendorf funeral home, said his family alone generates $40,000 in property taxes every year, and he just doesn’t understand reductions in public safety budgets.
“The last cuts should be public safety,” he said. “I see the fire department as our safety and the police department as our security. Those are the two most important services the village provides.”
After several others spoke, many echoing both Huck and Langendorf, Diana Valencia summed up everyone’s view when she said the goal is to prevent a crisis.
“We are talking about preventing a crisis,” she said. “Closing Station 7 will create a crisis so we are demanding, not asking, to not have a crisis.”
Stedman will attend a second meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. at Gregg Chapel Christian Church, 2237 Howe Street. He told The Journal Times that residents might have incorrect response times and he wants everyone to have accurate information.
“From our perspective we believe some of the residents have incorrect information … and we hope to correct that information and show them what our response times are,” he is quoted as saying.