PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — Petersburg firefighters are outraged after the city shut down one of its four fire stations due to financial concerns. The city manager told 8News that Fire Station #4 closed to save money and likely won’t be reopen any time soon because of returning mold.
Over the weekend, firefighters were told to get their things or else they would be thrown out. City manager Aretha Ferrell-Benavides said she “wasn’t a part of those conversations” over how the situation was handled, but apologized on Monday.
“That’s not how I operate and that’s not how my operations should operate,” she said. “I do apologize for those individuals.”
Firefighters said they’re afraid to speak out over fears of retaliation from city officials. The station will merge with Station 5, which is a couple miles away. However, the first responders say their response times will suffer.
“The fire protection is just going to be cut big time,” said Gene Beemer, a retired city firefighter representing the first responders.”The more tools you take away which is a fire station, an engine company, people, you’re taking away their way of saving lives.”
Ferrell-Benavides says Station #4 is shutting down again because of mold inside the building and as part of citywide budget cuts.
“We realized that we need to make some big decisions and that was the recommendations to merge those two stations together,” she told 8News on Monday.
The city manager said the city will lose out on an estimated $1.8 million of revenue for this fiscal year due to the coronavirus. It’s estimated the city will lose more than $4 million in the following fiscal year.
“What do we do to make sure we do not end in a deficit,” Ferrell-Benavides said.
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