The Atlanta City Council voted Monday to shift $1.1 million in the budget to reopen what was the city’s oldest fire station, despite Mayor Shirley Franklin’s vow to veto the legislation.
Some council members said they may have to pursue legal means to determine whether they or the mayor have the authority to decide the future of Fire Station 7.
“The only place this ends up getting resolved is in [Fulton County] Superior Court,” said Councilman H. Lamar Willis, an attorney. “The question then becomes are we prepared to spend citizen funds to fight that battle?”
Faced with a $14.6 million budget gap, Franklin last month ordered the closing of the station near West End Mall and the Atlanta University Center. The mayor ultimately cut the budget by $21.6 million, citing concerns from finance officials that the city’s sales tax revenue will fall below expectations.
Council members have argued Fire Station 7 should be reopened because they fear slower response times to fires and medical emergencies. The station, which opened in 1910, had the sixth-highest call volume of the city’s 32 fire stations.
The mayor and fire department officials have said the concerns are unwarranted because there are four other fire stations within three miles of the station. Fire officials also noted Fire Station 7 was the costliest station house to operate.
“In today’s world it is simply not possible to justify the expenditure of funds that have no impact on the delivery of city services,” Franklin said in a letter sent to the council last week.
The station’s closing sparked widespread community outrage. More than two dozen Atlantans spoke Monday in favor of reopening the station.
“You must keep Fire Station 7 open,” said Juanita Gardner, who said she’s lived in the city for 48 years.
Council members debated the issue for about 90 minutes Monday. They approved a plan to take a portion of money from nearly every city agency to come up with the $1.1 million to reopen the station and staff it. Council members did not specify how the cuts should be made. Councilwoman Felicia Moore said her colleagues should specify how to make the cuts.
Anne Fauver was the lone council member who voted against reopening the station, saying she wasn’t sure the numbers used to determine the funding plan are accurate. Fauver said she is also worried how the changes will affect city operations.