Philly opens first new firehouse since 1997

January 8, 2013 2:57:28 PM PST
The City of Philadelphia cut the ribbon on a brand new firehouse today, the first built since 1997. But along with celebration and applause, there was outrage.

The ribbon cutting by the Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, flanked by school kids, went off without a hitch. But there were stressful moments at the new location of Engine 38, like a symbolic walkout by Local 22 members.

During the blessing of the $6.7 million firehouse, outside the union members chanted "Binding!", a reference to a disputed binding arbitration finding calling for pay raises that the Nutter administration has battled for 4 years by arguing that the city can't afford the raises.

The other long-smoldering dispute is Philadelphia's brown out program for different Philadelphia firehouses.

"They want to brag about how they are doing more with less," said Frank Keel, a spokesperson for Local 22, "Don't buy it. It is a recipe for disaster."

Local 22 today was ratcheting up its attacks on the Nutter administration, claiming the firehouse's opening was actually delayed several days until Nutter could attend.

"So once again this mayor shows he cares about his own ego, his own vanity more than the safety of the people in this community of Tacony," Keel added.

Philadelphia's fire commissioner, Lloyd Ayers, countered that the delay was because of equipment issues.

"The driving force was connectivity and making sure that we could get this station ready for runs," Ayers told reporters. "Not the mayor's schedule."

Another union charge is that the fire administration is cutting EMT staffing on engines.

"Each and every one of our engines are emergency medical technician staffed and they will remain so," Ayers said.

Finally, the union is talking about an effort to recall the mayor. Action News got Mayor Nutter's take on the issue: "Better use of their time may be actually trying to reach some reasonable resolution to the contractual issues at hand."

The new building for Engine 38 is an ecologically green building, went into service at 1 p.m. and firefighters there answered their first call 51 minutes later.