It’s supposed to be a welcome neighborhood event - a new firehouse for Tacony, complete with artwork representing the neighorhood’s longstanding relationship with Disston Saw.
But with the city’s firefighters furious at Mayor Nutter for continually appealing the new contract awarded to them by arbitrators and for trying to implement a plan that would transfer some of the department’s most experienced firefighters, Tuesday’s opening of Engine 38, a new $6.7 million facility will include protests, too.
Local 22 of the firefighters’ union says Engine 38 was originally scheduled to open Saturday but was postponed to accommodate Nutter’s schedule.
“That means he cares more about his own press than about the welfare of the firefighters,” said Bill Gault, the head of the union. The original Engine 38 was knocked down to make way for a new access ramp to I-95. Gault says his members are happy about the opening but disappointed at the alleged delay.
As evidence, the firefighters' spokesman Frank Keel offered a memo from Fire Commissioner LLoyd Ayers saying "city officials" would visit Engine 38 Saturday. The memo does not mention the mayor or an opening ceremony specifically.
Nutter’s spokesman Mark McDonald said there never was a plan for the Engine 38 ribbon-cutting to occur on Saturday. He noted that the original firehouse has been closed since 2009.
He said the firefighters should focus on the positive news - a new station, complete with a system that removes diesel fumes produced by the trucks from the facility.
"This is a major investment by the city in public safety at a time when money has been scarce, so there is a real commitment here. . ," McDonald said.
He said he had no idea where the union got the idea that the mayor was supposed to attend a Saturday event at the new station.
"I can’t even begin to parse the bizarre utterances of Frank Keel and company," McDonald said.
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