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Topic: City wants to close our Old Louisville firehouse, the oldest continuously active in the U.S.!


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Posted by frappyjohn (Msg), 2:32 pm Dec 25, 2008:
City wants to close our Old Louisville firehouse, the oldest continuously active in the U.S.!
(Thanks to Fred Nett for alerting us to this. The following is reposted from MySpace: Louisville Engine Co. 7 - frappy)

You heard it right, people. Mayor Abramson announced on December 10 that he is permanently closing Engine 7 of the Louisville Fire Department, the oldest continuously active firehouse in America, due to a projected budget shortfall! After cutting firefighter pay in November by about 8% (merry freakin' Christmas!) and pressuring other city workers to take a cut of at least 2%, Mayor Jerry Abramson announced a budget reduction plan that includes pay cuts, unpaid furloughs, reduced services from city agencies, charges on police officer's take-home cars, eliminating positions from the Louisville Fire Department and PERMANENTLY CLOSING THE GREATEST FIREHOUSE IN THE WORLD ON JANUARY 1ST!!! For more information about Engine Company No.7 and to experience the pride and passion of those committed to saving this firehouse, go to: myspace.com/louisville_engine7 * (TIP: To make the text in the foreground of the web page more readabke, simply left click and drag your cursor across the text to highlight it, or copy and paste to Word, Wordpad, or whatever word processing software you use.)

For an illustrated timeline of Engine No. 7’s remarkable history and experiences, all of it concurrent with the histories of Limerick and Old Louisville, go to MySpace Blog

This history is continued at MySpace blog

Sign up to join the discussion about the past and future of Engine Company No. 7 by joining the Engine 7 blog at http://signups.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=signup

Urge your circle of family and friends to do the same. Contact them and forward these hotlinks so they can become better informed regarding this controversy.

More LFD History

LFD Historical Summary by Year

Louisville’s Historic Firehouses

Engine 7 serves a big chunk of Downtown, historic Old Louisville and several of the beautiful surrounding neighborhoods. At over 2000 calls this year, our run volume is one of the highest in the city. The surrounding stations, which will have to pick up the slack in the absence of Engine 7, are busy companies also. MAKING THIS CUT COULD HAVE DISASTEROUS AND FAR REACHING RESULTS! It will undeniably affect citywide fire emergency response times and could well increase total annual fire deaths and firefighter injuries/deaths.

Don't let this happen. Go to , email our Mayor and tell him how foolish this is. Let him know that this is a voting issue and that people don't forget screwups like this. Call and leave Jerry a message with MetroCall at 311 or call his office number (502) 574-2003. Our Safety Director is named Bill Summers and his number is (502) 574-6869. Let them know that the Louisville Fire Department is not a service to play dice with!

In 1871 the Louisville Steam Engine Co. #7 was formed to serve “the southern suburbs”. Just 13 years earlier, Louisville was still served by volunteer fire companies, none of which were housed more than a block south of Jefferson Street. A significant rise in construction on properties South of Broadway occurred throughout the 1870’s, gradually transitioning farms and country estates into neighborhoods. The quarters of Engine 7 were considered cutting edge, at the time, being one of the early firehouses in Louisville actually built for that purpose. Architects sometimes note that 19th century firehouses often don’t share the dramatic, imposing appearance that courthouses and other government buildings from the time have. Linked with protecting lives and property, firehouses like Engine 7 have a “neighborly” look, rather than institutional. The LFD is an historic institution with many old stations, however no active firehouse has stood witness to as many passing days as Engine 7. This firehouse and the place it serves are truly one of kind in America. It’s area cannot be labeled. It is both residential and corporate. It is a racially and economically diverse area, as it has been since it was settled. In the same way, Engine 7 defies classification. It is very much a Downtown station, however it is equally a neighborhood firehouse. Engine 7's first alarm includes new construction and 150 year old buildings. Engine 7 protects multimillion-dollar high-rises and tall Old Louisville mansions as well as shotgun houses and apartment complexes. For 13 years prior to the establishment of Louisville Steam Engine Co #7, the LFD was an organized, professional, metropolitan fire department. As decades passed, old firehouses were razed and fire companies relocated. Neighborhoods have grown, withered and been reborn. While so much from those early days is gone or unrecognizable, Engine 7 has been a constant in the community it serves. It has changed over the last 130 years, as the rest of Downtown, Old Louisville and the Limerick neighborhood has, but in times of tragedy and desperation the primary source of aid for its neighbors has persistently been Engine 7. Remember to sign up to join the discussion about the past and future of Engine Company No. 7 by joining the Engine 7 blog at http://signups.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=signup

Please urge your circle of family and friends to do the same. Contact them and forward these hotlinks so they can become better informed regarding this controversy.

  • The Engine Company 7 Myspace page is neither affiliated with, nor specifically representative of the Louisville Fire Department, the City of Louisville or Metro Government. The media, information, opinions and comments on and linked to this site do not reflect the Louisville Fire Department, the City of Louisville or Metro Government. This page is operated by Engine 7 firefighters, only while off-duty, for the purposes of entertainment and the development of positive relationships within the community that the Louisville Fire Department serves. It is our hope that this page fosters pride in a historic and well loved firehouse, a respected department with a grand sense of tradition, the beautiful neighborhoods in Old Louisville, Limerick and Downtown Louisville, as well as pride in the vocation of professional firefighting in general.



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Posted by frappyjohn (Msg), 6:34 pm Dec 27, 2008:
Some reasons why the decision to disband Co. 7 should be reconsidered
(Thanks again to Fred Nett for supplying the following to us. - frappy)

BELOW ARE SOME REASONS WHY THAT DECISION TO DISBAND NO. 7 ENGINE COMPANY SHOULD BE RECONSIDERED AND REVERSED:  (Discussion of “Urban Services Tax District,” p.2, and No. 7 Engine Company, p.6)

Local Governments Consolidation and "The Urban Services Tax District" under Metro Government

In 2000-2001, when City/County pro-merger/consolidation forces lead by former three-term City Mayor Jerry Abramson were hyping the benefits of a consolidated metro government in their effort to garner voter support for the measure on the ballot, Jerry Abramson repeatedly promised and assured taxpayers in the City of Louisville -- now "the Urban Services Tax District" --  that consolidation of the government of the City of Louisville with that of Jefferson County would result in neither any increase in property tax NOR any loss, diminution, or cutting of services to residents and taxpayer property owners within the City of Louisville. (It is worth noting that the merger/consolidation measure presented to voters was a bit short on details as to how a prospective consolidated metro government would be structured -- the sole statutory language reading as follows:

KRS 67C.137 Question of consolidation to be submitted to voters.

(1) In every county containing a city of the first class in existence on July 14, 2000, a question regarding the consolidation of the city of the first class and their county as provided by KRS 67C.101 to 67C.137 shall be submitted to the voters of the county at the regular election to be held in November of 2000. The election shall be governed by the general election laws of the Commonwealth. Approval of the proposal shall require a simple majority of those voting on the question.

(2) The question to be submitted to the voters shall read as follows: "Are you in favor of combining the City of........................... and............................ County into a single government with a mayor and legislative council, keeping all other cities, fire protection districts and special districts in existence?”)

The voters accepted the sales pitch, and the City of Louisville (chartered in 1821 as Kentucky’s first city) was dissolved, whereas the 85+/- smaller second through sixth class cities in Jefferson County were allowed to retain autonomy. (List: http://www.jeffersoncountyclerk.org/voter-info/eleoffsmcty.pdf . Mayor Abramson on January 6, 2003 implemented the new Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government. KRS 67C.147 governs the tax structure, tax rates, and level of services to be provided in the former City of Louisville after consolidation with Jefferson County. The statute also provided for the imposition of different tax rates in an “Urban Services Tax District.”

KRS 67C.147 (1) In order to maintain the tax structure, tax rates, or level of services in the area of the consolidated local government formerly comprising the city of the first class, the legislative council of a consolidated local government may provide in the manner described in this chapter for taxes and services within the area comprising the former city of the first class which are different from the taxes and services which are applicable in the remainder of the county. These differences may include differences in tax rates upon the class of property which includes the surface of the land, differences in ad valorem tax rates upon personal property, and differences in tax rates upon insurance premiums.

(2) Any difference in the ad valorem tax rate on the class of property which includes the surface of the land in the portion of the county formerly comprising the city of the first class and in the portion of the county other than that formerly comprising the city of the first class may be imposed directly by the consolidated local government council. Any change in these ad valorem tax rates shall comply with KRS 68.245, 132.010, 132.017, and 132.027 and shall be used for services as provided by KRS 82.085.

Indeed Metro Government has continuously assessed and levied against taxpayer property owners within the newly-designated "Urban Services Tax District" (formerly the City of Louisville) a special tax on real property (which “includes the surface of the land”) to provide and maintain at a minimum the pre-consolidation level all those urban services which had heretofore been provided to City residents within the former City of Louisville.

"Urban Services Tax District" taxpayers received last month their 2008 tax statements reflecting a tax rate of 0.36660 per $100 of PVA assessed value for those “URBAN SERV DIST” services. "Urban Services Tax District" taxpayers also, of course, must pay the 0.12255 tax rate per $100 assessed value levied on all taxpayers within Jefferson County (METRO RE TAXES). In short, "Urban Services Tax District" taxpayers pay Metro Government a real property tax of $4.92 per thousand dollars value, while taxpayers outside the "Urban Services Tax District" pay only $1.25 per thousand dollars value. In other words, "Urban Services Tax District" taxpayers pay almost four times as much in real estate taxes for Metro Government services as do County taxpayers outside the "Urban Services Tax District!" And this has been the case each and every year since consolidation in 2003. This is in addition to any other taxes, such as those on occupation (in lieu of on income, which is prohibited by law), business profits, and tax on policies of life and property title insurance assessed by local government. And, of course, all County taxpayer owners of real estate, regardless of place of residence, must pay the same $1.22 per thousand dollars value to Kentucky and the same $6.25 per thousand dollars value for support of the Jefferson County Public Schools. Thus, for 2008, "Urban Services Tax District" taxpayers will shoulder a real estate tax burden of $12.39 per thousand dollars of taxable value.

The special “URBAN SERV DIST” tax on real estate is not, however, the only source of Metro Government revenue levied specifically and, it now appears inequitably, from within the "Urban Services Tax District." Metro Government also levies a special "Urban Services Tax District" tax on tangible personalty, bank deposits and life insurance shares, occupations, group health insurance premiums, public service corporations (utilities), etc. For a relatively complete listing and description of major sources of metro government revenues from within the "Urban Services Tax District," see the table on pages 8-10 below or follow this hotlink: Source: http://www.louisvilleky.gov/NR/rdonlyres/010C4DC8-7C75-4F6F-82A0-41A67D66D309/0/RevenueDescription.pdf (081217 @ 2019) As regards the “URBAN SERV DIST” tax on real estate, keep in mind that prior to consolidation, City of Louisville taxpayer property owners paid both a City property tax on real estate and motor vehicles, as well as the County tax levied on real estate and motor vehicles. Jefferson County taxpayer property owners outside the City of Louisville paid only the County tax, and hence were not entitled to urban services under the new consolidated Metro Government. To this date, County taxpayer property owners outside the "Urban Services Tax District" still do not pay for those urban services; instead they obtain fire suppression services from volunteer or municipal fire departments (including the Louisville Fire Department if contracted for with Metro Government), and contract privately for solid waste disposal, recycling, leaf or snow removal, and other services. As mentioned above, they also pay for Metro Government services the property taxes levied against all owners of real property within Jefferson County at large, just the same as do the taxpayer property owners within the "Urban Services Tax District."

Those urban services previously provided to City of Louisville residents and paid for solely by taxpayer property owners within the former City of Louisville -- now "Urban Services Tax District" -- included, among other things, road maintenance/improvement, codes enforcement, emergency preparedness and response, the cleanup of vacant lots and demolition of dilapidated structures, libraries, administration and maintenance of City parks and green spaces, and the administration of ordinances governing landmark buildings and historic districts. Most importantly however, those urban services included street lighting, sidewalk repair, weekly garbage pickups via the new 90-gallon rollaway cans, as well as weekly pickups of yard wastes and recyclable materials (orange bins), quarterly junk pickups, snow removal, and maintenance of all public safety divisions -- Police Fire, EMS --both facilities and personnel, at pre-consolidation levels. Taxpayer property owners outside the former City of Louisville neither paid for nor qualified for these special urban services, which had not heretofore been provided its citizens by Jefferson County Government.

This “URBAN SERV DIST” tax is levied solely against owners of real property within the former City of Louisville. County taxpayer owners outside "the Urban Services Tax District" do not pay this tax. Nonetheless, the variety and level of Metro Government services extended and delivered to areas outside "the Urban Services Tax District" has consistently increased (e.g. police, housing inspection and codes enforcement, demolition, parks, sanitation, streets and road repair, snow removal, solid waste services such as storm debris removal, etc.) ever since the two governments were consolidated and the City's twelve Aldermen became a minority on the 26-member Metro Council. Yet there has been no increase in taxes on Metro Government taxpayers to support those enhanced services. Those living outside the "Urban Services Tax District" have been getting urban services without paying for them, -- in effect getting a free ride, a demonstration of their wisdom in voting to support the consolidation of County and City governments.

Based on news accounts, none of the reported $20 million shortfall in Metro Government revenue for FY 2009 has been attributed to any reduction of real property taxes paid into the “URBAN SERV DIST” account by "Urban Services Tax District" taxpayer property owners. Neither is it alleged that revenue has diminished from any other tax levied solely within the "Urban Services Tax District" or from the Metro Government ad valorem tax levied against all Metro taxpayer real estate owners. Indeed, Metro Finance has estimated that, due to a partial reassessment of real estate by the PVA, property tax collections in FY 2008-2009 were expected to increase by 5.2% over the previous fiscal year. Rather, Mayoral spokespersons have attributed the shortfall to lagging receipts of occupational and business profits taxes occasioned by the national and regional economic distress brought on by Wall Street’s meltdown fiasco with mortgage-backed securities, credit default swaps, hedge funds, and other shenanigans ongoing. Indeed, due to prior PVA reassessments and the housing bubble, the tax assessed value of real property within the "Urban Services Tax District" had actually increased consistently over the assessment years 2003 through 2008. Furthermore, tax rates assessed and levied against real property have not been reduced since the creation of Metro Government. Thus, there is no justification for cutting urban services paid for by the "Urban Services Tax District" tax on real property and paid solely by "Urban Services Tax District" taxpayers, and not by County property owners as a whole. "Urban Services Tax District" taxpayers are being hit with a double whammy. They are paying four times as much as other Jefferson County taxpayers for a lower level of urban services which the Mayor had promised would never be cut or reduced.

During the six years since inception of the new Metro Government in January 2003, there has been no public accounting, report, or discussion by either the Mayor or Metro Council as to revenues generated by the special "Urban Services Tax District" taxes, fees, penalties, etc. Nor has there been an accounting as to how those revenues have in fact been spent. There has been no comprehensive assessment to date as to whether "promises made" and assurances given prior to local governments' consolidation have in fact been "promises kept."

Discussion of Fire Engine Company No. 7 follows:

Fire Engine Company No. 7 Mayor Jerry Abramson announced on December 10 that City roads would not be paved for six months, that some $1.4 million in roads projects would be eliminated and that $454,000 in sidewalk repairs also had been eliminated. He cut out intersection redesign work at 18th and Broadway, an HVAC system for the Main Branch of the Library, downtown street signs and traffic signal improvements. He cut funds for a bike lane across the K&I bridge while still funding a project to reopen and render accessible the Big Four Bridge and build a bikeway there. He stated that his $521 million budget for FY2008-2009 was incurring a deficit of $20 million (i.e. 3.8%) which by law had to be eliminated by the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

To this end, the Mayor also announced his decision to disband Engine Company No. 7 and to close its firehouse at 821 S. 6th near 6th and York, reassigning elsewhere its twelve (12) firefighters as part of his plan to address this year’s anticipated revenue shortfall. (The Mayor’s budget last fiscal year had a $10 million shortfall, part of which he also appears to have made up by cutting services in the "Urban Services Tax District".) The Mayor announced, too, the reassignment to firefighting duties of twelve on-scene safety officers, whose job it had been to keep track of firefighters’ locations in burning buildings should those firefighters become trapped and need rescue. Such decisions, if implemented come January, would constitute a loss, diminution, or cutting of services to residents and taxpayer property owners within Old Louisville and nearby neighborhoods, a significant portion of the "Urban Services Tax District" comprised of the former City of Louisville.

The area served by the 7th Engine Firehouse is population-dense and includes many high-rise facilities for the elderly and disabled -- Treyton Oaks, St. Catherine Court, Hillebrand House, Puritan Apartments, Baptist Towers, Chapel House, Friendship House -- as well as several other high- and mid-rise apartment buildings. No. 7 Engine Company firefighters are all EMTs and serve as first responders to calls from these facilities. No. 7 Engine firefighters make about 2,000 runs each year, many of them to these facilities, and many of them medical.

The area served by the 7th Engine Firehouse also includes many social service agencies, schools, public and other institutional buildings, and churches.   (Remember the fire that gutted the First Unitarian Church at 4th and York, just two blocks from the firehouse. That should inform us as to just how quickly a fire in old, dried, varnished timbers can get out of control.)

The area also includes many housing units for persons with special needs due to mental disability or chemical (drug/alcohol) dependency, halfway houses, as well as shelter for the homeless and destitute. With winter comes the usual rash of fires due to carelessness and neglect. And an increase in incidence of arson fires always seems to accompany difficult financial times with high incidence of mortgage foreclosures.

The vast majority of the building stock in the area served is 80-130 years old, much of it constructed of materials that are dry, brash, and highly flammable. Furthermore, much of the housing stock in the area is built on small, narrow lots and the proximity of residences/buildings puts adjacent structures at greater risk in the case of communicable fire.

Many believe, despite the Mayor’s assurances to the contrary, that longer response times -- and hence increased risk of greater damage -- will result from loss of fire staff and equipment at the 7th Engine Company firehouse.

Both of these factors immediately above may lead to increased premiums for fire insurance on properties owned by Old Louisville/Limerick residents.

The 7th Engine Firehouse is not only a Landmark of the City of Louisville, but constitutes a visible government presence in the Limerick area of Old Louisville. It also has the distinction of being the oldest continuously-manned firehouse in the United States. It has been in continuous service 24/7/365 and every February 29th since 1871. It would diminish the neighborhood and the City's repute to lose this distinction by the unnecessary closing of what is in fact today still a vital, contributing part of the City's emergency response system.

According to news accounts, Metro Government has an untapped $97,200,000 in the General Fund’s Reserve account ("the rainy day fund”), of which $65,300,000 has not been earmarked for specific projects and could therefore be used to meet all or a substantial portion of the Mayor's anticipated twenty million dollar shortfall this fiscal year. It seems plausible that even some of the earmarked funds might also be reallocable for more urgent needs than were contemplated at the time those funds were originally reserved. In any case, the current circumstances warrant use of those funds. You don't need a weatherman to tell you when it's raining.

Furthermore, at this time of fiscal crisis, Metro Government continues to press forward and expend funds on multiple development projects promoted by Mayor Abramson – Waterfront Park Phase III and the Big Four Bridge connection to Jeffersonville, the Riverfront Arena, the Cordish Center City entertainment complex to complement Fourth Street Live, and the Ohio River Bridges Project. Indeed, rather than proceeding with construction of approaches and design of the East End Bridge, Metro has repurposed use of the $410 already appropriated by Kentucky for that bridge to advance the redesign of the Spaghetti Junction Interchange downtown.

According to Louisville Professional Firefighters, more than 300 Division of Fire positions have been eliminated over the six years to date since consolidation of local governments. To any reasonable person, this would suggest that there have been cuts in service to the Urban Services District residents, despite the fact that Urban Services Tax District taxpayers pay four times as much real estate tax to Metro Government as do suburban taxpayers and taxpayers in the 83 other municipalities in Jefferson County. And of course, the real estate tax is not the only Metro tax for which USD taxpayers pay an inequitable share.

Urban Services Tax District residents likewise suffered a cut in service when the Louisville Police Department was consolidated with the much smaller County Department and was then reorganized. For example, the coverage territory of the former Fifth District Police headquartered in Central Park vastly increased after reorganization into the Fourth Division. The district was hyperinflated, with a substantial increase in number of runs/responses but no appreciable increase in personnel or equipment. Any reasonable person would conclude that there is no way Urban Services Tax District residents are receiving the same level or quality of service as had been the case prior to reorganization.

Neither City firefighters nor other Metro employees, for that matter, should be furloughed, nor should urban services within the "Urban Services Tax District" be in any way reduced as part of the Mayor’s plan to balance his budget. "Urban Services Tax District" residents should not have to shoulder any of the burden of balancing the Metro budget beyond that same burden which is borne by taxpayers outside the "Urban Services Tax District." And only those services paid for by revenues other than those generated by the "Urban Services Tax District" tax on real estate should be affected by efforts to trim the budget. The root of the problem this year, as it was last when the special dedicated library tax was defeated, is expending or committing public funds before they are in hand – a particularly bad practice when state law mandates that you pay as you play. The appropriate, lawful way for Metro Government to proceed to address its anticipated current and foreseeable future revenue shortfalls is provided for in KRS 132.027. Metro Government should avail itself of the remedies provided by statute, and not try to balance its books and make itself whole at the expense of either Metro employees or “Urban Services Tax District” taxpayers. What is needed and what Urban Services Tax District taxpayers and their elected representatives should be demanding is a comprehensive accounting -- an independent audit and public report detailing all Urban Services District taxes assessed and levied for each of the six years 2003-2008 (including any interest or investment income earned on those tax accounts, as well as all other Urban Services Tax District special tax revenues collected by Metro Government) and a report as to where and for what purposes those revenues were expended.

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