Fire station reopens after cost-cutting

Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran and several battalion chiefs were on hand Thursday morning as Fire Station 23 reopened, seven months after city officials temporarily closed the firehouse because of budgetary constraints.

The station, at 1545 Howell Mill Road near I-75, was shuttered in one of several cost-cutting measures by the city that also included putting city workers on a four-hour a week furlough.

The furloughs, which closed City Hall for most services on Fridays, ended on Wednesday.

The City Council voted 8-7 two weeks ago in favor of a property tax that finance officials said would bring in enough money to end the furloughs.

Cochran announced plans to close Station 23 in mid-December, saying that his staff and city officials would re-evaluate by June whether Atlanta's finances were strong enough to reopen the station.

The station's closing was criticized by Michael Wagoner, president of the nearby Berkeley Park Neighborhood Association.

"I can hire a private security company to patrol my neighborhood," he said in December. "But I cannot hire a company to put out a fire."

On Thursday morning, Wagoner was one of several neighbors at the station to welcome the first shift of returning firefighters.

"It's an exciting day for Berkeley Park and the whole west side in general," Wagoner said. "It's exciting to see the guys coming back in."

The station's reopening brings a "feeling of safety back," Wagoner said. "We're looking forward to hearing the sirens coming through the neighborhood again."