NEW BEDFORD — At-Large City Councilor Brian Gomes presented a petition to the City Clerk on Thursday night that he said contained 1,164 signatures of New Bedford residents who are opposed to the city’s plan to shut down Fire Station 11.

“The battle continues,” said Gomes, who later explained that residents handed him their petition seconds after he walked into the City Council Chambers for Thursday night’s public meeting.

A few protesters held up signs urging city officials to “Keep New Bedford Safe, Prioritize Public Safety,” as Gomes, the chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee, criticized Mayor Jon Mitchell for his administration’s plan this month to decommission Engine 11, which is housed at 754 Brock Ave.

“This mayor doesn’t want to listen. He’s going to put that South End in jeopardy,” Gomes said after the City Council meeting. He argued that closing Station 11 would leave the peninsula and large swaths of the South End vulnerable in the event of a major fire or emergency.

“You’re playing Russian roulette with the city at this point,” Gomes said.

In a recent prepared statement, Fire Chief Paul Coderre, Jr., explained the decision to shut down Station 11. He said the move would allow the Fire Department to end rolling blackouts, which he said would save the department up to $500,000 in overtime expenses.

Coderre also said that taking Engine 11 offline would not hamper response times along Brock Avenue because Engine 6, which is based at 151 Brock Ave., overlaps Engine 11’s coverage area. Coderre added that the new South End Public Safety Center, which is expected to open on Brock Avenue in Spring 2021, will shift Engine 6 and Ladder 3’s coverage area further south.

But those assurances have not soothed South End residents or the city firefighters’ union that have protested the mayor’s plan. Gomes said residents cannot afford to wait a year and a half without adequate protection until the new public safety center opens.

The petition contained handwritten and online signatures. Trevor Chasse, a West End resident who signed the petition, said he believes “a lot of people just don’t understand about the importance of Station 11" to public safety.

“I think you got to put public safety first,” Chasse said.

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