South Baltimore residents are hoping to gather soon around the firehouse at Riverside and Fort avenues and hear a Fire Department communique marking the reactivation of Company 12.
About two years ago, as a cost-saving measure, the city closed the firehouse and deactivated Company 12. But it could soon reopen under a tentative deal worked out between Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Councilmen Joseph J. DiBlasi and Edward L. Reisinger.
Besides saving the city at least $2 million, the proposal could result in a permanent site for the South Baltimore Homeless Shelter.
Under the plan, Engine Company 26, at West and Leadenhall streets, would be moved to the vacant firehouse at Riverside and Fort avenues. The site that now houses Engine 26 would then be available for the shelter.
Over the past four years, the shelter has been moved back and forth between Christ Lutheran Church, near the Inner Harbor, and the Mayor's Station on Wall Street in the heart of the South Baltimore peninsula.
The site of a former gas station at Hanover and West streets was being considered as a permanent spot for the shelter. But area businesses oppose the shelter because they don't want it close to the business district.
It also would be expensive to relocate the shelter at the former gas station site. The conversion would require the removal of underground storage tanks, the razing of an existing structure and the construction of a new building.
Timothy Williams, director of the shelter, said he was unaware of the proposal worked out between the mayor and the councilmen. But Williams said his primary goal was to find a permanent site for the shelter.
The deal, which has been approved by several key community and business organizations, now awaits action by the city Board of Fire Commissioners.
The mayor has sent a letter to David Glenn, president of the board, requesting that the panel "study the proposal immediately with a goal of effecting it in the most efficient manner possible."
Last month, the city Board of Estimates approved $2 million for construction of a new fire station -- at an unspecified site -- that would house Engine Company 26 and Truck Company 6, now in the 1200 block of S. Hanover St.
"I was opposed to this because I thought the city could save $2 million by moving the two fire units into existing firehouses and use one of the firehouses for a permanent homeless shelter," said DiBlasi. "The mayor ultimately agreed with me. This is a win for everyone."
DiBlasi said Truck Company 6 will remain in its present location.
Joe McElfish, president of the Riverside-Park Community RTC Association, said the residents around Fort and Riverside have remained hopeful since Sept. 5, 1988, when Engine Company 12 was deactivated and the firehouse closed.