Smithville Fire Department Renews Request for Aerial Ladder Truck

March 1, 2011
Dwayne Page
Charlie Parker
City Fire Department Seeks Aerial Ladder Truck similar to vehicle shown here
City Fire Department Seeks Aerial Ladder Truck similar to vehicle shown here

Smithville Fire Chief Charlie Parker and members of the city fire department met with the Mayor and Aldermen Monday night in an informal workshop to discuss the purchase of an aerial ladder truck for the City of Smithville.

The aldermen set aside $400,000 in capital outlay funds in this year's budget to go toward the purchase of a used 100 foot ladder truck, if a suitable one could be found

Chief Parker, during Monday night's workshop, said after reviewing the city's five to ten year plan based on needs, the department would like to propose purchasing a new or demo model 75 foot aerial truck. "We're proposing to the city to purchase a 75 foot aerial truck for the City of Smithville. We've been looking for the last several months, doing a needs assessment for the city, searching for the vehicle we think would give us the most bang for the buck. So we've come up with a 75 foot aerial truck which would meet the needs, not just for now, but for our five year plan and also for our ten year plan. This truck would not only give us an aerial device, but it could also qualify as a ladder company which would still give us our ISO credit for pump capacity as well as for aerial capacity. It's kind of a win-win situation."

"We're looking for a little newer model now than we were before (with a proposed 100 foot used ladder truck) to cover our five year and ten year plan," said Chief Parker. At the present time, we have two fire trucks, one truck is ten years old and the other one is nineteen years old. We're hoping to replace the nineteen year old truck, within the next four to five years, so that we won't have something considered antique status as one of our first line vehicles. But we'd still like to keep that truck (to be replaced) as a reserve vehicle. We have two engines right now with no reserve at all, so this would actually provide us a reserve truck for when we have large commercial fires or if we should have to provide mutual aid assistance to one of our neighboring departments, we would still be covered in the city."

Chief Parker said if the city decides to buy an aerial truck, the newer the better. "We're still in the hunt. We're looking for a good demo truck. It's hard to find one that's real new because good quality trucks are hard to come by, but we're looking at a newer vehicle or a demo vehicle that has some wear just in showing it around. With a demo, we could still get a new vehicle warranty, but it would also help with regard to maintenance and keep from having a lot of extra expense as you would have with a used vehicle. We had considered going with a 100 foot used truck. We looked at several factors such as the sheer size of the truck, the maneuverability of the vehicle around all the city streets of Smithville, and the number of people it would take to operate that vehicle. We also considered the pump capacities and the amount of water we could put out. The 75 foot truck is a smaller vehicle but it's a better fit for our department at this time. We can get into more places and we can use it on more fires than we could with the other vehicle (100 foot ladder truck).

The cost to purchase a newer 75 foot aerial truck would be significantly more than the amount the city has allocated to purchase a used 100 foot ladder truck, but Chief Parker said a newer truck could be bought through a lease-purchase plan, without the city having to raise property taxes or dip into the general reserve fund to pay for it. " We've been looking at some demo units just a few months old and they're priced in the $600,000 to $650,000 range but there are deals on other demo units depending upon the age of the trucks If you start looking at brand new trucks ordered per specs, they'll probably be in the $700,000 to $750,000 range depending upon the equipment in the specs. One of the biggest assets of a newer vehicle is the payment options that come with it. If you look at a used vehicle, there are very little payment options. If you've got the cash, you can buy the vehicle. With the purchase of a new vehicle, there are several payment options you can look at including lease-purchase plans. The last vehicle we bought, the 2001 truck, we did that on a lease-purchase for three years. If we bought a new, or demo truck, that would give the city more flexibility on payment options and we wouldn't have to pull all of the money out of the city's reserves to do it or we could spend the money we have in capital outlay now ($400,0000) and lease the balance of that on a two, three, or five year plan. So it gives us more flexibility on buying a truck, being able to better afford it in these tough economic times, while getting more of a vehicle that we need. We're looking at doing this (making this purchase) without a tax increase, spreading out the payments, so that the city residents can get the benefits of the truck. We're hoping that with the addition of this truck, and a few more things, we can continue our ISO rating, and try to lower it to reduce some of the insurance rates for our citizens in Smithville."

According to Chief Parker the city needs an aerial or ladder truck, not only to help fight fires at large industrial buildings and two and three story structures, but also at many one story buildings in the city with facades that currently make it very difficult for firefighters to reach the roofs, in the event of a fire.

The aldermen have asked Chief Parker to come back at a future meeting with a few specific options for them to consider.

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