Members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department unveiled their recommendation for purchasing a 75 foot ladder truck during a public forum Tuesday night at city hall.
Chief Charlie Parker said the department is suggesting that the mayor and aldermen include funds in the budget to make a down payment and enter into a five year lease purchase agreement. "Our recommendation is a 75 foot ladder truck with a 1,750 gallon a minute pump which gives us a 1,500 gallon a minute water way. It also has a 300 gallon tank and it carries hose and other equipment so we can use it as a first line engine also. We can count it as an engine and a ladder truck. I think we need to make a conscious effort to keep some of our (city reserve funds). We purchased our last fire truck in 2001. We did a lease purchase on that. We had the money in the bank to pay for it all then. At that particular time we got cheaper money to lease it and draw money off of the bank. That's probably not going to be the case this time. Interest does not draw very much. But, you don't have to spend all our capital outlay in one year. Our recommendation is to put a down payment down and do a lease purchase. We're looking at a five year lease purchase. This is a year to year lease. Once you make a substantial deposit, it is on a year to year lease so if you decide you don't want it in two years then you can give it back to them. That's not very smart on our end of it because you'll already have two years into it. We think the lease purchase is probably the best way to keep some money in the bank and still accomplish what we need," said Chief Parker.
Asked about the price of such a truck, Chief Parker said the costs vary but the price on the demo truck that the department tested recently was around $680,000.
Demo trucks, he said, are available for purchase. "We were at a weekend training class in Sevierville the weekend before last and up there we saw some demo trucks that are still available. Talking with some truck manufacturers, they are expecting raw price increases coming in the next month or two. The 2001 truck that we bought was a demo unit and we got it at a pretty substantial price difference (cheaper) than what we had actually bid (planned for in bid specs). It was already made. It had probably 99% of the specs that we had already specked out except for a few minor things they had to change. That's one way there could be a cheaper price for a truck. We can put it in the budget for next year or we could continue to wait. Its up to the citizens. Its up to the board. Our goal for the Smithville Fire Department is the protection of our citizens," said Chief Parker.
So why the need for a ladder truck?. "The Smithville Firefighters want to be able to extinguish these larger fires," said Chief Parker. We currently have the knowledge, personnel, and training to fight these larger fires, but we do not have the equipment to do so. There have been several of these fires in the past in Smithville from apartment fires to factory fires and we feel that an aerial (ladder truck) can significantly reduce the amount of time spent on an emergency scene and increase the safety of our firefighters by having the equipment to use to do it with. We need it (ladder truck) to access the roof of a one or two story building in our downtown district. We need it to access windows of two or three story apartment buildings or homes around Smithville. We need it to be able to put water above ground level where we need it. If we need to put it (water) in a second story window, we can't do that off of a ground ladder. We can, but in a small amount. With a ladder truck, we can operate the nozzle that's mounted on the end of the ladder, or we can do it remotely from the base. That nozzle can put 1,500 gallons of water a minute onto that fire. When we get there in the first crucial minutes of a fire, if we don't get to it really quick it'll get bigger really quick and that makes it harder for us to fight. It makes it more dangerous for us to fight. This is one thing we're really pushing for. To be able to get the water above ground where we need it, when we need it, and how much. With the nozzle locked back, we can use the ladder in rescue mode, picking people out of windows or off of roofs," said Chief Parker.
Chief Parker said if the city were to purchase a ladder truck, the department would also have the 2001 truck and would like to keep the 1992 truck, to be used as a reserve unit.
Resident and former Mayor Waniford Cantrell said he is sold on the idea that the city needs a ladder truck and the plan proposed is "the best deal around", he said. "As far as I'm concerned, time's a wasting. We need to go ahead and get serious about buying this. I see no problem for us looking for a demonstrator and if we go with a down payment and a five year lease program, you're not going to get a much better deal than that. I guarantee, I can find enough money in this budget if you need any help, finding that down payment money. I'd like to see the council get serious and let Charlie (Parker) get some definite money figures and go ahead and purchase one of these things on a purchase lease plan and spread that cost out. This is going to be the best deal in town," said Cantrell
Aside from members of the fire department and aldermen, the meeting was attended by only a few citizens. No one spoke out in opposition to the proposal.