E. Spencer discusses purchase of new firetruck

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Steve Huffman
EAST SPENCER ó Members of the East Spencer Board of Alderpersons on Tuesday got some bad news concerning the condition of the town’s firetrucks.
Josh Smith, a battalion chief with the town’s fire department, told board members the department’s newest fire truck ó front engine No. 1 ó is 16 years old. He said the National Fire Prevention Association recommends that a department’s front engine, the first typically used to respond to a call, be no older than 15 years.
“That can be a problem,” Smith said of the fact that the engine is older than recommended.
He spoke to board members during a called meeting at Town Hall.
That’s not the end of the problem, Smith said. He said the department’s engine No. 2 is a 1978 American LaFrance. The National Fire Prevention Association, Smith said, recommends that fire engines more than 30 years of age be retired.
He warned that should the pumper on that older truck go out while firefighters are responding to a call, or should the vehicle be involved in an accident, the town faces the possibility of a lawsuit.
“It could come back to haunt you,” Smith warned of the town using a truck that a national organization said should have already been put out to pasture.
He offered a solution in the form of a new fire engine that Smith said he and other East Spencer firefighters have stumbled upon at a bargain price.
Smith said the truck he was referring to is a 2008 HME that’s being sold by First Class Fire Apparatus of Monroe. He said the truck has been used as a demonstrator, driven only to shows across the Southeast.
Smith said the truck shows about 10,000 miles on its odometer, but its pumper has never been used.
Best of all, Smith said, the truck would normally sell for about $375,000 to $400,000, but First Class has offered it to East Spencer for $296,000. He warned board members that if they pass on the opportunity to purchase the truck, they’ll likely spend close to $500,000 for a similar vehicle in the not-too-distant future.
“You’re probably asking, ‘How can we afford it?’ ” Smith said. “The question is, ‘How can we not afford it?’ ”
He warned that officials with First Class have been holding the truck for East Spencer for several weeks, and said another fire department has expressed an interest in the vehicle.
Asked the deadline for when East Spencer needed to let First Class know the town wanted the truck, Smith said, “Probably yesterday. They can’t hold it anymore without something in writing.”
He also offered details on how the town might finance the truck. Smith said payments for 12 years would be $39,971 annually. He said the town and firefighters already have $34,044 raised toward the first year’s payment, and said securing the additional $5,290 could probably be managed without a lot of trouble.
The second-year payment wouldn’t be required until the town had owned the truck for a year.
Board members admitted they were excited about the possibility of buying the truck. Mayor Erma Jefferies said firefighters had called her to the front of Town Hall to hear East Spencer’s current front engine No. 1 as it passed.
“It was the loudest noise you’ve ever heard,” Jefferies said. “It sounded like it was falling apart.”
Smith said that truck needs about $3,200 in repairs.
But board members said it’d be at least their next regularly scheduled meeting, on April 6, before they could make a decision on purchasing a new truck. They said that even if they wanted to vote Tuesday for the truck, law prohibited them from doing so since the meeting was a called one.
“It’s an excellent deal,” Jefferies said of the truck. “But the board has to decide about affordability. We’ll be looking at the budget and working on this. We’re praying that the truck will stay there.”
Despite not making a formal commitment to purchase the truck, several board members agreed with Jefferies that the vehicle seemed a good deal.
Alderperson Phronice Johnson was only partially joking when she said, “Go on, go get the truck.”
Alderpersons John Noble and Theodore Gladden said they weren’t opposed to the purchase, but said the town needed to carefully examine financing before making a commitment. Someone also suggested a third party be called in to examine the truck and the offer being made East Spencer.
Smith said he’d have firefighters from a neighboring fire department look over the truck and the offer before reporting back to board members.