The Smithville Volunteer Fire Department may soon get an aerial ladder truck.
On a unanimous 5-0 vote, the Smithville City Council Monday night approved a motion offered by Alderman Shawn Jacobs to advertise for bids for a new or demonstration ladder truck and to fund it under a lease purchase plan.
Alderman Jacobs made the motion after reading a letter addressed to him from the wife of one of the city volunteer fire fighters. In the letter, Lori Poss, wife of John Poss made a plea for a ladder truck and for paid firefighters "It's the job that they train for hours on end because they care about our city and the people in it. This is why I have no problem asking our mayor, city aldermen, those running for these offices, and the citizens of Smithville to consider a full time department and a ladder truck. We do not ask our police officers to go into a domestic without a gun, nor do we ask our EMS to work a wreck without an ambulance. So why would we ask our firefighters to go to a building fully engulfed without the proper equipment and gear? We do not ask our other emergency services to be volunteers. So why should we expect our firefighters to volunteer their services when it is such a dangerous job?," she wrote.
In making the motion, Alderman Jacobs said "given the facts detailed in this letter, reaction from the recent fire department ladder truck informational meeting, and comments from numerous other city residents, I make the following motion. That the city immediately advertise for bids for a new or demonstration ladder truck meeting the specifications enumerated by Chief Parker and that said ladder truck be paid for under a lease purchase plan or financial arrangement as determined by this board as the plan most beneficial to the city. Since the city has more than the anticipated cost of the ladder truck in its financial reserves, this should result in no tax increase," said Alderman Jacobs.
This action comes almost three weeks after members of the fire department unveiled their recommendation for purchasing a 75 foot ladder truck during a public forum at city hall.
During that forum, 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.. 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. 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.
The city fire department would have a total of three trucks in the fleet with the addition of a ladder truck including a 2001 and a 1992 model.
Earlier in the meeting last night (Monday), concerned citizen Faye Sandosky suggested that the aldermen investigate further the need for a ladder truck as well as paid firefighters and then let those decisions be made in a public referendum. "Before buying a ladder truck, I think we need to know how many ladder truck necessary fires we have per year. We also need to define what we do with the two trucks we now own. Maybe if we have fewer than ten structure fires per year on average, maybe we don't need a full time force waiting at the station. I'm not clear on exactly what they would be doing. We, the citizens and taxpayers need to know how these initiatives separately or together affect the current tax base. So I think before the board starts serious deliberations about if and how to spend the citizens reserve funds, we need more facts based on what we have to have, not what we would like to have. I do want to be clear that our firemen certainly sacrifice a lot along with their families to keep us safe and I appreciate everything that they do. I thank them for everything they do. Finally, I just might add that an appropriate response to these two high ticketed initiatives might be a public referendum," said Sandosky.
Mayor Taft Hendrixson was absent Monday night due to an illness. Alderman Steve White, who serves as Vice Mayor, presided over the meeting.