April 3, 2018
By: Dwayne Page
The City of Smithville has sold its oldest fire engine to the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department.
During Monday night’s regular monthly meeting, the Smithville Aldermen voted 3 to 1 to accept the county’s bid of $30,000 to purchase the 1992 fire truck. The only other bid came from the Town of Alexandria, totaling $28,770. The Alexandria town government bid $27,270 plus $1,500 by the Alexandria Firefighters Association.
Aldermen Josh Miller, Shawn Jacobs, and Danny Washer voted to award the bid to the county. Alderman Gayla Hendrix, who felt Alexandria had a greater need for the truck, voted against it. Alderman Jason Murphy was absent.
Prior to the vote Monday night, Alexandria Mayor Bennett Armstrong addressed the Smithville Mayor and Aldermen asking that they accept Alexandria’s bid over the county’s. “Our situation is we have a fire engine that is 38 years old and it is losing its operational ability. The air brakes are failing. The water tank is leaking and the engine is not reliable. There is a need in our part of the county. I have no objection against the county getting the fire truck its just I feel we have a greater need,” said Mayor Armstrong.
“Is there a requirement that we take the highest bid,” asked Alderman Hendrix?
“You can make that choice,” said Vester Parsley, who is the city attorney for both Smithville and Alexandria.
“State law is you take the highest bid but if you take a lower bid you have to give a very good reason,” said City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson.
Alderman Miller said he felt like the city had an obligation to the residents it serves to accept the highest bid.
“It takes a lot of grit for the mayor (Bennett Armstrong) to come and ask for what he did. I also had another representative of Alexandria call me last week over this same issue. But I don’t know what kind of reason we could give Smithville for taking the lower bid. At the end of the day we are fiscally responsible for Smithville. I wish we had two (fire trucks) to sell but being fiscally responsible for Smithville I believe we need to take the high bid and I make a motion to accept the county volunteer fire department’s bid of $30,000,” said Alderman Miller.
Alderman Jacobs seconded the motion.
Again, the vote was 3 to 1 to accept the county’s bid.
City Administrator Hendrixson said funds from the sale of the fire truck will go into city’s general fund but it will be line itemed as fire department revenue and could be put toward the purchase of the city’s new fire truck.
In January, the city received a new Pierce Impel PUC Rescue Pumper, which is a combination fire engine/rescue vehicle. The new truck cost the city $751, 575.
In addition to the new fire truck, the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department has two others, a 2001 model along with a 2012 ladder truck.
The county already has funding in place to purchase the truck from a USDA Community Facility Grant of $15,000 with a $28,000 local match for a total project amount of $43,000 which is budgeted in the county’s capital projects fund. The grant was approved in April 2017 for firefighting equipment, protective gear, and other resources. County Mayor Tim Stribling filed for the grant with the approval of the county commission. In August, 2017, the county received approval for a second USDA grant of $16,000 also with a local match.
The Town of Alexandria has tried at least twice within the last three years to obtain a Community Development Block Grant to purchase a new fire engine but has had no success due to the town’s inability to score high enough to qualify and the number of applicants in competition for the grants.
The Alexandria Fire Department is staffed with volunteers and two fire trucks. The oldest truck, a 1981 model, is on indefinite loan to the city from Wilson County, but would be returned if a new truck were to be purchased. The other fire truck is a 1997 model.
In May, 2015, the city learned that the Insurance Services Office raised Alexandria’s Public Protection Classification (PPC) rating from a Class 7 to a Class 4 making it the best ISO rate in the county. The City of Smithville’s ISO improved from a 6 to a 5/5x during the summer of 2015 and the county’s ISO has improved to a Class 6 for all areas of DeKalb County located within 5 road miles of one of the department’s 11 stations.
Meanwhile, Smithville Fire Chief Charlie Parker informed the aldermen Monday night that plans are to sell the department’s service truck using an on-line service. “ I have pictures turned in on it to get it listed with a company in Alabama that does on-line fire truck sales. We are waiting to hear from them as to a fair price to put on that truck to put it on line. They are not buying the truck but will give us a good estimate of what they think we should ask for it. We will then advertise on their website,” said Chief Parker.