October 11, 2007

Prospects of $100,000 Price Tag For New Truck Has Fire Department Mulling Options

Faced with the prospects of spending $100,000 or more to replace a front running truck, Fire Chief Stacey Westhoff was at the October 4th meeting of the Memphis City Council seeking the city’s support for the move.

The volunteer fire department provides fire protection for the City of Memphis as well as rural members of the Scotland County Fire Corporation.

Westhoff informed the council that the department is considering replacing the minipumper truck. The 1982 truck is the department’s front running unit, meaning it is the first vehicle to respond to any emergency calls.

“After all of the years of service we have rebuilt the engine, replaced the tanks and fixed just about every part on that truck more than once,” Westhoff said. “Plus, in 25 years there have been a lot of improvements in vehicles, making new fire trucks safer and more dependable.”

Faced with a price tag of $140,000 for a new base unit that would come unequipped, the fire department is reviewing newer used models. Still the cost is expected to run $80,000 to $100,000.

“We are looking for a much heavier-duty truck, with a lighter load on the back,” Westhoff said. “Basically we want our truck, but updated 25 years.”

In 2003 the fire department replaced its Rescue Unit with a new truck. The following year a federal grant allowed the department to add a new pumper truck.

Replacing the 25-year old minipumper would mean the department would be left with just three units with more than a decade of service.

“Just like anyone that maintains a fleet of vehicles knows, you need to have a rotation set up to replace the oldest vehicles so that the day doesn’t arrive when they all go bad at once,” Westhoff said.

With approximately $60,000 in the fire department fund, the council discussed appropriating up to $40,000 for the purchase of the new truck. The fund generates approximately $20,000 in tax revenue annually.

“That is what the money is for, to provide for fire protection for the city,” said Mayor Roger Gosney. “But I wouldn’t be comfortable spending much more than that as we must maintain some resources to offset any unforeseen expenses.”

Westhoff indicated the department would continue to search for valid replacements for the fire truck and would return to the city for a firm financial commitment once a suitable unit was located.

Earlier this year the fire corporation announced it would be raising membership dues in an effort to help fund the new fire truck.

Westhoff also noted the volunteer department hosts various fundraisers throughout the year that will likely allow the firemen themselves to contribute toward the purchase cost.

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