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Chief sets sights high — 79 feet

September 24, 2012
By KATIE SCHWENDEMAN - Staff Writer ( , Morning Journal News

COLUMBIANA - A fire levy approved by voters in 2010 will pay for a new ladder truck for the department, and Fire Chief Rick Garrity has found the truck they need.

Garrity approached city officials last week to tell them about the truck that would be manufactured by Pennsylvania-based KME. He said the department has been saving money over the last two years and has enough for a $250,000 down payment on the total estimated cost of $585,432.

"We started talking about this back in 2005, identifying the need for the ladder truck. In 2010 we put a levy on and one of the major selling points of the levy was that we would purchase a ladder truck," he said.

The five-year levy brings in about $240,000 a year for the department and Garrity said that since it was approved he has applied for two federal funding grants, but in both cases the request was "kicked out in the first round."

He explained the federal government is cutting back grants every few years and doesn't expect the money to go much further. If awarded, it would have covered roughly 90 to 95 percent of the cost, he said.

With that off the table the department can still purchase the truck, however.

Finance Director Mike Harold told council the department has the money available to take out a loan for the truck while maintaining a "sufficient budget."

He suggested a $250,000 down payment and three-year loan to pay for the truck, but presented other options to council as well. He said that as of this week the fire fund, which has built up over the last couple of years, was at $570,000.

The department operates on roughly $140,000 and brings in little more than $316,000 in revenue annually, he said.

"We have been saving the last few years. We really never increased our budget at all since we got the levy approved," Garrity said.

He also said the goal is to have the all new red and black truck paid for by the end of the levy, which is up in 2015. He noted that since the truck is on a state term schedule the department will get a fair price.

State term means the bidding is handled by the state on the department's behalf.

Garrity said the truck the department wants has a 79-foot-tall, 26-inch-wide steel ladder, which is the largest in the industry and features the highest side rails in the industry.

He added that a stokes basket can be slid down if needed and that steel was chosen over aluminum because of its durability in heat.

"When you're up there 79 feet in the air it's scary and you want the best you can get. You don't get a lot flex in this truck, it's a very well built piece of equipment The goal is to keep our men off the roof because when (the roofs) fail they fail big time," he said.

The truck would carry 400 gallons of water - 200 more than most ladder trucks - and will fit inside the fire station on West Friend Street, he added.

Councilman James King asked if the large truck would be able to fit down some of the smaller side streets or navigate some of the turn-arounds.

Garrity said it shouldn't be a problem and that if it couldn't turn around they would have to back it down the street, which they already do with the trucks they have.

"I think we can probably get to about everything in Columbiana with this truck," Garrity said.

Councilman Bob Bieshelt asked if the department could save up more money and pay for the truck with cash as opposed to taking out a loan, but Garrity responded that in the future a new truck would be more expensive and interest rates could be higher.

Councilman Bryan Blakeman suggested the department make more than one loan payment a year to scale down the interest rate faster.

Council did not take action on Garrity's proposal during its meeting.



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