GLASGOW – Glasgow Fire Department's ladder truck is 19 years old and has racked up average annual maintenance costs of $5,700 for the past three years, Chief Bryan Marr said.
“It's starting to get to that end-of-life as a first response truck, just because of the amount of wear and tear on it,” he said, “and how much it costs to get things fixed.”
It's becoming increasingly difficult to find replacement parts for it because of its age, and because they are so few and far between, the cost is much higher, he said, and it's not entirely reliable for emergency responses. It was second on a vehicle-replacement priority list only to the Ferrara engine truck that has been purchased, but is still being built, for which a budget amendment was made to fit it in this fiscal year's budget, he said.
An opportunity has presented itself, Marr told three of the five Glasgow Common Council Public Safety Committee members at a special meeting Tuesday, for the department to purchase a 2017 low-mileage, well-equipped ladder truck that has almost exactly the specifications GFD wanted at a significant discount. It had been used as a demonstration truck for trade shows and sales calls, and GFD and other city officials have seen it firsthand, Marr said. The dealer wants to sell it to make way for newer models, he said. The demo ladder truck, also a Ferrara, has about 19,000 miles on it, he said.
It could be financed for two or three years if necessary, but the first payment would not come due until after July 1, when the new fiscal year – budget year – begins, Marr said.
Though a similarly equipped truck brand new would cost about $830,000 this year, the price on the demo is $675,000 now for the first buyer to go on contract. Marr said he got a quote last year for a new ladder truck with considerably less equipment that was nearly $710,000.
Mayor Dick Doty said that while some may envision there isn't much need for ladder trucks because Glasgow doesn't have that many tall buildings, they are also valuable in maneuvering the water hose closer to the fire source.
Marr said firefighters can cut holes in roofs for vertical ventilation while remaining safely on a ladder rather than trying to climb up a ground ladder and walk or stand on a roof that may not be secure because of the fire underneath. Falling through roofs when the trusses start to give is one of the leading causes of injury and death to firefighters, he said.
Councilman Patrick Gaunce said he was all for helping the department, but he first needed to play “devil's advocate” with some questions, the first of which was whether having the newer ladder truck could help the city's insurance rating, which in turn could mean lower premiums for property owners.
Marr said that during the last assessment, the lack of a reserve ladder truck, which is what the current one here would become if a new one is purchased, resulted in a point loss, but this, by itself, would not be enough to improve the rating from a 2 to 1.
Assistant Chief Brian Shirley said that it would help keep the rating of Class 2 more secure for longer, though.
“So would we sell the old truck?” Councilman James “Happy” Neal asked, but before anyone could directly answer that, Councilman Greg Harris asked Marr which vehicle he would rotate out of the fleet if the old ladder truck becomes a reserve unit. The chief said it would be a 1992 telesquirt engine that had been used for aerial coverage before the 19-year-old Ladder 2 was purchased, but it is cannot be certified for use as a true ladder truck, even as reserve. It has an elevated waterway with a light-duty ladder attached, he said.
The potential trade or sale value for that one was then discussed briefly.
Gaunce asked about being able to justify this expenditure to other department heads, particularly on the heels of the purchase of the new engine truck, which cost around $500,000, which is when Marr brought up the fact that it could be on the next year's budget.
Doty recapped some other large-vehicle and fleet purchases and leases for other departments recently and said, “This is a life safety issue.”
He said that with the rising maintenance costs of the old one, and probable energy savings on a new one as well, it would be a good financial decision in those respects.
Marr said that the next oldest fire truck is a 2010, so there likely would be a reprieve for a few years before another is seriously needed.
GFD Lt. Wade Wyatt, “the officer on the equipment,” said a ladder truck is a substantial asset on every commercial fire to which the department responds, and local industries have fires more often than the council members may realize. When they've had to revert to using the telesquirt because the ladder had a maintenance issue, Wyatt said, it has “severely hampered” the firefighters' work. He urged the committee members to not think of a reliable ladder truck as “fluff” that isn't really needed.
“We're right there where I feel like we need to do something,” the lieutenant said.
Scott Sizemore, apparatus sales manager for America's Bravest Equipment Co., the Kentucky Ferrara dealer, said a Louisville department had considered the demo at one point but opted to get a smaller one built new, and the cost for the new one – “practically an empty box” without as much of the equipment, was about $740,000.
Sizemore also added that the truck would come with a two-year bumper-to-bumper warranty, with an extended warranty as an option.
Doty asked Sizemore what the typical delivery time for a new ladder truck would be, and the response was 300 days, so Doty said the fact they would not have to wait almost another year for one would be another reason to favor the demo.
“I think the chief and the department have made the case,” the mayor said.
He said the city would still have to follow the proper procurement procedures for purchases of more than $20,000, a seven-day process for advertising and receiving responses, and that would be after – and if – the full council would commit to putting the truck in the budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
Neal asked whether any further negotiating could be done to lower the price even more, and Marr said they've already done that.
Neal made the motion to recommend to the full council moving forward with trying to purchase the demo, and Harris offered the second, and Gaunce voiced his vote in favor as well. Committee members Wendell Honeycutt and Gary Oliver were absent.
The council's next regular meeting is at 7 p.m. Monday, and Doty said he would expect this to be on the agenda.