Moulton Fire Chief Ryan Jolly is exploring all the department’s options in trying to find the city an operable aerial fire truck. He presented his findings to the Moulton City Council in a work session Monday and requested to proceed further.
After unsuccessfully applying for a FEMA grant for an aerial truck for the past 10 years—and in the aftermath of a fire that devastated downtown Moulton on April 22—the fire chief is searching for other ways to obtain a ladder truck for the city of Moulton.
Jolly told the council of a company, Brindlee Mountain Fire Apparatus of Marshall County, that is willing to even-trade a 1999 Pierce Aerial truck, equipped with a 75-foot ladder, for Moulton’s 2006 Ford F650 rescue truck.
“We’ve purchased and traded with this company before. We actually purchased the F650 rescue truck from them new several years ago,” said Jolly. “When we inspected the truck, we tested everything that could be tested (Monday). I feel like this is the lowest cost solution that we could come to. We’ve tried for a grant for years and been denied each time.”
The 20-year-old fire truck would be sold to Moulton “as is” without warranties.
Jolly said he was confident his department could get 10 to 15 service years out of the truck without any unforeseen malfunctions. He told the council the same company had a 2004 American LaFrance Aerial truck for sale for $60,000.
“It has the same size ladder as the 1999 but would give us several extra years in service due to the newer age and less wear and tear,” Jolly said.
The fire chief plans to discuss a lower price offer with Brindlee Mountain this week and believes they will also accept a trade involving the F650.
District 2 Councilmember Jason White questioned whether the department could afford to lose the rescue truck.
“I hate to lose a truck, but the benefits of letting it go outweigh keeping it. Having a ladder truck would benefit us more,” said Jolly. He told the Council the F650 rescue truck has no water supply, and all the equipment it carries could be transferred to a 2009 Freightliner the department already owns.
“If we can have access to Courtland’s ladder truck—the City needs other things. We have other agencies seeking funding as well. Our library and mental health board are just as important. I’m not comfortable with purchasing something that’s 20 years old,” District 1 Councilmember Joyce Jeffreys said.
Jeffrey’s argued that Courtland’s truck was purchased by Champion for the entire county to use on the stipulation that it was housed in Courtland. Jolly told the Council it took Courtland 30 minutes to make it to Moulton the night of the fire on April 22 that destroyed four businesses along Court Street.
The availability of the truck is also dependent upon available drivers from Courtland Fire Department, Jolly added.
“I agree that a 20-year-old truck is something to be concerned about, but I’m in favor of looking into the other truck. Thirty minutes is a long way away to get them to us,” District 4 Councilmember Cassandra Lee said. “I value our libraries and mental health too, but we can figure out another way and look at other options for purchase.”
“I don’t want to give up a truck for a problem,” said Jolly. “I’m just asking the Council for permission to continue exploring this option.”
A purchase of a used aerial truck may also bring the department a step closer to obtaining a newer model through federal funding, according to Jolly.
“On the federal level, they are more likely to award a grant if we are replacing an item rather than granting us money to purchase a piece of equipment outright. They want to see that match or effort on our end,” said Jolly. “When we’ve applied in the past, we’re failing somewhere, and it’s that we don’t already have the equipment in place.”
An Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) application through FEMA will open from October to December. If approved, the Moulton Fire Department could receive funding for a ladder truck in the fall of 2020, according to Jolly.
If the department were awarded $600,000 for a new truck, the grant would require a five percent match of $30,000.
Mayor Roger Weatherwax suggested Jolly provide the Council with all the information about each truck being considered for purchase and present it to the Council at its next meeting on Monday, Aug. 19.