Ladder truck discussions continue for Moulton Fire Department

A 75-foot aerial truck was purchased by the Courtland Fire Department in early 2000 with funds from the department’s annual fire fee. Courtland Fire Chief Scott Norwood said he has used the truck to assist Moulton Fire Department on at least five occasions, including their help in putting out the fire that destroyed or damaged at least five businesses on the Moulton square in April. 

As Moulton Fire Chief Ryan Jolly continues to seek ways to obtain an aerial fire engine for the City of Moulton, Courtland Fire Chief Scott Norwood weighs in on the subject and clarifies information concerning the purchase of an aerial truck for Courtland in 2000. 

In a Moulton City Council work session last week, Jolly told the council Brindlee Mountain Fire Apparatus of Marshall County is willing to even-trade a 1999 75-foot Pierce Aerial truck for Moulton’s 2006 Ford F650 rescue truck. He also told the Council at the time, the truck would be sold “as is,” with no warranties.

Jolly said he and Mayor Roger Weatherwax viewed the truck on Monday and discussed a warranty deal with the company. 

“There were some concerns over a warranty, so we went over there to Brindlee Mountain so we could work out some plan so we could get a little bit of a warranty. The biggest reason we went was so the mayor could actually see it,” said Jolly.  

He said the company also suggested the sale of the truck that is currently under a lease agreement with a fire department in Horry County, South Carolina. 

“It’s roughly the same age. The only difference is, it’s from a different manufacturer and it has a 100-foot ladder versus a 75-foot ladder,” added Jolly. “Brindlee Mountain told us (Monday), it didn’t matter which truck we decided—if we move forward and decided to pursue this—they were going to give us a one-year major component warranty on either truck.”

Jolly expressed that his major concern was obtaining an aerial truck with the longest potential service life. He told the Council last week that the ’99 Pierce truck could sustain the department for 10 to 15 years as long as nothing was seriously wrong with the vehicle.

District 1 Joyce Jeffreys said her major concern was that the truck was 20 years old, and felt that the City could wait for another deal to come along while they had surrounding departments like Courtland, Russellville or Decatur who were willing to assist with their aerial vehicles. 

In a city work session last week, she said Courtland’s truck was purchased by Champion for the entire county to use on the stipulation that it was housed in Courtland. Courtland Chief Norwood clarified that the truck was purchased by the Courtland Fire Department in 2000. 

He said his department traded two older model pump engines for their aerial apparatus, one a 1988 model, the other a 1993. Amount Courtland purchased the truck for here

“This apparatus was not purchased by Champion Paper for the entire county to use on the stipulation that it be housed in Courtland,” Norwood stated in a Facebook post on Thursday.

“It was my understanding that Champion was giving Courtland $800,000 to Courtland for a ladder truck,” Jeffreys said following a City Council meeting Monday night.

Norwood said no additional funds have gone towards the purchase of Courtland’s truck other than any money paid by Courtland Fire Department.

“We haven’t received a dime from International Paper (formerly Champion) to purchase that truck for the whole county,” said Norwood. “Every town, every municipality in the county had the opportunity to put forth the bond issue by Champion. The Town of Courtland was the only one, and yeah they benefited from that for years.”

He said Courtland’s aerial truck, a 1996 model, was about three-and-a-half years old when his department purchased it, and he expects the truck to last another 10 to 15 years as well. 

“We purchased it from Brindlee Mountain Fire Aparatus—the same company that Chief Jolly is trying to trade that rescue truck,” Norwood said. “Every year it passes the aerial test, and I keep all the maintenance and everything up on it. Yes, it is an older unit, but no more than we use it, you know, once or twice a year, that truck is sufficient. That’s why it’s lasted Courtland so long. We’re not using it every day or once or twice a week.”

Lawrence County Fire Fighters Association President Steve Coan, who also serves as the fire chief for Hatton Volunteer Fire Department, said the Courtland Fire Department purchased the aerial truck using the department’s revenue generated by an annual fire fee. 

Coan explained that the annual fire fee generates about $270,000 to be divided among each of the county’s fire departments each year following state legislation that passed in 1994. 

He said about 135,000, or half of the annual revenue, is divided equally between Lawrence’s nine fire departments. The other half of the fund is distributed to each department according to the department’s service population.

“(Courtland Fire Department) used a majority of their fire fee money to make the payment on that truck every year,” said Coan. A payment Norwood said his department is still making as the truck is not yet paid off.  

Norwood said he deliberated with former Courtland Mayor Ted Letson and the Town Council at the time to purchase the truck after recognizing a need in the community. 

He said the town is home to several buildings including historical churches and homes, and industrial complexes at Courtland industrial park that justify the need for tactical aerial defense in case of a fire.

“Chief Jolly should have no hard time justifying the need for an aerial. Look at all the shopping complexes there: Tractor Supply, Foodland, the steak house, all the large churches. He has justification and he has a need,” Norwood said. 

He said Courtland is part of a mutual aid agreement with other surrounding departments to assist when they are needed. 

“All the fire chiefs in the county, we have a good working relationship,” Norwood said. “Ryan has always been very nice to me, and if I asked him to help, he’d be there to help me… If they had a fire right now and asked for us, I would stop what I was doing and I would be there, but just like every other volunteer department, we are limited on manpower and staff.”

If Moulton were to move forward by purchasing any one of the trucks Jolly has presented to the council, Weatherwax said the purchase would have to wait until the 2020 fiscal year begins in October. 

“If we are able to—I stress that ‘if.’ If we’re able to move this forward and the City decides to pursue this, we’re trying to find the best truck,” Jolly said Monday. “Brindlee Mountain, I could not compliment them any more than I already have, but they have absolutely bent over backwards to try to make this happen for the City.”

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