By CHELSEA DAVIS
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — The time to purchase a new firetruck is now, said Ottumwa's fire chief.
Fire Chief Tony Miller appealed to the City Council this week to secure a new firetruck for the department in order to replace one of its firetrucks that has been in the fleet since 1977.
"Since 1998, it's been on the fleet committee to be replaced, and here we are in 2013," Miller said of the 36-year-old truck. "Now is the time to do it. The cost right now is less than what it was two years ago when we started the project."
Three manufacturers of the 101-foot truck the department wants to purchase said the cost has dropped to less than $1 million, down from the $1.2 million it would have cost two years ago.
"I know that's a lot of money, however it's not $1.2 million," he said. "These truck prices are going to increase 3-6 percent depending on what company we go to. I do know they're going to increase before the end of the year."
If the department can purchase a new truck, Miller said the 36-year-old truck, as well as a 23-year-old reserve truck, would both be removed from the north station.
Councilman Bob Meyers asked if the Ottumwa Fire Department would consider putting one of the two trucks they plan on removing from the north station at the airport in order to more quickly respond to calls on the north side, specifically the Quail Creek area.
"We're already looking at where to put a truck out there," Miller said. "It's not the easiest thing to do because of maintenance, and we would have to leave it out there."
The snorkel on the 36-year-old truck also has a number of safety issues, meaning another truck is needed, as well as additional manpower, every time that snorkel has to be used. The new truck would be able to reach the tallest structure in Ottumwa, Westgate Towers, since the current truck cannot.
"I've looked into refurbishing the snorkel, but after they got done laughing at me, they said it would cost $400,000 to $600,000 to remanufacture it — and we'd still have a 36-year-old truck," he said.
A new truck would also help the department's Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating, an analysis that assigns points to a fire department depending on safety and risk. The best rating a department can receive is Class 1. Last year, the OFD jumped up to Class 4 and is now working toward Class 3.
Anytime the fire department betters its ISO rating, Ottumwa's largest industries, such as Cargill Meat Solutions and John Deere Ottumwa Works, see significant cost savings on their fire insurance.
"There are more reasons to get this truck than not to," Miller said. "The only thing I see on this truck is the cost. One million is $1 million no matter how you look at it; however, in this case, I think it's worth the money to replace this truck."
Finance Director Bob Jay said the city would have to bond in order to purchase the truck, either by itself or paired with other city projects, such as the Pennsylvania Avenue project.
If the council approves the department's request to purchase the truck, it will still take nine months to a year until it arrives in Ottumwa.
"It's come to the point now where we asked, do we need to put money into a truck when it's so old?" Miller said. "A year ago, we came to the conclusion to not put a lot of money into it unless it's absolutely necessary."
The council asked Miller and staff to compile specifications of the truck, its possible cost and how it would be funded to be approved at a later City Council meeting.
— To follow reporter Chelsea Davis on Twitter, head to @ChelseaLeeDavis.