Spalding commissioners approve purchasing new ladder truck | News

GRIFFIN — The Spalding County Board of Commissioners has approved an eight-year financing plan to replace the combination aerial ladder/engine that burned earlier this month and finish paying off six new fire engines already on order.

The plan will start in 2027 after the ladder/engine truck is delivered and will run through 2034.

Spalding County Fire Department Chief of Operations Mike Byrd updated commissioners at their Monday meeting on the department’s vehicle situation.

“Our current status is we have no reserve trucks,” Byrd said. “With the ladder truck burned up, we have no reserves. We have a rental truck right now. We thought about it when the other truck was totaled in the wreck (in December) and went ahead and got a rental truck as a reserve. With the ladder truck burned up, the rental truck is currently deployed and we have no reserves.”

But thanks to the BOC approving the fire department to start replacing their fleet several years ago, there are some replacement fire engines on the way. Two trucks were ordered in 2021. With a 36-month build time, they will be arriving in April.

After the truck was totaled in the December wreck, the board also told the department to go ahead and find a third truck. They were able to get a demo truck that will arrive within the next week. The truck will be red, but after the other two trucks arrive, it will go back and be repainted to match the other yellow trucks in the fleet.

All of the trucks are on five-year leases. The demo truck’s yearly lease payment will start in May and will be $234,095. The two new trucks’ arriving in April will have their lease payments start in the new fiscal year after July 1 and each truck’s annual payment will be $278,504.

The state fire marshal determined that an electrical issue in the ladder/engine truck caused the fire that totaled the truck and did damage to Station 6 on Feb. 10. The blaze totaled the 2007 truck.

Byrd noted that the truck had a lot of wear and tear on it since it was used as both a ladder truck and fire engine. He said the department planned to do some refurbishing on it and hold onto it for at least a couple of more years, but that won’t happen now.

The chief advised the BOC that the ISO insurance rating requires them to have an aerial ladder truck to keep their rating from increasing and home and business owners seeing corresponding rate increases in their insurance.

“We have no choice but to get a ladder truck,” Byrd said. “The ISO grading schedule says that if we have any structure that exceeds 35,000 gallon per minute requirements, we must have a ladder truck. So this isn’t from a tactical perspective for height rescues as much as it is from an elevated master stream should we have a fire in a large complex.“

He added that the county just went through its ISO evaluation and won’t have another one for five years, which will give them time to get a new ladder truck, and the county has ladder trucks at other fire departments available until they can get another one.

“We are in a very good position where we’re located with the relationship we have with the Griffin Fire Department,” Byrd said. “They have two aerial devices that they have stepped up very quickly to offer us when we need a ladder truck. We also have very good relationships with our surrounding departments that could also come to our assistance if needed.”

Byrd gave the BOC several options on purchasing used ladder trucks, but did not recommend purchasing a used vehicle.

“Fire trucks are funny things — you don’t sell a good fire truck,” he said. “You sell the ones that are causing you problems. You don’t know what has happened with these ladders. Plus, there is no financing available for buying a used truck. We would have to pay cash. But that option is out there.”

The chief’s recommendation was to order a new 75-foot ladder/engine truck manufactured by Sutphen at a cost of $1.5 million, and with a build time of 24 months.

“If we do the new truck, there is a five-year payoff term,” Byrd said. “We have a very good interest rate of 5.94%. It would be $388,000 per year, and the first payment would not be due for 30 months. By the time we started paying on the new truck, we would have two years of payments left on the three engines we are about to receive, so we’ll be paying for all of these trucks for about two years.”

District 1 Commission Gwen Flowers-Taylor asked if the county had insurance on the trucks.

Byrd replied that they will be getting $133,000 from the at fault insurance company for the engine totaled in December, and that the fire department’s insurance adjusters are looking at the burnt engine.

“We don’t have a figure yet on the ladder truck, but just an educated guess based on what they base it on, I’m on the high end hoping we get $200,000 for this ladder truck,” he said. “Now they are also replacing the damaged equipment and I have a total list on that because we maintain a very good inventory,” he added. “We’ve got about $68,000 worth of damaged equipment that will come in on insurance, minus our deductible. All of that can be put towards a downpayment, which will help some.”

The BOC was not prepared to vote on getting a new ladder truck at their meeting Monday night, so the matter was added to their agenda at the county zoning meeting held Thursday night.

Byrd presented the board with three financing options. All three options began in 2027 when the ladder truck has been delivered, and they consolidate the remaining amounts on the lease plans of the three engines they will receive this year. The leases on three other new fire engines ordered in 2022 are expected to be delivered in 2025 and 2026.

The first option was a five-year lease with a zero downpayment and had the highest payments of the three.

The second option was also a five-year lease with a 30% down payment of $430,000 on the $1.5 million cost of the ladder truck.

The third option, which Byrd and County Manager Steve Ledbetter recommended, was an eight-year lease with a 30% down payment. The first two years are $1.2 million, which included will pay off the three engines they are about to receive, the next two are $692,931, which included will pay off the three engines still on order, and for the last four years the payment will be $184,102 for the ladder truck.

When asked about the down payment, Byrd said the minute the county signs the lease papers, the finance company will put the $1.5 million cost of the ladder truck into escrow and it will sit in an interest-bearing account. The 30% down payment is not in the account, but when the county pays the down payment, the interest accrued in escrow will go into the downpayment as well, lessening the amount the county has to pay.

Byrd added there is also no penalty for early payment, so the county could pay it off anytime they want.

The chief noted that with the finance plan being eight years, some may question how long the ladder/engine truck will last.

“The original ladder truck, when it was bought in 2007, was used as an engine plus a ladder truck for 10-plus years,” he said. “As a result, it received a lot of wear and tear. This new truck, when it is deployed, will actually run as a true ladder truck and will not be subject to the same wear and tear. I would expect to get 20 years out of this truck at least, especially with the new fleet that you all have approved for us; it will very rarely get used as an engine. So we could safely finance for eight years and have a lot of years of life left on this truck.”

The commissioners at the zoning meeting were in agreement with the eight-year finance plan, and a motion to move forward with it was approved with a 4-0 vote. District 1 Commissioner Gwen Flowers-Taylor was absent.


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