Photos and Editorial by Jennifer Sierra
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The job of making this decision is not easy, especially when a city doesn’t have much in their budget to play with. Each city was supposed to be putting money aside every year for this type of purchase. Now they are left with the hand-wringing problem of “How do we pay for this?” While Dayton, Kentucky has a larger surplus in their budget than the city of Bellevue, both cities are weighing how to spend every dollar. This purchase will put both cities in a tight spot no matter how you look at it and this spot will get even tighter as the need for more fire trucks and future remodeling comes up at the Bellevue Dayton Fire Department.
Safer Grants have been awarded this year in Kentucky, just not to the Bellevue Dayton Fire Department. White Hall Volunteer Fire Department in Richmond, Kentucky received $270,000.00; Point Pleasant Fire Protection District in Boone County received $85,480.00; Burlington Fire Protection District in Burlington received a whopping $397,925.00 and Lyndon Fire Protection District in Louisville received $219,584.00. None of these fire departments are Limited Liability Corporations like the Bellevue Dayton Fire Department.
One thing to consider is that since the cities of Bellevue and Dayton were not awarded the Safer Grant, they are no longer on the hook for additional fire personnel, which they would be required to pay for if the grant had been awarded to the department. This frees up some funds down the road and according to Chief Auteri, the new truck doesn’t take as many people to operate as the old one so the imminent need for personnel isn’t as great. “The old ladder truck takes an additional 3 people to handle.”
We met with Chief Auteri to see what condition the current ladder truck is in. The truck visually looks great, no apparent rust or major dents. It is obvious that they take care of the truck. The paint was shiny and very clean and in working order but upon closer inspection, there were fluids leaking from the undercarriage onto the clean garage floor. When Chief Auteri opened the door to the fire engine, the seats were in bad shape. The seams were split on the seat cushions and the hydraulic pump used to raise and lower the seat was making a hissing sound. The truck was not running and Chief Auteri said, “It always does that.” The truck was leaking hydraulic fluid, water and air at the time we looked at it.
According to Chief Auteri, the tools on the old ladder truck are still in good working order. “We will be able to use all of our equipment and tools from this truck on the new one. We won’t have to buy new tools for it so that will save us money. The only thing we will need to purchase in addition to the truck is a radio and siren which are budgeted already under new equipment.” Chief Auteri is also looking into a grant that is available for another new ladder truck. It won’t be available in time to use for the purchase of this truck but can be used toward the purchase of any new fire truck. This will help the next purchase that needs to be made. Will the purchase of a new fire truck impact the decision of the grant providers to the BDFD if the fire department was just able to purchase a truck early in 2016? Will they look at the department’s situation and say, “They don’t need this grant. They just bought a new ladder truck.” Or will the powers that be look at the department’s situation and see the rest of the aging equipment and have mercy on the fire department? Who knows how this works? Looks like a little bit of who you know and whom you shake hands with as opposed to need. Perhaps the cities need to look into hiring a grant-writing person/team to increase the department’s chances of getting noticed.
If the cities approve the new fire truck, the order will take 1 year to fulfill and the first payment isn’t due until then. This is a difficult decision to some council members and city managers in both cities that see the need but worry about finances. Some worry that if they vote down the fire truck this year, and put it off until next year, they might lose the confidence of voters and the fire department. Chief Auteri said that he won’t be mad if that happens. “If the city councils come to me and say ‘Let’s put this off a year’, I will totally understand I get it. But we will need a new truck sooner or later and it will be cheaper the sooner we get it.”
There is a special fire board meeting Tuesday, December 8th at 6 PM at the Bellevue Dayton Fire Department and then each city must take the results for this fire board meeting to their financial committees and from there it goes to councils for vote. Fear not fair citizens of Bellevue and Dayton, Kentucky. I predict, the fire department will get their fire truck and it will pass unanimously. There is no doubt in my mind that will happen. The cities of Dayton and Bellevue will get their fire truck for Christmas after all. It might be a late Christmas gift but it will arrive.