Morrow Fire Chief Mark Herendeen found a couple of cracks in the exterior shell of the city’s 1998 American LaFrance fire truck Tuesday night.
The cracks are underneath the truck’s windshield right behind the windshield wipers. He said there are more cracks that cannot be as easily seen because they are behind the vehicle’s grille. The truck also “eats tires,” said the fire chief, and it needs two new sets of tires every year at a cost of $300 each.
The fire engine is the younger of Morrow’s two fire trucks but Herendeen said the older truck, a 1994 Pierce fire truck, is sturdier, more reliable and durable. It has been less trouble for the city’s fire department to maintain, he said. The older truck is not being replaced.
“We need to replace the 1998 truck because it’s worn out,” said Herendeen.
A $500,000 replacement for the American LaFrance fire truck is part of Morrow’s $14.4 million fiscal year 2013 budget the town’s City Council unanimously approved Tuesday.
Herendeen said the 1998 fire truck is used on 80 percent of fire calls received by the fire department, and has “seen its useful life.” It has accumulated 75,000 miles, but the fire chief said the relatively low number of miles driven does not change the fact that the truck is falling apart. He explained many cities typically schedule fire truck replacements every 10-15 years.
“It’s never about the mileage,” he said. “It’s about the wear and tear.”
City Manager Jeff Eady said the city wanted to replace the truck a couple of years ago but it was put on the back burner because of the financial drain created in the town by its failed “Olde Towne Morrow” commercial development. “Olde Towne” cost $12 million to build between 2007 and 2009, but it brought in only $10,000 in revenues in one year of operation. It was shut down in 2010 and has not reopened.
Morrow’s finance officials have been working since 2010 to rebuild the city’s financial reserves.
“It’s past due, but we didn’t have the funds to do it” earlier, Eady said.
There is little known about the exact appearance of any new truck the city buys because officials have not decided which fire truck company the vehicle will be purchased from. The likelihood of the city going back to American LaFrance, which went into bankruptcy protection in 2008 but is still in operation, may not be high because of the experience with the 1998 truck.
“We’re going to get what we want because we’ve got to live with this thing,” Herendeen said. “This isn’t like buying a police car. We’ve got to live with this for 10-15 years, so you better design it the way you want and you better like it when it gets here because there’s no changing it.”
The only clear indication is it will follow the new red and black color scheme the fire department established last year when it bought a new ambulance. Older vehicles use a red and white color scheme.
Herendeen said the specs, which detail how tall the truck should be and how long it should be, have been written already. He said they will be sent out for bid once he receives permission to proceed from city leaders.
The city is investigating financing options to help cover the costs of the purchase. The truck could be delivered to city officials by early 2013.