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Elon orders $2M ladder truck to replace 18-year-old clunker

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Elon’s town council has decided to shell out more than $2 million on a new ladder truck to replace the 18-year-old vehicle that the town’s fire department currently has at the ready.

The council voted to order the new truck from a Wisconsin-based manufacturer on Monday with the understanding that the fire department won’t actually get the keys to its new set of wheels until the summer of 2025. At that point, the town will also be liable for the truck’s full purchase price of $2,027,398.

The council agreed to scale the first rung in the process to acquire this truck at the behest of Elon’s fire chief Landon Massey.

Prior to Monday’s decision, Massey recalled that the town’s leaders had identified this purchase as a top priority this past fall when the expected cost of a new ladder truck was hovering somewhere between $1.8 million and $1.9 million. He conceded that both the vehicle’s price and the anticipated wait time have shot up in the few short months since this resolution was reached.

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Elon fire chief Landon Massey

“It has been a roller coaster ride since it started,” Massey acknowledged before Monday’s vote, “and the price of this truck has changed three or four times.”

The fire chief went on to advise the council to place an order for a new mid-mount tower stock unit from Pierce Manufacturing of Appleton, Wisconsin. Massey said that this particular model was the best of four competing options that he and his colleagues evaluated. He also stressed that it will offer several benefits over the department’s current ladder truck, which he noted has spent two of the past twelve months in the shop.

Massey told the council that the tower on Pierce’s vehicle will have a five-foot advantage over the 95-foot ladder on the current truck. The new ladder will also be “rated” to rescue people from burning buildings and not just give the town’s own fire fighters a boost. It will, moreover, come on a shorter, more compact chassis that will give the new vehicle more maneuverability than the incumbent truck.

“What this does,” he added, “is that it gives us the ability to take turns without having the backend swinging into the other lane.”

Massey urged the council to put in an order for the new truck as quickly as possible in order to lock in a price that the town can afford. He noted that the figure which he quoted on Monday had emerged from a competitive process conducted by the Houston-Galveston Area Council – a nonprofit organization that provides procurement services to local governments across the U.S. Massey added that, by ordering the vehicle now, the town will avoid a forthcoming change in emission standards that could drive up the ladder truck’s cost by an additional $200,000.

The fire chief’s eagerness to buck stricter emission requirements raised some concern for councilman Randy Orwig, who nevertheless agreed that the proposed deal sounded like a good one on balance.

“There are so many factors falling into place,” Orwig told the rest of the council, “and you’re getting a product that seems to fit your needs in a better way. So, I think it’s worth it.”
The council went on to accept the fire chief’s recommendation by a margin of 5-to-0. The group also agreed to postpone payment until delivery – notwithstanding an early payment discount of $81,500, which Elon’s town manager Richard Roender deemed insubstantial given the 27-month wait time for the new truck.

“I am conservative enough to say that I believe we should hold on to our money,” Roedner told the town’s elected leaders. “We can earn back that $81,000 in interest.”

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