Having failed in earlier efforts to find a good used fire truck, Graham’s city council agreed Friday during a special meeting to buy a new state-of-the-art fire truck coming off the assembly line in May.
The city will pay $1.9689 million, taking advantage of a $20,000 discount by paying for the truck up front.
The city will borrow to finance the truck with a loan from American National Bank, which offered a loan rate of 4 percent over 10 years, which may be further offset by a rate of 3.5 percent on any deposits the city invests in the bank.
Graham fire chief Tommy Cole explained the process by which he and other firemen had sought to find a suitable truck to replace a 2005 model with over 20,000 miles that has a 1975 aerial ladder attachment.
In an earlier meeting, last July, Graham city council members appeared taken aback by the chief’s recommendation to buy a new ladder truck, which at the time was estimated to cost $1.8 million; he raised the issue within days after a new budget for 2022-2023 adopted by the council took effect.
See earlier coverage from July’s first discussion: https://alamancenews.com/graham-city-council-gets-sticker-shock-over-cost-of-new-fire-truck/
Cole explained then that there was an extended time for production, meaning that the truck wouldn’t be ready to be delivered for two years, which is why he said he was bringing the subject to the council’s attention after the current year’s budget had just been set.
Friday afternoon, Cole’s estimated delivery time had risen to three years. At both meetings, he noted that just a few years ago, the lead time was typically 12 months.
Instead, the city will buy a demo truck that is already in production.
Cole acknowledged that because the truck was originally intended as a “demo,” it has “tons of options,” not all of which the city would have requested.
But city will not be able to change the various options that have been specified for the truck, Cole explained, other than to change the color and add the city’s logo. Cole said the city was “too late” in the production process to make any changes to add or subtract features on the truck.
In a statement to The Alamance News, Cole said that “to match our current apparatus fleet, our truck will be white with a dark grey aerial ladder.”
Mayor Jennifer Talley, who had previously urged a cheaper alternative by searching for a used fire truck, reminded everyone that the new truck would be a “huge purchase for the city.”
She said Friday, as she had during an earlier discussion, that the request for a ladder truck came at time when a “lot of big expenses [are] coming at us at the same time.”
Cole outlined a trip he and another fireman had taken to a fire department in northern Maine, near the Canadian border, in order to consider purchasing a used ladder truck for sale there.
That truck had previously been in service 10 years in California. Cole said the truck was not in as good a shape as the online photos and advertising had suggested. Cole said he didn’t “believe it had been well maintained during its lifetime.” Graham would need to have “loved on” that truck if it bought it.
Cole also noted that because of the lengthening time frame for towns and cities to obtain new fire trucks, many other municipalities are also searching for used alternatives, driving up the price of used fire trucks.
Currently, when Graham needs a ladder truck, it relies on its mutual aid agreements with Burlington which has two ladder trucks, as well and Mebane and Elon, each of which has one ladder truck, Cole outlined to the council.
Talley wondered whether the city would be able to recoup any significant cost from selling its 2005 truck.
But Cole noted that the city’s current truck is not “certified” by the state, reducing its potential value. It’s also so old, Cole said, that the city cannot get replacement parts, and even more so for the ladder itself, which was made in 1975.
Councilman Joey Parsons concurred that the fire trucks in the shape of Graham’s old one “don’t have a lot of value,” guessing that the city might be able to get $10,000 to $25,000, primarily by selling the cab and chassis.
Talley highlighted the city’s savings by getting a 4 percent loan, rather than 5 percent, which one bank had bid, saying the city would save $100,000 over the 10-year loan period compared to the higher loan rate.
David Wyatt of American National Bank was on hand and thanked the council for awarding the financing to his bank.
The council ultimately voted unanimously, 5-0, in favor of the purchase and the financing arrangements recommended.
While the production schedule could change a bit, the city is expecting the new truck to be available in May.