Fire Department Needs a New Aerial Truck
Cost is $670,000, Delivery Takes One Year
Emmaus Fire Department hopes to have a new aerial fire truck rolling on borough streets within about a year.
The new vehicle will replace its 1989 aerial truck, which recently failed certification testing.
Borough council has earmarked $350,000 toward the purchase of the new truck, which is estimated to cost a total of $670,000 before it can be put into service. Delivery is expected to take one year.
While council approved the purchase of the Central States 109-foot aerial truck at its Nov. 1 meeting, some council members were surprised to learn the truck will cost much less than the $835,000 the fire department originally estimated and one questioned whether the borough's $350,000 share of the cost should be reduced.
But council vice president Brian Holtzhafer, who chairs its budget and finance committee, later said it's a done deal. He explained the borough already has borrowed money for the truck.
"Our commitment was $350,000 and that's what they are entitled to because that's what we told them we would give them," agreed Lee Ann Gilbert, borough council president.
Former Fire Chief Robert Reiss, who remains active in the department, was dismayed that anyone on council would consider giving the department less money because it got a good deal on a new truck..
"They should have said 'boy, you guys did good'," said Reiss. "I'm not looking to spend taxpayers' money but it's for the public's safety and the firefighters' safety."
He said the new truck's ladder will be able to hold 500 pounds, such as the combined weight of a firefighter wearing an air pack and a large person being rescued from a building. The current truck's ladder is only rated for 250 pounds.
Reiss said some aerial trucks are selling for more than $1 million.
At his Nov. 8 budget and finance committee meeting , Holtzhafer told Fire Chief Jim Reiss: "The bid for the fire truck came in considerably less than anticipated, which is wonderful."
Reiss said the department, which has been working to get the truck for years, passed on purchasing unrequired "niceties" for it. Even though the price came down, Reiss stressed: "We're still looking for the $350,000."
While the borough is picking up most of the tab, the fire department also will have a 15-year, two-percent interest loan for $150,00, which the chief said is the most it can borrow. The state will contribute $94,000. Fund-raising will cover $15,000. And they hope to sell the old aerial truck for at least $50,000. "We'll still be using it for a year before it's sold," said the chief.
The new truck will cost $624,105. Making it street ready by adding lettering, decals, radios and other equipment will cost another $46,000. Some of the $670,00 total also will be used to pay off another loan, which must be done before more money can be borrowed to buy the new truck.
The fire department can still use its 21-year-old aerial truck, said the chief, but it has to be repaired so it can pass certification. He said the department is getting estimates on the cost of those repairs. Fire officials realize they have to keep that truck running for another year. They are allowed to use it even though it is not currently certified.
The former chief, father of the current chief, acknowledged that people who see the well-maintained old aerial truck would not think anything is wrong with it.
The elder Reiss said for decades the borough completely paid for fire trucks, adding that was back when Emmaus had three fire companies rather than one centralized fire department.