News Chief

Dundee Council ponders fire tax, rescue pumper
By WILLIAM BYGRAVE
ncpublw@earthlink.net

DUNDEE -- The possibility of buying a new rescue pumper for the town fire department, along with discussion about the feasibility of levying a fire tax highlighted Tuesday's town council workshop at the community center.

Fire Chief Chip Johnson explained the best type of fire apparatus is a medium-duty rescue truck, and as far as he's concerned, the sooner the better.

"Our rescue truck is dead," Johnson said. "It's still in the (equipment) bay but it's not going anywhere."

He has been grappling with several possibilities that run the gamut from new equipment to finding used equipment, or just letting the county take over fire protection for the town.

But the department finds buying a rescue pumper the most preferable option. Pegged at a cost of around $275,000, such a vehicle would provide a full-service fire engine with storage for rescue equipment and supplies.

He promised the council before the next meeting, "I will see how it comes together."

In addition to further study of a rescue pumper, he will also bring before council a long-range plan that will help members further study the best way to implement a fire tax.

Councilman Steve Foskey said such a plan will give an idea of the type of capital improvements that may be expected over the next several years.

"If we buy a truck this year, then what are you going to need next year?" Foskey asked. "And what will you need to buy down the road witth the tax?"

The way Johnson sees it, a pumper should be replaced every 10 years, although the town is now stretching that to keeping equipment for around 15 years.

He reasoned that by paying a truck off in five-to-seven years, a fund can be built up to the point that making a pre-payment on a new truck may knock anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 off the price.

This would have to come from revenue generated for the department through a fire tax.

Both the council and Johnson will be kicking around a possibility of levying an annual $25 fee to 1,100 property owners in the town. This would generate $27,500 to help fund capital purchases for the department.

Foskey also asked if $25 is "a realistic figure. Is it too high or too low."

But he doesn't want the town to find itself in a position of buying fire equipment "with no plan of how to replace it," and wants to have a fund built up to allow "a sizable payment" for equipment.

In other business, council discussed following in the footsteps of other Polk municipalities in designating April as the month for municipal elections. County elections supervisor Lori Edwards wants all cities to adopt such a measure to allow less cluttered ballots for the November general election.

The council is working with City Attonrey Robert Crittenden on how to implement charter changes to comply with Edwards' request. Although several in the audience had general questions, further discussion was tabled since Crittenden wasn't at the workshop.