$1 cell phone fee to fund new ladder truck
Date:Wednesday, July 02 @ 00:00:30 MDT
Topic:Front Page


When an industrial fire ignited six months ago in Orem, the city's lone ladder truck was out of commission, so the city's Fire Department requested assistance from Provo.

Orem Public Safety Director Chief Michael Larsen said there have been several other instances in whichthe city's firefighters needed the ladder truck but couldn't use it. The 25-year-old truck is antiquated and spends time in the shop weekly, Larsen said.

"We desperately need it now," Larsen said. "Technology has changed. Equipment has changed."

City officials responded to that need Tuesday night, as the City Council approved a new franchise fee on cell phones by a 6-1 vote to help pay for the $750,000 truck. City officials expect to begin imposing the new $1 per month franchise fee on Oct. 1.

Councilman Stephen Sandstrom voted against the fee.

The budget for the 2003-04 fiscal year, which was passed by the Council in June, didn't have enough money to purchase a new truck, City Manager Jim Reams told the council on Tuesday night. The City Council was considering selling a $1 million bond to buy a new ladder truck, as well as some equipment for the parks department. Now they won't have to.

Although the new franchise fee won't completely cover the cost of a ladder truck, Reams said that city officials, by passing the cell phone fee, have secured enough funding to purchase the truck. The goal is to get enough money to avoid having to bond altogether.

City officials anticipate the new franchise fee will generate $337,500 by July 1, 2004, when a new state-imposed franchise fee on cell phones and land lines goes into effect. Reams said the other money is expected to come from economic development fees, cell tower lease fees and the city's reserve funds. City officials also are trying to obtain a $250,000 federal grant to pay for part of the cost of the truck.

"We had a very challenging budget this year," Reams said, adding that the city was able to bridge a gap between revenue and expenditures. "But there were many things that were sacrificed to do that."

Among those was the new ladder truck. Problems with the existing truck go beyond its frequent bouts in the shop, Larsen said. Technology has changed since the city's truck was built in 1978, and there are some occupational safety concerns because the truck's ladder has no siderails.

In addition, several structures in the city are out of the firefighters' reach, especially student housing projects in the southwest part of the city, Larsen said. The City Council also has approved several high rise buildings, including Midtown Village, a project that peaks at 96 feet in some places.

Justin Hill can be