Fire bells ringing for city ladder truck

Council being asked for $500,000 to purchase 75-foot ladder truck


PUNTA GORDA -- Timing is said to "be everything," and the time may be right for city firefighters to get a ladder truck.

A year ago, the City Council rejected City Manager Willard Beck and Fire Chief Bob Naylor's request for a 75-foot ladder truck. The request is coming before the City Council again Wednesday.

Beck is asking the council to allocate $500,000 for the fire truck, taking the money from the city's $4.6-million share of the county's infrastructure sales tax for 2004.

"These are things they have been talking about," Beck said Friday. Over the next six years, the city expects to receive $10.5 million in sales taxes, but Beck has made no recommendations for spending in future years. "(Council members) can deal with that later."

At the same meeting this Wednesday, council members will be asked to approve a proclamation, declaring the week of Oct. 5 to 11 as "Fire Prevention Week." They will also be hearing support for the ladder truck purchase from Tom Garrity, a Punta Gorda resident and Charlotte County firefighter. Garrity spoke in favor of the purchase at a council sales tax workshop.

Councilmen John Land and John Murphy have already expressed their support for the ladder truck.

Up to now, the city has called upon an interlocal agreement with Charlotte County for the use of its ladder truck. Now, at several council meetings, Land and Murphy have said the city needs its own truck since the county stations its ladder truck in Deep Creek and the city is seeing more three-story condominum and other multi-story structures.

Council members may like the idea now, but they didn't warm up to the idea in 2002.

In November 2002, soon after the council approved its city budget allocating $450,000 to the fire department for two other fire trucks, Beck and Naylor came back to the council and asked for money to buy the ladder truck.

At the time, council members were a little irked that the request came so soon after they approved the budget, but that wasn't the only issue.

Besides coming on the heels of an approved budget, former Councilman Larry Friedman -- who was defeated by Land in February -- was upset that Beck's request hadn't been reviewed with the city's financial and procurement staff. Friedman also questioned why Beck undermined the city's procurment policy to seek competitive pricing.

The ladder truck coming up now has raised some other questions for Councilman Tom Poole.

"I wouldn't be surprised if it's to pay off the firefighters for their campaign against their opponents," Poole said Friday.

The firefighters' union, as well as the police union, actively supported and campaigned for Land. Murphy also saw similar support from the firefighters in his successful re-election bid.

You can e-mail Steve Reilly at reilly@sun-herald.com


By STEVE REILLY

Staff Writer