Franklinton fire tanker out of service

By JOHNNIE DANIEL,

The main topic at last Tuesday’s meeting of the Franklinton Mayor and Aldermen turned out to be the Fire Department's tanker truck that has been out of service for over three months. Discussions about the fire department started with Fire Chief Dustin Waskom giving the departmental report for the month of April. Chief Waskom said the department responded to six motor vehicle accidents, three fire alarms, two grass fires and 26 medical calls. The department has received 217 calls for the year so far while currently having 25 members. He reported that all equipment was operational and in service with the exception of the tanker truck. Upon completion of the report, Alderman John Daniel asked about the status of the tanker truck. "There are areas of town that don't have fire hydrants and if somebody's house catches on fire you need that tanker," said Daniel. Chief Waskom stated the department has been exploring used options for quite a while, but nothing has been available. The chief said that he was going to look at a tanker for sale in Alabama for $125,000 as is, but he canceled the visit when the salesman informed him that the truck had frame rust, the pump would not pump water, and several other issues that would need to be repaired. He also stated that he has looked at a used chassis with a new build for the tanker portion that would be available to the department. "What do we need to do as a Council?" questioned Daniel. "Do we need to approve you to buy it?" Mayor Richard Dillon said the holdup was finding a used tanker that the Town had the money to buy. According to Chief Waskom and Town Clerk Ellen Waskom, the fire department has $174,000 in a savings account and over $130,000 in its checking account. •The department also receives approximately $30,000 annually from a state insurance rebate. While reading from the budget report balance sheet, Alderman Daniel said the Town has $128,000 in a LAMP account that is non-dedicated and a portion of that could go towards a tanker. At the February 26, 2019 Board of Aldermen meeting, the Mayor was questioned about the status of the tanker and only stated that options are being explored and a few people are being talked to. Multiple sources within the fire department have privately expressed concern with what they perceive to be a lack of urgency and an unwillingness to allow the department to spend necessary money to purchase a serviceable tanker. Numerous volunteer firefighters have said they didn't think it was feasible to be "replacing old junk with someone else's old junk". Mayor Dillon said the fire department's only source of annual income is from a sales tax that brings in $200,000 a year and the $30,000 from the insurance rebate. He noted that it takes the majority of this to operate the department. Later in the meeting he stated that a house is going to burn down even if there is a tanker truck available. Aldermen Darwin Sharp came up with an option for the department to purchase a tanker. "If they were to take $75,000 or so from that $174,000, that wouldn't drain the account down, and then use the $30,000 from the insurance rebates each year to pay off a note or a loan. It wouldn't take long, five or six years, and this thing is paid for," he said. "I wouldn't mind meeting with the Fire Chief and another Aldermen in the next couple of weeks and get a plan and move forward with it," said Sharp. The Mayor asked Chief Waskom if there was anything out there that was affordable and available. The chief stated that "in the $100,000 price range that me and you were discussing previously, honestly no. In the $170,000-$200,000 range, we might be able to find something a little easier." "You're going to have to pay more to get a good product," said Aldermen Sharp. "$100,000 isn't going to be much of a tanker, I can tell you that." Chief Waskom asked the Mayor and Board if he presented a set of specs would he be allowed to bid it out. He was agreeable with bidding out for a used truck as long as it met necessary specifications. He stated that he could find a used chassis with approximately 300,000 miles with new tanker equipment on it that would be suitable for the department. The Mayor ultimately decided to form a committee to look into a tanker truck for the fire department. Members of the committee include Chief Waskom, Alderman Sharp, Alderman Daniel and the Town Clerk for financial purposes. The committee hopes to have a recommendation for the Board at its next meeting. The tanker issue comes on the heels of a deadly trailer fire last month on the outskirts of Franklinton. Lynnwood subdivision in Franklinton has no fire hydrants and other parts of town are also without hydrants, according to the Fire Chief during last Tuesday's meeting.