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Board votes to accept $350,000 grant to purchase new fire truck

By Bill Short

An overnight residential home fire early Monday morning resulted in the loss of at least one home in the 4700 block of Waterfront Oaks, an area of un-incorporated Shelby County just outside of the northern city limits of Memphis.  The only casualty of this fire was a family pet dog which died on the scene likely due to smoke inhalation. In all, this fire required the strength of no less than 24 firefighters on five fire engines from three fire departments (Shelby County, Memphis and Millington).    

An overnight residential home fire early Monday morning resulted in the loss of at least one home in the 4700 block of Waterfront Oaks, an area of un-incorporated Shelby County just outside of the northern city limits of Memphis.  The only casualty of this fire was a family pet dog which died on the scene likely due to smoke inhalation. In all, this fire required the strength of no less than 24 firefighters on five fire engines from three fire departments (Shelby County, Memphis and Millington).

The Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen has voted to accept a $350,000 federal grant to purchase a new pumper truck for the fire department.

Board members took the action during an April 16 special called meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Mike Caruthers and seconded by Alderman Bethany Huffman. The motion was passed by five affirmative votes, with Aldermen Larry Dagen and Chris Ford absent.

Fire Chief Gary Graves said he submitted an application in September 2012 for an Assistance to Firefighters Grant and was notified on April 12 that it will be awarded. Noting that it is a 95-to-5-percent matching grant, he said the federal share is $332,500, and the city’s share is $17,500.

Because he anticipated receiving the grant, Graves said he included an additional $50,000 in his department’s proposed budget for the 2014 fiscal year to purchase equipment for the new truck. So, the city’s total investment will be $67,500.

The fire chief said those funds will not be “encumbered” until late in this calendar year or in early 2014. So, he requested the board’s permission to prepare specifications, develop a competitive bid package and advertise for bids on the truck and equipment in accordance with guidelines in the city’s purchasing policies.

Graves said the bids he receives will be presented to the board after July 1, along with a recommendation and request that it approve one of them.

In accordance with grant guidelines, when the new truck is delivered, the fire chief must remove Engine 333 from service. The 1975 Pirsch truck does not meet current National Fire Protection Association standards for vehicle and firefighter safety.

“It cannot be sold at auction as a fire truck or donated to another department,” Graves said. “It can go to a museum, or we could use it for training. But we can’t put it back on the street.”

In response to a question by Alderman Thomas McGhee, the fire chief acknowledged that he was asking the board to approve $67,500 for a future budget. He said he included those funds, because he was “90-percent sure” that his department would be awarded the grant.

“They had sent me a request for Direct Deposit information,” he recalled. “Typically, when that occurs, you’ve received a favorable review.”

In response to a question by Alderman Frankie Dakin, Graves said a 95-to-5-percent matching grant is “pretty typical” for cities with a population like Millington’s. Dakin thanked the fire chief for procuring the grant.

“I love museums,” the alderman noted. “But if we could scrap that 1975 truck and get some money for it, that would be even better.”

When McGhee asked, Graves reiterated that his department could use the older truck for training purposes.

“Or you can scrap it and put the money in your training budget,” Dakin added, eliciting laughter from the other board members.

City Finance Director John Trusty noted that, because the board has not yet approved the budget for the 2014 fiscal year, it is not “locked in.”

“The only time you’re really locked in is like a debt resolution, where you issue debt,” he said. “That locks you in for the future, but approval like this will not.”

Graves said the period for awarding the grants was supposed to close on March 31, but the sequester “kind of pushed that back.”

“So, they’re at the tail end of making those awards,” he said. “If we don’t accept it, that’s another $350,000 that can be awarded to somebody else.”

Because the Assistance to Firefighters Grant is “very competitive,” the fire chief said only a small percentage of requests are awarded.

“The city is very fortunate to be one of the few departments across the nation to receive an award for vehicle purchases,” he concluded. “The purchase of this vehicle should take care of the city’s fire pumper purchases for the next 10-12 years, unless we add another station or have a catastrophic event that destroys one of our trucks.”

 

 

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