The lack of a ladder truck is leaving the upper floors of Dahlonega’s biggest buildings exposed.
As a result, the Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners plans to reach out to the the city of Dahlonega and University of North Georgia in a effort to acquire a $600,000 ladder truck to fight fires in town and on campus—where the majority of the county’s tallest buildings are located.
The dialog is precipitated by the death knell of the fire department’s current ladder truck, a 1971 Sutphen aerial ladder truck that was purchased by the county in 1988.
“At 43 years old it was one of the oldest Sutphen ladder trucks still operable and used in continual active front-line service,” Chief David Wimpy told commissioners.
But this year several items, including the ladder itself and the bucket that carries firemen to the top of burning buildings, failed inspection. Estimated repair cost was over $100,000, with no guarantee due to the age of the apparatus.
Not worth the repairs
Wimpy does not advise attempting to fix the Sutphen.
Nor does he advise simply doing without a ladder truck. It would end up costing the whole county when it comes to insurance rates, he said.
“Under current ISO ratings, we are required to have one,” he said. “One point could cost $100 to $150 on somebody’s insurance. And the problem is, the truck is out of service right now, and ISO could come by to check on it at any time.”
When asked how many times the ladder truck had been used in the last five years, Wimpy admitted he knew of only 15 occurrences. But, he added, “it should have been used more. I haven’t run it more because of its age.”
Wimpy recommends replacing the truck, preferably through a lease-purchase agreement.
“This option provides a stable annual cost and will not jeopardize the county’s ISO rating. And a new ladder truck will come with maintenance and a warranty and should provide 20 years of service,” Wimpy said.
Looking for potential partnerships
The lease could be funded by SPLOST. The 2014 SPLOST contains $750,000 for a ladder truck, said finance director Allison Martin.
Both Board Chair Chris Dockery and Commissioner Doug Sherrill, however, want to try partnering with the city and university before deciding.
“It’s a calculated risk, but I don’t want to make any move until we reach out to the city and the university,” Dockery said.