St. Clair News Aegis (Pell City, AL)

News

June 18, 2010

New London Fire Department at odds with board

Chief wants new truck, says funds available; board chair says wait

Pell City — The fire chief and chairman of the fire board for New London don’t see eye to eye on one issue: replacing old engines.

The 20-member, all-volunteer station serves all of St. Clair County south of Pell City including River Oaks, the Easonville and Logan Martin Dam communities, and some of neighboring Shelby County.

Fire Chief Jason Lane, who has headed the department for just over a year, said that the issue has to do with the failure of two of the pumps on two of the three larger trucks the department uses. A 1978 Pierce Engine and a 1981 model fire engine both failed an inspection two months ago, Lane said.

But the chairman of the New London Fire Board, Archie Lee, said that only one of the trucks—the 1978 Pierce—failed inspection and he said that the truck is still able to pump water and serve as a rolling hydrant.

“Everything checked out good,” Lee said. “That one truck is pumping low, but we just bought a new truck in January.”

The 2009 model engine was the first purchased by the department in 28 years. The New London Fire Authority had just over half-a-million dollars in the bank as of June 7, according to budget numbers provided to the News-Aegis.

Chairman Lee said that he does not want to replace the older trucks any time soon, because the department would then have to replace the one purchased in January around the same time as any one requested by Chief Lane recently.

Two months ago the three fire engines used by the all-volunteer department were tested. According to the report issued by G&W Diesel Services, which Lee said performed the pump tests, three units passed the test while one failed, the 1978 Pierce. The fourth “unit” tested was a smaller, brush fire truck bought about a year-and-a-half ago.

Lee said that the trucks meet ISO insurance requirements and can still serve the public’s needs.

But Chief Lane said that two of the pumps need to be replaced—not one—and at that cost and with the age of the trucks, newer engines would be more feasible. “It’s pass or fail based on the pumps’ rating by the manufactuer,” Chief Lane said. “And the two older trucks did not meet that rating; so they failed.

“It’s not effective to replace the pumps when it would make more sense to purchase a new [fire engine] since we have the funds available,” Lane said.

Lane said that the 1978 truck and the 1981 truck could be replaced with a new engine, which would cost just north of $200,000.

Lane said that while the board said they would consider buying a truck in the future, “we can’t wait three to five years before we buy the next.”

But both the chief and fire board director said talks are ongoing. “We’re working with the fire board and hoping to resolve the issue for the betterment of the community,” Lane said.

County Commissioner Paul Manning said that he would like to continue to see the department and board work together on the issues they may face for the betterment of their community and added his appreciation to each of the volunteers fire department workers in New London.

The next meeting of the New London Fire Department will be July 12 at 6 p.m. at Station 1 off Logan Martin Dam Road.

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