City to get new fire engine after delay

By Tom Joyce - [email protected]

The acquisition is taking longer than originally planned, but a new fire engine costing $450,000 is on the way for the city of Mount Airy.

It will replace an older vehicle that has been pressed into service for many an emergency over the years. “It’s been online since 1995,” Mount Airy Fire Department Chief Zane Poindexter said Monday of a unit now posing increasing maintenance and repair challenges.

“The engine has served the city well; however, it needs replacement due to many factors,” he explained of a vehicle that will be used as a reserve fire engine — something the department now lacks. The chief said the old engine will be more valuable in that standby role than it would to sell.

Overall, the change will boost fire safety in the city.

Poindexter said the new engine will be deployed out of the fire station on North Main Street, but not right away, due to having to be built and then delivered to Mount Airy.

The fire engine will be similar in concept to ones the department now has, he added.

Loan from co-op

“It’s great for the department and we’ve been looking forward to it for a long time,” Poindexter said of the fire engine transaction, for a which a zero-percent-interest loan is being received through Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corp. The term of the loan is 10 years.

The acquisition of the new engine was included in the municipal budget for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, which was approved in June 2015. But the transaction is only now reaching fruition, with the end of the budget year looming on June 30 and the city commissioners giving unanimous approval Thursday night for the loan agreement and a related project ordinance and budget amendment.

“There was a long delay,” Poindexter said, citing the role of the federal government regarding grant funding to Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership for the loan, which was delegated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development office.

Officials in Washington stalled action on the federal budget. “So that kind of delayed any of the USDA grants to the local co-ops,” the fire chief said of entities such as Surry-Yadkin EMC.

“So that was kind of a delay that neither us nor Surry-Yadkin could control.”

Given the price tag of fire engines — hundreds of thousands of dollars — Mount Airy officials have tried to minimize the cost as much as possible, including taking advantage of the no-interest loan program with that agency.

The local electric co-op received a USDA grant for $300,000, and is also is contributing $60,000 of its local funds to finance the fire engine purchase. The city is providing the remaining $90,000 for the $450,000 fire engine through its general fund.

Debt-serving payments of $95,700 had been budgeted for 2015-2016 for the fire engine. But due to receiving the loan from Surry-Yadkin, no debt-service payments will occur this fiscal year and the funds appropriated will be used to cover the additional $90,000.

“It’s a great deal,” the fire chief said of the financing arrangement.

In another cost-saving measure, the new fire engine is being acquired through the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) based in Texas, a group purchasing program Mount Airy joined in 2011 to obtain its ladder truck. That program allows member localities to save time and money while ensuring best pricing.

The new fire engine is expected to last 20 years.

Replacing aging fire trucks has been a concern in recent years, routinely cited by Poindexter during annual city government planning retreats each winter when budgetary and other goals are discussed.

“This is one of the ones we’ve been asking for at the retreats,” the chief said of the unit being obtained.

“It’s just kind of starting the process, because we’ve got some others that need to be replaced soon, too.”

Commissioner Steve Yokeley said Thursday, after Mount Airy officials approved the loan agreement, that he wants to have Surry-Yadkin Membership Corp. recognized at an upcoming council meeting.

Yokeley said the loan program it offers is a “great” public service.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

By Tom Joyce

[email protected]

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