Salem council still looking at ladder truck funding options

SALEM – City Auditor Betty Brothers suggested moving $60,000 left over from a grant to rehire two firefighters to a fund for a new fire department ladder truck.

The Finance Committee of city council held preliminary discussions Tuesday about possible avenues for approaching the need for a new truck, with Fire Chief Jeff Hughes updating them on the status of the current truck.

He said some major repairs were made recently and the truck has been certified by the state for another year, but the truck is 23 years old and problems are going to keep happening. The last repair involved major hydraulic leaks and cost more than $9,000 to fix. Another repair last fall cost $4,000 to $5,000.

Committee Chair Councilman K. Bret Apple asked about the normal life span of a ladder fire truck and Hughes said it depends on the usage. Some places only get 10 years out of a ladder truck. The city has managed to get 23 years out of the truck, but he said they’re getting to the end of the line. He said they also have to start looking at the other trucks in the fleet. One is from 2001 and the other one is from 2004.

Brothers said the Pearce platform 100-foot ladder truck that was recently brought for a visit cost $934,000. She checked with another manufacturer, Sutphen, for a similar ladder truck and was told the cost would be between $900,000 and more than $1 million.

“Obviously, we don’t have the funds for that,” she said.

Hughes had previously talked to the committee about leasing programs and Brothers said the city would need to have money down.

Hughes told the committee members to keep in mind that these companies are all different and the Pearce truck that was shown to council members was “a Cadillac” and contained all the bells and whistles, which they don’t necessarily need.

He said he saw the size truck the city needs, for a 100-foot ladder, for a state bid price of about $800,000. They would have to do specifications for what they want in a truck and take bids, noting there would be some truck features they could live without.

Apple said they wouldn’t want to start out with something that does not meet their needs and that could serve future growth. He asked Brothers to continue looking into the options. Hughes had tried to get a grant to replace the truck but was turned down.

The Finance Committee addressed a plug for a citywide cleanup again, telling former city councilwoman Mary Lou Popa that the answer is no for a citywide cleanup, but they’re going to look into the cost of alternatives, such as quarterly drop-off events for larger items.

The committee had previously asked city Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst to check into prices for a citywide cleanup and he reported the city of Louisville, which does one yearly, spent an estimated $20,000.

Apple said it would probably be more than that for Salem since there had not been a cleanup for awhile and it would depend on the number of loads. He told Popa that she had questioned during a council meeting whether the citywide cleanup was a dead issue and he said in his opinion, it was a dead issue, but the city will certainly explore doing a drop-off event.

Earlier this year, the Carroll-Columbiana-Harrison Solid Waste District hosted an appliance, furniture and electronics recycling drop-off event for Salem and Perry Township residents. Councilman Dave Nestic, a committee member, asked if the district could give the city a price for holding three other drop-offs, or one per quarter, or whether they could negotiate with companies for a price.

The city split the cost for an extra dumpster for the district event with the township and also had about $1,200 in overtime, which was offset by $900 the city received for the scrap value of items.

Nestic said he would rather see something done more often, like the drop-off events, as opposed to going door-to-door for people to put out their trash.

Councilman Brian Whitehill, also on the committee, said he wants to see more of a known number for the cost. He said they’re still looking at a personal responsibility issue. He said they should get a set number of containers for a drop-off and then cut it off when the space runs out.

In other business, the committee agreed to recommend amendments to the fringe benefits ordinance to clean up the language and for part-time employees, to restrict the use of sick days to permanent part-time police dispatchers. There had been some confusion previously about part-time workers accumulating sick leave and some of them using it even though there was no language allowing for its use.

Also discussed was a section regarding seasonal and temporary part-time workers and how the language should be worded regarding the number of hours worked for the fringe benefits restriction.

Nestic was concerned that the language match the federal mandate regarding health care, suggesting the wording be changed from 36 hours or less to receive no fringe benefits to 29 hours or less.

Brothers said the wording should go by the average, not by the week, because workers at the city lake and parks department work 40 hours per week, but they’re seasonal and the average comes out to less than what would require them to provide health care. The committee suggested the language reflect a rolling average for at least nine months.