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Rural township trustees, Moville city council meet to begin fire truck talks

Moville Record of Moville, Iowa

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Township trustees from five area rural townships met with the Moville City Council last week for opening discussions about the purchase of a new fire truck for the Moville Volunteer Fire Dept.

The meeting with the trustees came as city councilmen struggle with how to pay almost $300,000 to purchase a new fire truck.

The truck that the department needs to replace is 33 years old, according to Larry Hamman, Mov-ille fire chief. In fact, Hamman told the trustees that the department will most likely need to replace all its main fire-fighting trucks over the next 20 to 30 years. The three trucks the department uses the most heavily are a 1973 model, a 1990 model and a 1998 model.

Even though the trucks have very few miles on them, they tend to wear out and become less reliable for fire-fighting. The reliability of the fire trucks is essential so that the trucks perform when needed. Also, there are new federal standards for fire engines that can not be met by the aging trucks.

"Over the next few years, all of our fire trucks will be nearing 30 years of age plus," Hamman told the trustees.

The new truck that the department hopes to purchase would be both a tanker and a pumper, which could carry water to a rural fire or pump water at a fire in the city where water is available from fire hydrants.

The vast majority of the fires fought by the department are in the rural areas, fire records show. In an average year, around 25 percent of the fire calls are in the city, and 75 percent are in the rural areas. The rural townships pay a tax each year to help support the fire department, and that money is used to help maintain equipment, pay insurance costs, provide training, purchase fuel and other essential items for the department to fight fires.

The state mandates that the rural townships pay 41.5-cents per $ 1,000 of taxable valuation if requested by the local government. The town-ships can pay more, but the 41.5 cents can be required by the cities that actually own the fire departments. Many of the townships contract with several departments to provide coverage for specific portions of their areas. The five town-ships that contract with Moville for at least a portion of their fire protection are Arlington, Moville, Wolf Creek, West Fork and Rutland.

Some of the trustees objected to the proposal to ask the townships to help purchase the new truck. "This is a change in precedent," Wolf Creek trustee Roger Wilson said. "In the past, the departments have used fund raisers and other means to purchase their equipment." He also suggested the department investigate grant programs that might be available.

However, the cost of fire engines has skyrocketed in recent years. "The cost is much higher than when the city paid the cost of a new fire truck 12 years ago," City Attorney Glenn Metcalf said.

And the Moville department has aggressively applied for grants over the past few years, scoring more than $100,000 worth. That money has been spent to purchase additional equipment for the firemen's safety, according to Jerry Sailer, the department's treasurer. Grants for new fire trucks are very rare.

Several other trustees were concerned about setting a precedent by funding the truck this way. Some nearby communities have funded their new trucks through contributions from the city and rural town-ships. Lawton, for example, just purchased a new truck that was purchased by the townships the Lawton

Department serves. The money came from the city of Lawton and Banner and Concord townships, with the city paying about a fourth of the cost.

Moville residents voted to support the purchase of a new fire truck during the last general election. While 55 percent of the town's residents voted to support the purchase, the election would have required a 60 percent majority if it had been a bond issue. However, the city council does not need voter approval to purchase a new fire engine, and the election was largely a referendum to gauge taxpayer opinions.

The council would like to fund a new fire truck over a 10-year period, and held the meeting with trustees to see if they would help support the purchase. "We're just trying to have a level playing field," Councilman George Allan said.

"We aren't here to argue with each other," Mayor Nancy Country-man said. "We're here to try to do our best to support our fire department. We have plenty of time to make a decision and go forward."

Arlington Trustee John Forch objected to the fact that the city may have used some township money to pay a small portion of the cost to build a new fire department annex to store fire-fighting equipment.

"Should we leave the trucks sitting outside?" Sailer asked.

Bill Hulse, also an Arlington trustee, asked "What would happen if a house is burning down and a truck won't start or doesn't work. I imagine there would be some pretty upset people." The trustees will meet again to discuss their options and may meet again with the council.

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Original Publication Date: November 25, 2010

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