PDT Staff Writer
Portsmouth City Council has authorized Portsmouth Mayor David Malone to enter into a lease/purchase agreement with Oshkosh Capital for a new fire truck at a price not-to-exceed $413,876, and to be funded over a period of five years.
Council adopted the resolution by a 5-0 vote, but not until some Council members commented on the move. Second Ward Councilman Rich Saddler moved for passage, leading to the discussion.
“I have had quite a few people in the last two weeks ask me questions about this,” Sixth Ward Councilman Steve Sturgill said. “People on the street, anywhere I go to carry on a conversation. People are quite concerned that we have a great deal of fire hydrants that don’t work. They are concerned that we just purchased a fire truck two years ago. In light of the fact that we don’t have money to do all of the things that we need to do, would trying to fix the fire hydrants be more of a valuable asset to the city than purchasing this fire truck at this time?”
In the absence of Portsmouth Fire Chief Bill Raison, Malone became the defender of the purchase.
“The truck we want to replace is at least 22 years old, and the normal life of a fire truck is 15 years old, and they try to cycle them periodically at close to the approximate time,” Malone said. “This truck being seven years past the life age, it is imperative that they start circulating. So while the fire hydrant issue is an issue that we could address, it’s not a real important issue as far as the rating that the city has gotten. We have gotten a good rating as far as the fire services go, even with the fire hydrant situation the way it is. We’re still in good shape as far as the ISO rating”
ISO stands for International Services Organization. The Fire Suppression Rating Schedule (FSRS) is the manual ISO uses in reviewing the fire-fighting capabilities of individual communities. The schedule measures the major elements of a community’s fire-suppression system and develops a numerical grading called a Public Protection Classification (PPC).
Malone said he did not know what percentage of fire hydrants throughout the city do not work, but he would obtain that information and pass it along to Sturgill.
“Are we required by this rating company to replace these fire trucks every so many years? Is that what you’re telling me?” Sturgill said.
“It’s not a requirement. All of us would look at the availability of our engines and equipment when there is a fire and that we want the equipment to be able to get out there and save property and save lives, and it’s a top priority for the equipment to function properly as opposed to the hydrant itself,” Malone said.
“Didn’t Chief Raison create a five-year game plan to put money aside throughout the courses of the year to do something like this to maintain older equipment?” Saddler said.
Malone explained that the new fire truck would replace one in Sciotoville, but would go to a Portsmouth fire station, and an older model truck from Portsmouth would be sent to Sciotoville.
“There are hydrants located in every corner of the community that would sufficiently address any fire issues in any neighborhood,” Malone said. “Even though there might be some that are not functioning we can address those, but it doesn’t have any bearing on the loss of property or lives.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org