Tell City purchases 102-foot ladder truck for $150,000

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TELL CITY – Christmas arrived early for Tell City’s volunteer firefighters, who delivered a ladder truck to City Hall Wednesday. There was no bow but plenty of smiling faces.

The $150,000 truck, assembled in 1997, isn’t new but has been well-maintained, has low mileage and was an “excellent deal” for the city, Mayor Barbara Ewing said Monday.

Like boys on Christmas morning, several firemen were on hand as the truck arrived and shared the duties of driving it from its old home in Middletown, Ky., just east of Louisville.

Fire Chief Greg Linne drove the final leg to City Hall. Once there, firemen hoisted the ladder toward the brick building.

The city’s board of public works and safety approved the purchase at Monday’s meeting, capping a years-long effort to secure a truck with a longer reach capable of touching the tops of tall buildings such as Twilight Towers and Waupaca Foundry.

The city’s current ladder truck has a 55-foot reach.

Linne said the effort began three or four years ago and the city submitted grant applications. Those efforts weren’t successful.

The city doubled its efforts over the past year in the wake of two major blazes that showed the need for a ladder truck with extended reach.

Carter Fire District and Yankeetown Fire Departments provided their ladder trucks for a summer fire at Waupaca and Carter Fire District was also summoned to February’s fire that destroyed Woodcrafters.

Over the past six months, Linne as been in contact with truck brokers and dealers in hopes of finding a good used truck. The cost of a new truck, Linne said, would reach at least $800,000 and could top $1 million. Examples he found ranged from $240,000 for a 1994 100-foot ladder platform in Florida to $499,000 for a similar but newer 1999 model in Alabama.

Linne learned about the Middletown truck through Tim Rice, a full-time firefighter in the Louisville area who used to live in Tell City. Rice was a reserve firefighter while a city resident.

Linne, Assistant Chief Steve Hauser and others looked at and test drove the truck. Everyone liked what they saw, he said Monday.

Money for the truck will come from the city’s Economic Development Income Tax Fund. Ewing said grants to the city for various infrastructure projects received over the past couple of years have helped conserve EDIT money.

“Thankfully, we’re in a position to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity to serve our city,” she said. Ewing thanked other departments who came to the city’s aid when needed and said the city’s ladder truck will serve other area departments when needed.

The ladder truck does not have a pump since Middletown used it in conjunction with separate pumper trucks. To make Tell City’s truck a ladder-pumper, the city will spend an estimated $50,000, also from EDIT funds, for a pump and tank. No extra modifications will be needed, Linne said, since it was designed to be equipped with pump and tank.

Obtaining specifications and completing the work will take a couple of months. Once ready for full service, the truck will carry a 200- to 300-gallon tank and be able to pump up to 1,500 gallons of water per minute.

With low mileage and engine hours, Linne said the truck could easily serve the city for the next two decades, maybe longer.