Council approves new fire truck purchase

Cost is a little more than budgeted

By Kevin Spradlin

HAMLET — David Knight is as open and transparent as one could ask of a public official.

But when asked to take a photo of one of the firetrucks — Tanker 3 — he shrugged his shoulders. He had to say no.

Hamlet_fire“You could” take a photo, said the chief of the Hamlet Fire Department, “but I think it’s in the shop.”

Safety was a chief reason why all five members of the Hamlet City Council approved Tuesday night to purchase a new fire truck to replace the the aging firetruck, built at the fire station by firefighters in 1983 on a used 1972 model truck formerly used for over-the-road vehicle to haul milk.

“The truck had hundreds of thousands of miles when it was built,” Knight told Mayor Bill Bayless and council members Pat Preslar, Jessie McQueen, Tony Clewis, Johnathan Buie and Eddie Martin.

In the Spring budget work sessions, Knight requested $250,000 for a new truck. The council approved $200,000 and asked Knight explore a new vehicle or a reliable used truck. The final cost will be about $215,500, Knight said, and the truck would be delivered by Fouts Brothers Fire Equipment in Smyrna, Ga., before June 30, 2015, if the order is placed by the end of the year. The difference will require a budget amendment total of about $15,500, but that will be spread equally over the five-year loan, or about $3,000 each year.

Knight said Tuesday that the truck hoses offer only 400 gallons of water per minute — which was fine in the 1980s. The current standard is 750 gallons per minute.

“We don’t get any credit for our insurance rating (when at a fire) because it’s not certified,” Knight said. “It’s worn out.”

City Finance Director Jill Dickens told council members that she couldn’t say exactly where the money would come from until January “unless we cut corners within the departments.”

Audit findings

The fire truck purchase strains an already stressed city budget. Ken Anderson, a certified public accountant with Anderson, Smith and Wike, Rockingham, delivered his opinion of the city’s finances in an annual presentation.

During the Spring budget work sessions that determined this fiscal year’s budget, city officials — McQueen especially — indicated that the “t” word — read: a tax increase — could be on the horizon if the city didn’t control its spending and find new ways to generate revenue. The adopted budget includes taking $821,720 from the city’s fund balance, though city officials hope to not have to use that entire amount.

Anderson said the city’s in good shape — for now. The minimum amount of undesignated funds is 8 percent. The city of Hamlet is at 36 percent, Anderson said. Then came the words of caution. Anderson said there has been a 6.5 percent decrease in the fund balance over the past three years.

“You might want to take that into consideration,” Anderson said. “Sometimes, once you get into the decline, you continue to go.”

Anderson said he offered an “unmodified opinion, which “in essence (is) a good audit report.”

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