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Board is split over rescue truck purchase

Grady County commissioners were deadlocked 2-2 Tuesday over the purchase of a new rescue truck for the county volunteer fire department.
Two weeks ago the board authorized VFD Coordinator Wayne Hadden to solicit bids on the new emergency vehicle, but requested he meet with the other VFD station chiefs to seek their approval of the purchase.
Hadden had recommended to the board last month to use Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax proceeds to purchase the new vehicle.
At the meeting of the fire chiefs last week, six of the nine present voted against using only SPLOST proceeds to purchase the truck.
The consensus of the chiefs was to use $70,000 in sales tax dollars and seek the remaining $70,000 from the county’s general fund.
VFD Coordinator Hadden presented the chiefs’ proposal Tuesday and for approximately an hour the board debated the issue.
The bids received for the new truck were: Custom Truck and Body Works – $135,315; Fouts Bros. – $140,415; and Ten-8 – $168,222.
Based on the meeting with his fellow chiefs last week, Hadden did not make a recommendation to the board on the purchase.
Although the other chiefs have expressed concerns about using the bulk of sales tax dollars earmarked for the VFD on the rescue truck, Hadden pointed out Tuesday there would still be approximately $90,000 left to be spent for needs of the other fire stations.
The board turned over the operation of the rescue truck to the VFD three years ago. It is manned from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. by Richard Phillips, who in addition to being the only county paid firefighter, is the volunteer chief of the Spence station. After 5 p.m., volunteers rotate and man the truck the remainder of the time and on weekends.
Commissioner Charles Norton said concerns had been voiced by the other chiefs that the sales tax proceeds are needed to buy air packs, air cylinders and turnout gear.
Hadden said new air packs are purchased every year and air cylinders and turnout gear are inspected and evaluated annually.
“No one is opposed to buying the truck. They unanimously support using $70,000 of SPLOST if the board considers doing something different on the other half,” Hadden said.
Commissioners said there is no money in the budget for the other half and it cannot commit $70,000 in the 2014 budget when it has not been crafted yet.
“What would happen if we take it all out of SPLOST?” Commissioner Norton asked Hadden.
“I guess we would go back and discuss with the chiefs what the remainder of the money could be spent on,” Hadden said.
“We may be having the final chiefs’ meeting,” Vice Chairman T.D. David said fearing angry reaction from the other chiefs.
Hadden said he was prepared to call another meeting if the board did not agree to the chiefs’ proposal.
“Will they get over it or blow up and go home?” Norton asked and Hadden said, “I can’t speak for them. I would like to think they would get over it and we could move forward.”
Chairman Billy Poitevint commented, “I’d hate to see the volunteer fire department die over the board’s decision to buy this truck.”
Commissioner Elwyn Childs asked if the board approved purchasing the truck entirely with SPLOST Funds would the remaining earmarked funds be spent the way the other chiefs decided best helps them and their station.
Hadden said it would be the chiefs’ decision and not his.
“So you’re saying it would be their choice, not Wayne Hadden’s choice?” Childs asked and Hadden said that was correct and it was the way it had always been.
“It’s always been a cooperative effort,” the VFD coordinator said.
Hadden said he understood the board’s position and he hoped the commissioners understood his.
“I’ve got a vehicle that has been hauled in eight times by a wrecker. This is the only vehicle in the county that makes this response and is equipped like this one,” Hadden said.
Vice Chairman David made a push to move forward with purchasing the truck.
“This is a ‘Cadillac’ truck and they don’t make a ‘VW’ truck. We’ve got to have a truck. I think it is mandatory,” David said before making a motion to use SPLOST funds to purchase the new unit.
Commissioner Childs seconded the motion with the stipulation that the motion include wording that states the remainder of the SPLOST proceeds would be spent based on the wishes of the majority of chiefs.
David and Childs voted for buying the truck with sales tax dollars, but Chairman Poitevint and Commissioner Norton opposed. Commissioner Lafaye Copeland was absent Tuesday while attending training in Atlanta.
With the deadlock the motion died and Chairman Poitevint and Commissioner Norton said if the majority of the chiefs supported purchasing the truck entirely with sales tax funds they would support it.
Otherwise, Norton pledged to work to write $70,000 into the budget next year for half of the cost of the truck.
“I just don’t want to create an issue with the rest of the chiefs,” Norton said.

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