MOREHEAD CITY — Morehead City is honing in on the model and specs of a new ladder truck for the fire department, but with prices coming in higher than originally anticipated, officials hope to partner with Carteret County to help fund the major capital purchase.
The Morehead City Council heard an update on the new ladder truck search last week during a workshop session Oct. 6 at the city hall on Bridges Street. Fire/EMS Chief Jamie Fulk and other members of an appointed search committee came to the meeting to share information about the truck they are considering for purchase.
“We’ve appointed a committee that’s been meeting, we reviewed a lot of ladder trucks, we’ve looked at a lot, drove several … and eventually decided on a vendor that we felt met our needs,” Chief Fulk said.
The committee is eyeing an Ascendant bucket truck built by manufacturer Pierce. It is 43 feet in length, with a 100-foot tall ladder, compared to the department’s current truck, which is 42 feet long and has a 70-foot tall ladder.
The model is similar to one the Beaufort Fire Department recently purchased, so members of the BFD brought their ladder truck for the council to check out in the parking lot after the workshop.
The current cost of the new truck is $1.6 million, higher than the $1.2 million the city has budgeted for the purchase. Due to rising material costs, the quoted price is set to increase by at least 4% come February.
“The prices have gone up dramatically, that’s unfortunate, but it’s what we’re dealing with,” Chief Fulk noted.
The city is hoping to work out a funding agreement with Carteret County to help cover the cost of the new ladder truck. The Morehead City Fire/EMS Department not only covers property within town limits, but also its extraterritorial jurisdiction and some surrounding county-controlled areas, including the Wildwood and Mitchell Village fire districts.
Based on a contract between Morehead City and Carteret County set to expire in 2024, the county contributes funds for operation of the department in exchange for coverage of certain areas, but the county does not currently provide funding for large capital purchases.
“Whether we work a deal with the county or not, we still need a ladder truck,” Chief Fulk said, noting the department’s current truck is aging and due for replacement soon.
Some council members feel the county is not contributing its “fair share,” saying Morehead City residents are bearing the financial burden of paying for fire and EMS coverage for those living outside the city limits. Councilman George Ballou said the city previously recommended hiring an independent auditing firm to determine an equitable contribution structure, but the county decided to do the work in-house.
“We have not received anything yet (from the county), I’ll be the optimist and we might be pleasantly surprised, but we’re waiting to see the numbers that they’ve got,” Mayor Jerry Jones said. “…Once we see that, then we’ll know what direction we need to take.”
Morehead City manager Ryan Eggleston told the News-Times Monday the city hadn’t started talks with the county yet about contributing funding for the new ladder truck, but he expects to soon.
Once the city finalizes the purchase of the new ladder truck, which is still at least several months out, it will take a minimum of 14 months to receive the new truck. Payment will be due upon delivery, but the city will lock in a price when it signs the purchase contract.
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