Junction City Council debates spending for fire gear

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 14, 2018

Whether or not Junction City can afford an estimated $45,000-50,000 to replace six sets of self-contained-breathing apparatus (SCBA) for the city’s fire department was the main point of discussion at Thursday night’s meeting.

Mayor Jim Douglas said no.

“We can’t afford that … We can’t spend $50,000,” he said, in response to a presentation by Fire Chief Troy Gammon.

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Gammon said, “We have to have this stuff … How else are we going to fight these fires?”

The department’s current SCBAs go out of date at the end of the year and without replacements, firefighters can’t enter buildings safely, Gammon said.

“We’ve got to get this stuff. I’m not trying to get luxury, I’m just trying to get what we need to keep us safe,” he said.

Gammon also presented the council with a plan to use the department’s state aid funding from the Kentucky Fire Commission of $10,500, along with a portion of the department’s additional $10,000 from the budget to purchase four sets of gear, to replace gear that is out of date. The department receives a state aid check each year, but they have to spend the money by June 30 and can only spend it on limited things.

The mayor said he wanted the city to begin purchasing items in shifts, not all at once. Gammon agreed and said that was his plan too — specifically, he wants to buy two new sets of gear every July 1.

Douglas said, “Last year, we desperately needed hose. Now we’ve still got hoses in boxes.”

Gammon told him that “most of the hose” had been placed on the truck and the old hose had been removed. There is some still in boxes, he said, but that will be put on the department’s new utility truck when it is purchased.

The department’s utility truck was totaled after being hit when the fire department responded to a wreck in December. At the March meeting, the department presented the city with a $25,000 check from the insurance company, but Douglas said he wanted to speak with the company before he would agree to accept the check.

Douglas confirmed on Friday that he had accepted the check.

“We’ve not decided what we’re going to do with that yet,” he said. “We’re trying to find another truck.”

During Thursday’s meeting, Douglas asked Gammon how he expected the city to pay for the SCBAs. Gammon said financing was available. He also asked for the council to approve four firefighters to attend the Fire Department International Conference in Indianapolis at the end of the month. There, Gammon said, they can get bids and companies are often willing to offer discounted rates.

Council member Sonya Kitchen said she had been to the conference before and agreed it would be a good place for firefighters to get quotes.

The council approved paying for two rooms for four firefighters.

Douglas encouraged Gammon to seek out grant funding to help pay for the SCBAs.

In other business 

Rick Waldon, the chair of the Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce board, spoke to the council about the changes coming to the chamber and the benefits of joining.

Waldon also encouraged the council to consider joining the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership board.

“Take advantage of this opportunity. If you truly love this community and you want to see it grow and develop, now is the time to do it,” Waldon said. “We want to move forward.”

The council also discussed a new municipal building which would replace the existing city hall and potentially include the police and fire departments, while also acting as a storm shelter. The building has been talked about for several years, but at this time no building plans have been finalized.

“Bluegrass ADD was supposed to have contacted me … We’re just going to have to put this thing together,” Douglas said. “Every avenue I go down, they say, ‘Well, that money’s tied up.’”

In 2015, a potential plan was presented to the city, at the cost of $1.2 million, with $500,000 potentially coming from a federal Community Development Block Grant and another $762,670 potentially being covered by a United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development loan. Douglas and council members at the time said the cost to repay that loan would be too much for the city to take on.

On Friday Douglas said again the city would not take on a project that expensive. The city currently has not saved money to put specifically toward a building, he said.

“We’ve got some we can put into it but most of it we’ll have to borrow,” Douglas said.

He said they hope to find some kind of grant funding, but if they are not able to get grants, they will have to seek out financing to fund the project.

“We have to do something … We have no place to go,” Douglas said.

The council had not met at city hall since March. He said that was because the room they normally use at city hall had sustained severe water damage due to leaking.

“I doubt if we’ll get to go back in it — we’re not ever going to get to go back in it. It’s done,” he said.

The building has a flat roof, Douglas said, and has “lived its life.”

This is not the first time the meetings have been moved due to water damage.

Junction City also set the date for their fireworks in honor of Independence Day for July 2.