Perryville fire department to advertise for new fire truck bids, considering station relocation

The Perryville City Council decided to allow the fire department to advertise for bids for a new fire truck.

During the March 4 meeting, it was shared that a new truck is a large expense — one of the biggest expenses the city has on a 20-year basis.

The department’s current truck is about 21 years old, said fire chief Anthony Young, and since it’s the only truck the department has, this can cause an issue when it’s down for repairs, like it was about a month ago.

In larger areas with higher call volumes, locations typically replace trucks sooner than every 20 years.

However, Perryville is a small town with a low call volume, so Young said the issue isn’t so much wear and tear as it is the age of the truck. The estimated cost of a truck with “no frills” can range from about $300,000 and up, he said. Manufacturers have multiple finance options, so there may be a choice between paying the full amount at once or putting a certain amount down. Young isn’t sure yet what the council’s decision will be on financing.

There are grants available for large items like fire trucks, but Young said most of them are federal and highly competitive. However, the department has received several grants over the years, four just in the month of February, for smaller things like equipment, which Young said has been helpful. He said the department also has funds saved and set aside, but the fire truck will still be a significant expense.

“We want to get something that benefits the citizens of Perryville for now and for years to come, but we also have to know that we have to be able to afford what we’re going to get and get the most truck that we can with the money that we have,” he said.

Young said the city will put a public notice in the Advocate-Messenger advertising for bids for a new fire truck.

One topic that also came up during the council meeting was the possibility of the fire station changing locations. The city is considering expanding city hall, where the fire department is already conducting a lot of its training, to include the fire station. At its current location about 10 feet from the river, the existing fire station is facing some structural issues, Young said. The building is about 70 years old or older and is small and cramped, he said.

“We don’t have any room to do maintenance, anything like that,” Young said. “We don’t have any room to train inside as far as open areas, so there are some considerations there. The building itself is a block building, so it’s not energy-efficient. It’s not well-insulated. We’ve got some issues with the roof leaking and we also have some issues with the floor in the bay area.”

Also, the location being so close to the river has been a concern of Young’s since the river floods, though he said he doesn’t have experience with the station flooding.

The fire station being added on to city hall would accomplish a few other things too, he said. By having it in the same building, it would allow the city to consolidate utility and phone bills, as well as insurance payments, which he said would save the city money. The city also wouldn’t need to buy a second property, since it already owns City Hall.

The idea of possible relocation of the fire station to city hall did come with a citizen concern on the meeting Facebook post, however, that if the station were on the other side of the bridge from where it is now, there may be difficulty in responding to a fire or other emergency on the opposite side of the bridge if the bridge were to fail. To that, Young said the department would ask for mutual aid from other departments, like the Boyle County Fire Department, and could get a truck to the other side of the bridge, which would take a few minutes.

He said if he could have a wish list, it “would be nice” to have a station on both sides of the river, multiple fire trucks at each station and a full-time fire department staff, as the department is now all-volunteer.

“The reality is Perryville can’t afford that,” he said. “We can’t afford it, and we don’t have the run volume to support that either.”

About half of runs are medical responses, he said. In 2018 there were about 60 total runs, and in 2019 there were more than 70. The year 2020 seemed to be an anomaly, he said, since there were only about 40 total runs since the department was doing fewer medical runs for the year as a COVID-19 precaution.

Young said he is an aggressive grant writer and tries to seize grant application opportunities when they arise.

He said when it comes to a location of a potential new fire station it would be difficult to build onto its current location since it likely would have to build closer toward the river.

He said “Regardless of location, we would need something that was bigger,” since he said the current station doesn’t have adequate space for training or maintenance repairs.