Melbourne (FL) Approves Fire Apparatus Purchase

Melbourne (FL) city officials approved the purchase of a 95-foot ladder truck, though some worry a proposal to accommodate the new rig might mean slower response times in some parts of the city.

At a cost just short of $1 million, the city council approved buying the Sutphen truck, which will have the department’s longest ladder and a platform at the end. Fire officials say the rig will provide better access to tall buildings while the platform offers a safer and more stable work area for crews battling fires.

According to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which licenses and inspects elevators, there are about 25 five-story or taller buildings in Melbourne, most of those clustered around downtown. Fire officials say the new ladder will help them reach the fifth through seventh stories, about two stories higher than with the old 75-foot ladder truck, though it can provide better access to shorter buildings, too.

Councilman Mike Nowlin, whose district includes much of north Melbourne, said “I’m not going to stand for (the fire chief) to change the dynamics of our stations and potentially put areas in jeopardy of longer response times.”

Nowlin questioned the higher cost of operating the ladder truck compared to the two smaller vehicles, as well as its slower response time because it is a larger rig.

Councilwoman Betty Moore and Vice Mayor Greg Jones also were concerned about possible impact on response times. Based on their concerns, City Manager Mike McNees said he would conduct further analysis of potential impacts on service to other parts of the city and bring that information back to the council.

The city will pay $340,000 from public facility impact fees for the new rig and finance the remaining $634,600 over the next 10 years through SunTrust Equipment Finance and Leasing Corp. Total cost of the loan and interest is $719,800.

Records show the city’s current ladder truck — the one that will be relocated — was dispatched 970 times last year. But not all of those required use of the ladder equipment. That is not tracked in city records. The truck is dispatched on regular calls for service, which range from medical to fires.

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