09/11/07 — Mount Olive town board sets sights on fire truck

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Mount Olive town board sets sights on fire truck

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on September 11, 2007 1:45 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- When three people drowned after their car crashed into a creek off N.C. 55 Sunday, members of the Mount Olive Fire Department rushed to the scene.

But Fire Chief Steve Martin told members of the town board Monday their response was limited -- that his men simply did not have the truck they needed to avoid danger at the site.

"It was a very scary situation," he said.

The board took a step toward correcting the problem Monday evening, as they voted unanimously to pursue the purchase of an $850,000 engine for the department.

Town Manager Charles Brown said he will now apply for both a grant and loan from the USDA's Rural Development Division, money that will help offset the cost of the truck.

"We think we will be able to obtain a grant in the amount of about $250,000," he said, adding the proposed 20-year loan would cover an additional $450,000. "When everything is all said and done, we're looking at a cost of about $200,000 to the city."

But Sunday's fatal wreck was only part of the argument for a new truck in Mount Olive.

Martin said if a fire were to break out in a dorm on the Mount Olive College campus, his men would have to risk their lives going into the building rather than using an extended ladder to perform rescues.

And had it been with the department this weekend, "we could have used that truck to extend out over the water," he added.

Brown agreed.

He told board members and residents it was clear that a state-of-the-art truck is necessary.

"The need is already there, and it's going to get greater as time goes by," he said.

Now that the request has been approved, officials will wait for word on the grant.

Should it come through, the town would take out a 20-year loan, one Brown said would only translate to a $16,000 commitment each year.

Martin believes it was the right decision-- that his crew will have better tools to work with once it arrives.

"We have an awful lot of fire-load around here," he said. "That truck, it could be utilized in several ways."

Brown said he feels confident that the money to get the truck will be available year in and year out.

"We had not anticipated a tax increase at this point in time," he said. "Not for this, anyway."