Wednesday, June 6, 2012
The town of Walden is being asked to commit $75,000 over a three-year period to Waldens Ridge Emergency Services for a capital campaign, in addition to matching the $42,000 it gave WRES for operating expenses last year.
This comes in a budget year that Town Recorder Fern Lockhart already expects to be too tight to take on new projects.
“We’ve been studying very diligently the state of our equipment so we can respond properly,” said WRES board member and capital campaign co-chair Bill Leonard. “Most of the equipment is past its useful age. This is equipment that we desperately need, these aren’t nice-to-have things. We’re not looking for the next new piece of shiny equipment and turnout gear.”
Town officials will take their first vote on the proposed budget for 2012-13 at their regularly scheduled meeting June 12 at 7:30 p.m.
“I think it’s a necessity to maintain an adequate fire protection system up here,” Alderman David Epperson said after Leonard’s presentation during a preliminary town budget meeting. “If we have to take it out of reserves to do that, I’d be willing to go ahead with that. Right now we’ve got a tinderbox situation with the dry spell we’ve had. Anything they need, I think we should be supportive.”
Leonard stressed that despite the age of equipment, “WRES scored very high marks as a fire emergency service in a report [by Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service] that were in many cases equal to and in some cases better than the standing fire department of [the town of] Signal Mountain.”
In total, WRES hopes to collect $750,000 through the campaign. The plan calls for two $75,000 donors in addition to lower donor benchmarks. Leonard said Hamilton County, which provides 34 percent of WRES’ operational funding (Walden provides 25 percent, private individuals 24 percent and the federal government 16 percent), has preliminarily agreed to discuss the campaign with WRES representatives.
“I’m not opposed to doing this necessarily, but something to think about in doing capital campaigns is if nobody else gives the money, our money is thrown into the wind,” said Mayor Peter Hetzler.
The official campaign kickoff is slated for this September. In addition to sources already mentioned, the plan calls for solicitation of local individuals and property owners as well as the town of Signal Mountain, which provides the remaining 1 percent of WRES’ normal operating budget.
The money, which is planned to be put in an endowment with the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, would be spent over a two-year period to update both equipment and facilities.
A new pumper and tanker, both of which would be purchased gently used, are needed, according to Leonard. Most of the fire-fighting equipment in use, as opposed to rescue equipment, is at least 20 years old, with the majority closer to 30 years old.
A used pumper is estimated to cost $100,000 plus $50,000 to overhaul it. A used tanker is estimated to cost $250,000.
“Since our community and response community doesn’t have fire hydrants, we have more urban areas where we have to rely on a tanker truck [that can carry 1,000 gallons of water],” Leonard said. “The current tanker truck we have is an old milk truck that was purchased a long time ago. That truck is dangerous to operate.”
The training room is too cramped; there is no kitchen, day area or showers for volunteers, who often stay overnight at the station; there are only two desks in a small office space for 12 operations officers as well as the board officers; and all the bay doors are too small for some of the apparatus, according to the capital needs plan.
“Will Wilkerson is doing a plan for free based on their scaled-down needs to rethink how the fire station can better serve,” Leonard said, noting that WRES is also seeking Homeland Security grants as well as state money to help fund the projects.