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City considers ways to find funds to replace fire truck

 

NATCHEZ — City leaders are considering two programs to purchase a new fire truck to replace a 26-year-old model.

Both a Mississippi Development Authority loan and a Mississippi Department of Insurance grant program are potential means to purchase a new aerial ladder truck that Natchez Community Development Director James Johnston presented during Tuesday’s Natchez Board of Aldermen finance committee meeting.

The revolving loan program, which Johnston said he was merely investigating at this point, could provide up to $750,000 for a single project, with a 10-year maximum term for a single fire truck. The interest rate for taxable projects is 3 percent, while tax-exempt projects have a 2-percent interest rate.

For example, Johnston said, a $1,000,000 loan at a 2-percent rate for 10 years would mean monthly payments of $9,201, though he said borrowing would be lower than that since the city has other funds available to go toward the project.

In addition to the possibility of a loan, Johnston discussed a program that allocates between $50,000 and $90,000 to go toward the purchase of a fire truck. The department of insurance can only administer this grant to counties, but counties can reallocate the funds to cities, Johnston said.

Depending on which of 12 rounds the municipality applies for, it could receive $50,000, $70,000 or $90,000 per fire truck.

Johnston said he has not formally addressed the county about this matter, but he has run the idea by Adams County Board of Supervisors President Calvin Butler and Supervisor Ricky Gray.

Officials have discussed the need for a new truck over the past several months, calling the current aerial ladder truck “non-compliant.”

Just days ago, the current truck needed repairs to its jacks, Natchez Fire Chief Aaron Wesley said.

Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard said he found the sudden need for those repairs “disconcerting” and asked if the truck receives an annual inspection.

Wesley responded that the truck is inspected every time it returns to the station, and that the situation with the jacks was a mechanical issue.

Dillard then further expressed his concern.

“It’s more than a truck,” Dillard said. “It’s a life-saving piece of equipment.”

Aside from the obvious safety implications of having updated equipment, the condition of the Natchez Fire Department’s trucks also could impact its fire ratings with the Mississippi State Rating Bureau, he said. Those ratings in turn affect insurance premiums for property owners.

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