JASPER, Tenn. — City leaders have approved the purchase of a used aerial fire truck for the Jasper Volunteer Fire Department in what Vice Mayor Leon Rash deemed "almost too good a deal to be true."
At the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen's December meeting, fire Chief Chris Rector said the town could purchase the ladder truck for "roughly" $15,000 and that he valued the truck at between $60,000 and $80,000.
"I think it would be a good asset for the city," he said.
The ladder truck is 20 years newer than the town's current model and includes a water pump, which the current one doesn't have.
Mayor Paul Evans said an investigator with the Tennessee Municipal League in Nashville inspected the vehicle recently and "definitely thought it was a good buy."
A new ladder truck would cost between $750,000 and $1 million, he said.
"It's something that we don't use that often," Evans said. "The one that we have, we've only put on a hundred and some odd miles since we've had it."
Evans said when the municipal league's representative saw Jasper's current ladder truck, he told Evans that the town "needs to trade" and "get rid of that thing."
Alderman Paul West discussed the vehicle with a previous fire chief who used it for years in New Hanover Township, Pa.
The truck was donated by that fire department to Pink Heals, a charity that raises money to fight cancer locally and is known for its pink fire trucks, in North Carolina.
"[The Pennsylvania fire chief] was unhappy that whoever they donated it to was going to turn around and try to sell it for a profit because he said they could've done that themselves, but it was a done deal," West said. "There's nothing they could do about it. He said it sounds like [Jasper] is getting a good deal."
The board voted unanimously to buy the truck and to donate its current aerial vehicle to nearby Whitwell, Tenn.
Repairs to some leaky seals and battery issues on the ladder truck could total at least $3,000 up front, officials said.
West said the owner of a refurbished fire truck dealership in Georgia advised him to prepare for potential costly repairs in the future.
The dealer told West that if Jasper buys the truck, the fire department should set aside $5,000 for maintenance in its annual budget from now on.
"[The dealer] said that small towns will buy a truck like this, but then the first thing that goes wrong with it, they have a heart attack because the repair bill is going to be $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000," West said.
He said setting aside the money each year would "soften the blow" when a repair bill eventually comes due.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.