SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — When the South Pittsburg Fire Department's ladder truck failed two tests on a recent inspection, officials scrambled to find a way to fix the problems.

Fire Chief Corey Comstock said he got two estimates for the needed repairs.

"There's two different jobs to be done on the ladder truck," he said. "The aerial part is not in compliance. It failed the test, and also the pump failed the test."

The lowest of the two estimates was $18,000 from Brindlee Mountain Fire Apparatus in Union Grove, Ala.

At the South Pittsburg City Commission's September meeting, Comstock asked the board for permission to get the work done.

"We've been considering several other options," City Administrator Gene Vess said. "I mean, I'd like to look for somebody else to look at those things and see what they could do, but I just don't know who to go [to]. We just about have to go with the guys that can do it."

Both estimates were "extremely expensive," he said.

"We've got to do something to keep the ladder truck going because that's the only piece that we have [to reach certain spots]," Vess said. "I just don't want to get anybody up on a ladder, and they get stuck. And that's what could end up happening with this."

Mayor Virgil Holder questioned whether the town should go through a published bidding process since the price was so high.

City leaders could declare the cost an "emergency repair" and forgo the bidding process, City Attorney Billy Gouger said, and he recommended the town do that if the funds were available.

The "biggest concern" is that the fire truck failed its recent tests, Vess said.

"That's what scares me — the fact that it failed a test, and I'm not really sure that it's certified," he said.

Comstock confirmed the truck would not be certified to operate and said the town's Insurance Services Office fire ratings could suffer because of it.

Holder said he was concerned for the "safety of all our citizens and buildings and businesses around."

"I feel like it would be [an emergency]," he said.

The board voted unanimously to follow Gouger's recommendation and get the truck fixed at Brindlee Mountain Fire Apparatus.

While the ladder truck is out of service, the town will depend on the mutual aid of nearby Bridgeport, Ala., and Stevenson, Ala., for help if that type of equipment is needed in South Pittsburg.

"In the event that we need it, we would have a callout for a ladder truck," Vess said.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at