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FFD makes the case for a new ladder truck

Farmington City Council members understand the Farmington Fire Department’s want of a new ladder truck. They even understand the need. But what they don’t know yet is where to come up with $1.2 million to get one in the near future.

Five members of the Farmington Fire Department’s vehicle committee sat down with council members at a workshop Monday, to talk about the department’s desire to add a ladder truck sometime in the next few years.

The committee has done its research, assistant chief Jim Schmitz said. Working with a consultant, the committee conducted a needs assessment that indicated Farmington could benefit from having such a truck in its fleet.

Farmington has a number of two- and three-story homes, businesses, apartments and schools that would best be served, in the event of a fire, by a ladder truck. While Farmington has a mutual aid agreement in place with neighboring communities, it often takes up to 30 minutes for a ladder truck to arrive at the scene of a fire, because usually those trucks are coming from Lakeville or Rosemount, Schmitz said.

Usually, Farmington’s own engines are first on the scene of severe fires, Schmitz said. When a ladder truck arrives from another community, it takes time to maneuver it into place around the engines already there, adding even more time to the ladder truck’s response. If Farmington had its own ladder truck, it would be equipped as an engine, as well, and it would be one of the first called out, he said.

The vehicle committee has looked at four types of ladder trucks, and prefers one with a platform option. That type of truck, in 2014, would cost approximately $1.2 million. Of that, $1 million would be for the vehicle itself, and another $200,000 for the equipment that goes on and into it. Five years from now, the same type of truck is estimated to cost $1.48 million, Schmitz said.

Council members know the cost of a ladder truck will only go up, but right now, there is no funding available for such a purchase.

“It’s hard to argue with the need,” said council member Terry Donnelly. “We can’t rely on our neighbors forever, but how do we fit this in (to the budget?”

In 2013, the city council and fire department set up a five-year capital improvement plan to replace some of the aging vehicles in the department’s fleet. The CIP does not include funding for a ladder truck.

Schmitz said the committee doesn’t expect the city to come up with a financing plan in the immediate future. But firefighters wanted to take this first step and educate council on the need for a ladder truck.

“We understand there is a financial issue here, but I think the whole department would say we need it,” he said. “My feeling is that to wait 10 years would be detrimental to the city.”

Council members indicated they understood the need. Mayor Todd Larson thanked the committee for the information, and said council would ask city staff to start developing funding options.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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