Aging Fire Trucks,
On List Of Items
BY SARAH GREGORY
Discussion of "big ticket" capital items -- such as new fire trucks, upgrades to a fire station, improvements at EastView pool and a potential new disc golf course and dog park -- were the focus of the Greeneville Budget and Finance Committee meeting Wednesday.
Committee Chairman Darrell Bryan, a 2nd Ward alderman and a former mayor, said that there were "several issues" the Town has "been putting off for a long time."
Town Administrator Todd Smith said that Wednesday's discussion was a starting point that would continue at the next meeting of the Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
Smith said he hopes that the board will prioritize a list of projects for the Town to address. The items discussed Wednesday would have a total, combined cost of approximately $1.8 million.
AGING FIRE TRUCK FLEET
Greeneville Fire Department Chief Mark Foulks spoke to the committee and answered questions about the need to replace the oldest trucks in the department's fleet.
Chief Foulks said that three of the department's six trucks are more than 25 years old -- well over the 15 year life-span recommended by the National Firefighter's Association.
The department's newest engine was purchased in 1999.
According to Foulks, the current "front line" of Fire Department equipment used to respond to calls on a daily basis consists of trucks purchased in 1988, 1991, 1997 and 1999.
The cost of a new fire engine was estimated at $750,000. If purchased, the build time for the truck is approximately one year.
"You don't just go like you are going to a Ford store and pick out a truck. You can't just go and get one," Foulks explained.
He noted that the Fire Department has applied for a federal grant that, if approved, would pay for 95 percent of another fire truck, allowing the department to replace the two oldest trucks at one time.
Whether the grant will be awarded, however, will likely not be known until the end of the calendar year.
Chief Foulks also noted that competition for federal funds has increased.
Mayor W.T. Daniels commended the Fire Department and Chief Foulks' work that has improved the Town's rating with the Insurance Service Office (ISO).
Daniels commented that he hopes the Town is not "penalized" in the grant process for doing such a good job, noting that the federal government may be more inclined to award grants to lesser-performing departments.
STRUCTURE FIRES REDUCED
Foulks also said that he is "very proud" of Greeneville's firefighters, noting that during his tenure, structure fires have been reduced to less than half the number of some prior years.
For the reduction, he credited the successful program in which firefighters installed more than 3,200 smoke alarms in Greeneville homes.
He also highlighted a public education effort that has allowed firefighters to visit city schools to provide fire safety and accident/injury prevention education to all students from kindergarten through fifth grade.
FIRE HALL #2
Chief Foulks also spoke to the committee about the need for upgrades at Fire Hall #2, located on the Asheville Highway (Tenn. Rt. 70) at the Vann Road intersection.
Only two of the three bays at the station are currently in use as the concrete flooring the trucks park upon is "breaking down," according to Foulks.
He added that, because of concerns about further deterioration, no water is being used inside the bays.
"These are issues that are huge for us," he said, explaining that the fire trucks must be taken to a different location, such as central fire hall, to be cleaned.
Living conditions in the fire station, which was built in 1960, are also a matter of concern, Foulks said.
He pointed out that the fire hall has only 850 square-feet of living space for the firefighters who must stay in the facility in 24-hour shifts.
Foulks said he has had some generalized estimates made of the cost of constructing a new fire station or renovating the existing facility.
The cost of a new facility would be, at minimum, $1.2 to $1.5 million, he said. Renovating the existing structure, he said, would come at an estimated cost of $500,000.
Foulks said the renovation the Fire Department is exploring would change the configuration of the fire hall completely.
Currently, fire trucks park on the upper level of the building,while firefighters' housing is located on the lower level.
Renovation plans would put the fire trucks on the lower level, reducing the weight on the crumbling concrete deck.
The upstairs level would then have the concrete sealed, with new flooring installed. The full upper-level could then be used for firefighter housing.
If the renovation is undertaken, a new access road to the rear of the station would have to be built.
That access would connect Vann Road and the Food City parking lot, which is located adjacent to the fire hall.
Foulks noted that some conversations have already taken place with the developer who owns the property upon which Food City is located and the store's management.
He said that such an access would be mutually beneficial.
Town Administrator Smith said that the challenge of such an access would be the drainage ditch and topographical concerns, because the area behind the fire hall is not level.
He said that details on that access will need to be worked out in continued discussions with Food City management and the developer who owns the shopping center property.
Committee members discussed the potential for a new project at EastView pool -- an aging facility in need of repair that, according to Parks and Recreation Department Director Butch Patterson, is "still losing money."
A memorandum from Smith estimated that operation of the pool results in a $12,000 per year loss for the Town.
Patterson pointed out that the pool was built in the late 1950s or early 1960s, and is currently costing Greeneville more than $15,000 a year for water, electricity, and chemicals alone.
He stated that splash pads could be installed in place of the pool. The splash pads, he said, would provide a new amenity currently unavailable in Greeneville.
Splash pads are, essentially, playgrounds that incorporate underground devices that spray jets of water in which children -- and adults -- can play and cool off.
Because there is no depth of water, there is no need for state-mandated lifeguards to be on duty, and fewer chemical products are needed.
Those two factors alone, Patterson said, would result in significant cost savings over the long term.
Patterson also noted that the splash pads can stay open for a longer season than can a swimming pool. The longer season, he said, would provide more recreational opportunities for citizens.
The project would cost an estimated $250,000 and take an estimated 12 to 14 weeks to construct.
Patterson told the committee that there are, basically, three options for EastView pool: repair the pool by replacing its liner, install the splash pad, or fill up the pool and figure out some other use for the property.
DISC GOLF, DOG PARK?
Town Administrator Smith spoke briefly about a proposal that would add two more currently-unavailable amenities and recreational opportunities for the citizens of Greeneville.
The Town owns property off Whirlwind Road that, many years ago, was a landfill. That landfill has been closed "for decades," according to Smith.
He noted that, because of the land's past purpose, there are heavy restrictions on how it can be used.
For example, no commercial or residential structures can be placed on the property.
Smith proposes spending $35,000 to "recycle" the former landfill into a dog park and disc golf course.
The proposed dog park would allow pet-owners a fenced-in green space where dogs can run, play, and exercise off-leash.
An adjacent disc golf course would allow an open space for exercise and an "enhanced recreational opportunity" for citizens, Smith said.
The disc golf course would have poles with targets at which players throw flying discs in an attempt to complete the course with as few throws as possible.
The Whirlwind Road project would add a big benefit for citizens at minimal cost, Smith said.
Smith briefly mentioned the need to continue work on the Fairgrounds Road connector project.
The next phase of the project would require the Town to provide a $329,000 match to previously-secured grant funding.
Smith noted that the project needed to be completed because it has already been started with so much work carried out already.
CITY SCHOOLS NEEDS
Greeneville Director of Schools Dr. Linda Stroud was asked to give a brief update on the school system's capital needs.
Dr. Stroud said that it is still early in the school system's fiscal year 2013-2014 budget process, but the need to replace three school buses has already been identified.
A formula that factors in the age of the buses and their mileage determines when buses must be replaced.
This year, Stroud said, two full-sized buses and one "pre-Kindergarten" bus must be replaced.
Stroud also briefly discussed the increasing age of many of the school system's facilities.
She added that this year alone, the system has spent more than $500,000 in upgrades, and many more -- such as HVAC systems -- are needed.
The budget process will continue, with the Board of Mayor and Aldermen likely approving a prioritized list of items to fund.
After the board members have determined which of the projects they choose to undertake -- if any -- Smith will take the information to the Stephens Group for consultation about how best to cover the cost of the projects.
Smith outlined different financing options.
The options, he said, include using money from the Town's fund balance, financing projects through loans from local banks, or issuing bond obligations for projects.
Budget hearings to hear requests from each of the Town's department heads will also be scheduled in the coming months as the fiscal year 2013-2014 budget is developed.