LEESBURG, Ga. -- Lee County Fire Chief James Howell notes that there are "two stories" that go with the county's unveiling of its newest piece of firefighting equipment Wednesday.
"We're improving and adding to our public safety equipment, yes, but there's also the story of the upgraded safety features on this truck," Howell said after he and members of the Lee County Commission held a news conference to show off the new $242,000 firetruck delivered to the department this week. "Any truck built after Jan. 1 had to incorporate new safety standards required by the National Fire Protection Association.
"This truck comes under those guidelines. It's quite an impressive piece of equipment."
The county used Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax IV funds to purchase the firetruck from Rosenbauer America of Lyons, S.D., which built the vehicle to LFD specifications. Rosenbauer's $242,000 bid was second-lowest offered for the truck.
"We put together our specs, advertised the bid and put the job out for bid," Howell said. "Rosenbauer had the second-low bid, but the lowest bidder -- a big company -- got too far away from our specs. For instance, we require an aluminum body 3/16-inch thick and that company said they would only build a 1/8-inch body.
"They essentially told us 'that's the way we build our trucks.' So we went with the company that better met our specifications. We need the thicker body to hold up on some of our (unpaved) roads."
Lee County officials lauded the purchase as part of the county's ongoing efforts to protect its citizens.
"This fire engine is a continuation of the county's commitment to upgrading our public safety equipment," Lee Commission Chairman Ed Duffy said. "We have great county personnel, and we want to make sure they have the very best equipment.
"The reason we purchased this vehicle is in anticipation of continued commercial and residential growth out (U.S. Highway) 82. We needed a bigger and better machine with more capacity to meet the needs of our growing community."
Howell said the new firetruck would be housed at Palmyra Fire/EMS Station 3 off U.S. 82.
"Every few years the NFPA rewrites the standards for fire safety equipment," Howell said. "In last year's revision, they came up with new safety standards for firetrucks, and this vehicle falls under those new standards."
The county put in its order for the truck around the first of the year.
Smithville/Chokee Commissioner Dennis Roland had chided fellow commissioners for the plan to utilize the new truck in the county's Palmyra District, saying at a recent Commission meeting that the SPLOST IV referendum called for a new truck at the planned Smithville fire/EMS station that is currently under construction.
"We were supposed to get a new firetruck in Smithville, but I guess we'll just be glad to get what we get," Roland said Wednesday.
Howell said Wednesday all of the firetrucks currently among the department's fleet are "in excellent condition and capable of meeting the community's demands."