Fire chief's requests fall on deaf ears in Jerome

Chief Molloy withdraws request for upgraded truck

The Jerome Town Council Monday took a step back from its commitment not to micro-manage the fire department. With the exception of two council members, Rebekah Kennedy and Jane Moore, the council overrode the plans of Fire Chief Terry Molloy.

Recently, the council adopted a new organizational chart to allow the town to operate under its voter-approved council and manager form of government. Under that chart, the fire chief was to report directly to the town manager instead of the council. The council retained control over the Jerome Police Department.

A special workshop and meeting was held Monday afternoon in response to requests from Molloy. Molloy's primary request was to upgrade a new brush truck with a compressed air foam system unit. He wanted to use money already allocated to the department.

The Jerome Fire Department has received an $80,000 grant from Homeland Security funds to be used to purchase a new brush truck. Molloy reported to the council that the original bid for a brush truck without the CAFS unit would cost $77,000, less than the grant amount. But the fire department wanted to upgrade to a brush truck with CAFS at a cost of $91,500.

Molloy asked to use an additional $11,500, which is the difference between the grant amount of $80,000 and the cost of the upgraded truck of $91,500. Molloy identified funds for the upgrade that would allow the department to also purchase a used fire truck from Cottonwood for $15,000.

During discussion, Mayor Bob Bouwman and council members Gil Robinson and Nancy Stewart decided that Molloy should consider buying a used chassis for the new truck. His intention was to buy a new Ford 450 chassis in Flagstaff and send it to Phoenix were it would be fitted with a special bed containing all of the foam and brushfire equipment.

"I'd rather go new for the warranty," Molloy said.

"You can get an extended warranty on a used vehicle," Bouwman said.

Moore pointed out that there is a lot of time involved in researching a used vehicle.

Robinson said he liked the idea of looking into a used vehicle. Kennedy said her personal experience with used vehicles has always been bad. "I'm pushing for the new one, especially if it's going to have a warranty," Kennedy said.

Kennedy made a motion to allow Molloy to purchase the new truck according to the department's specifications. She said to let the fire chief run the department with input from the town manager.

Her motion was amended to include direction for Molloy to check into finding a used vehicle. Molloy said he'd rather have the $77,000 brush truck and have a new one rather than a used chassis with the CAFS unit onboard.

"I'm going to do this officially," Molloy said. "I'm going to withdraw the request." By doing that, Molloy keeps the $77,000 brush truck within the grant and the council shouldn't have any worries about the money.

In another matter included in the agenda item, Bouwman questioned Molloy about two used trucks that the department wants to keep, a used brush truck and an older rescue truck. Bouwman said he considered those vehicles not to be safe and not up to standards. "In my opinion, they're more of a liability than an asset," Bouwman said.

Molloy said the plan is to convert one of those trucks to a portable cascade system for on-site refilling of the department's air packs. Bouwman said the system could be built in the fire station.

"No we can't," Molloy said. He explained that a cascade system inside the station would have to be built in a concrete bunker. "We don't have room for it," he said.

After Molloy made it clear that the department considers the two trucks in question to be assets, Bouwman made a motion to instruct Molloy to get rid of the two used trucks. The motion passed.

On Tuesday, Molloy told The Verde Independent that the department considered those trucks to be useful assets. "We wanted to keep the old brush truck because we would put it in service when we send the new one out to make money," Molloy said. "It would provide us better coverage to protect the lives and property of our citizens."

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