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Council debates fire equipment

The Maumelle City Council approved an additional $45,000 to buy new equipment for the nearly $1.1 million ladder truck for the Fire Department in its regular meeting on Monday night.

The approval didn’t come with a rubber stamp as aldermen Preston Lewis and Burch Johnson both voted against the approving the money, while other aldermen, notably Ken Saunders, a former volunteer firefighter, questioned the need of some of the equipment.

Interim Fire Chief John Payne told the Council that the truck is expected to be delivered sometime in October and that the department still hasn’t decided in what station it would be housed.

While the truck will cost the city $1,075,108, that is a fairly stripped down version, Mayor Mike Watson, who has also served as a volunteer firefighter, said after the Council meeting.

“It was a demo,” he said. “So it doesn’t have some of the wiring you would normally see.”

The lack of wiring was one of the reasons why the Department was asking for more expensive wireless radios, as Payne explained to Lewis, who questioned that expenditure, along with the $7,000 that it would cost to buy a thermal imaging camera, a piece of high-tech equipment that allows firefighters to see hot spots through walls and ceilings, along with where people have been.

“You roll up on a car wreck, and you see an empty child [safety] seat, and it makes you wonder, why is it empty,” Payne said. “With this camera, a firefighter can point it at the seat to see if a child had been there,” as the camera is sophisticated enough to detect the heat of a human body.

“It can tell where I was standing,” Payne said at the lectern addressing the Council. “It could detect my footprints, it could even tell where I had been sitting.”

Payne added that the department has two thermal imaging cameras now, but both are older, heavier and lack the features that the newer technology offers.

“It is an essential tool,” Alderman Marc Kelley said. “Something we could use everyday.”

Kelley should know he’s also a volunteer firefighter himself.

In other business: The Council approved moving forward with a bond issuance for the November ballot and also approved a five-year agreement with Pulaski County for the regional detention facility in Little Rock.

Watson said if the Council hadn’t approved, the city could have paid nearly twice as much as the current agreement. Maumelle joins North Little Rock and Sherwood in signing off on the proposal, while Jacksonville and Little Rock are still in talks.

The collection of the city services fee was also addressed by Johnson, who in a written handout to the Council and press, said the billing of the fee, should be included in the bill for Maumelle Water Management.

Johnson also suggested that those delinquent should have their names published in the Monitor.

In cross talk that got a little heated, Watson said that Johnson’s figures were off that his contention that “a bomb is waiting to hit us” was wrong.

Watson added that around 93 percent of residents were paying the fee but agreed with Johnson that the number should be higher.

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