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A new engine for the Roanoke Rapids Fire Department could become reality after a city councilman expressed support for the equipment during a work session Tuesday evening.

“The city needs one,” Councilman Wayne Smith said this morning. “We’ve been promising it for eight years.”

Smith said the opportunity for a new engine comes through money the city has received through the American Rescue Plan Act. “It’s something needed. Since we got the American Rescue Plan (funding) we can go ahead and buy without financing. It’s a top priority as far as I’m concerned.”

Smith said, “If the public sees some of the trucks they’d be upset with it. I thought it was time for the council to do it.”

No official action was taken on the matter other than Fire Chief Jason Patrick being asked to get price estimates for the vehicle.

Patrick said he feels bolstered by the support expressed by Smith. “I feel like if I get the price I feel like we’ll be ready.”

The process for building an engine is a slow one and Patrick said because of supply chain issues and labor shortages the delivery time has gone from 13 months to 18 months from the time it is ordered. 

The estimated price of just the truck is around $600,000. With the rest of the needed equipment, the price tag rises by about another $150,000.

“We’ve been in talks with the vendor,” Patrick said. “We’re going to fine-tune the specs. It’s pretty much like building a house — they build a truck specific to you.”

Last month during a budget work session held at Station 2, the fire department said in reality it needs two fire engines.

A 1981 Pierce engine was taken out of service because of safety issues with the brakes and the pump would not pass an annual test. 

The fire department’s second-out apparatus is engine 142, which is approaching 31-years-old when most departments are on a 20-year replacement cycle. The truck needs an engine rebuild, the front discharge is rusted out and leaks water, the AC does not work so firefighters can’t use it for rehab and it needs rewiring.

The truck does not meet the most recent National Fire Protection Association standards. It doesn’t have zoned lighting over the entire truck, does not have proper reflective material on all sides and reflective chevrons on the rear. 

If council does approve a new engine 142 would be placed on reserve status.