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Smithfield VFD buys new fire trucks

County and Smithfield Volunteer Fire Department officials signed a contract on April 9 for the purchase of two new trucks April 9.

One will replace a 1995 engine; the other, a 1998 ladder truck. Both new vehicles will be manufactured by Seagrave and be delivered in 2022.

“This is the first new ladder truck ever built for the town of Smithfield,” said Smithfield VFD Chief Chris Edwards, referring to the 95-foot Seagrave aerialscope, which he said the department selected specifically because of several operations the department has handled at the Smithfield Foods plant in town.

As such, Smithfield Foods has agreed to contribute $250,000 toward the purchase of the two vehicles via $50,000 annual payments over the next five years.

“Smithfield Foods is tremendously grateful to Smithfield’s local volunteer firefighters, who bravely serve our community day in and day out,” said Jonathan Toms, charitable initiatives manager for Smithfield Foods. “It is our honor to contribute funds to ensure our firefighters have the proper equipment they need to continue to keep our community safe.”

Deputy Chief Charlie Kempton said contract pricing prevented him from disclosing the exact cost of the two vehicles together, but estimated the figure to be in the neighborhood of $2.5 million.

The county has agreed to pay $1.8 million — roughly 75% of the cost. This will come out of the $34 million the county borrowed last year, most of which will go toward replacing Hardy Elementary School but some of which was earmarked for fire and rescue needs. To pay back the increased debt, the county plans to enact a 4-cent real estate tax increase at the start of the 2021-2022 fiscal year July 1.

“Of course it’s the citizens ultimately providing the funding,” said County Administrator Randy Keaton. “They’re the ones who will be paying these bonds back … the bill will be coming due shortly.”

The two trucks for Smithfield and a new ambulance for Carrollton’s volunteer fire department are all included for funding in fiscal year 2021-2022 per the county’s capital improvements plan, which the county uses to plan ahead for funding anticipated large expenditures.

The Smithfield VFD is still hoping the town of Smithfield will contribute $190,000, to be paid in installments over the next 10 years, but as the town hasn’t adopted a budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year yet, nothing is set in stone.

The replacement fire engine is due to arrive in the spring of 2022, with the new ladder truck arriving that summer. At that time, the department plans to sell its 1998 ladder truck but keep the 1995 engine in reserve.