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Tobacco tax may pay for equipment

By Staff
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
Hartselle's fire department will soon be getting some much-needed equipment, and at least some of it may be partially funded through the city's recently increased tobacco tax.
The department is purchasing a $50,000 mini-pumper truck from the Hampstead
Fire Department in North Carolina. It is also purchasing a 1997 model ladder truck from South Carolina.
The ladder truck will cost some $265,000. A new truck would cost about $600,000, according to Fire Chief Ricky Joe Smith.
Councilman Tom Chappell said money for the purchases may come from the recently increased tobacco taxes. In July, the city raised its taxes on cigarettes and smokeless tobacco from 4 cents to 8 cents per package. The increase will net the city some $65,000 a year.
"There is a possibility of taking those tobacco taxes and earmarking them to pay for the pumper truck, the ladder truck and the expansion of Fire Station one," Chappell said.
Mayor Clif Knight said the city is scheduled for another ISO evaluation in
2007. ISO rankings are sometimes used by insurance companies to determine home coverage costs. In the past, evaluators have said the city needs more fire-prevention equipment to maintain its ISO rating.
The new equipment, Knight said, "puts us in a much stronger position to maintain our five rating and go for a lower rate in the future," Knight said.
The need for fire equipment was put into the spotlight earlier in the summer when a blaze at Quail Run Apartments killed three people. Hartselle's fire department had to call in Decatur Fire Department in order to have a ladder truck to reach the top of the blaze.