A joint agreement between the Amherst County Board of Supervisors, the county’s economic development authority and the Amherst Fire Department in buying a new fire truck is set to yield about $34,000 in savings through a prepayment arrangement.

Supervisors approved the plan during their Sept. 17 meeting after County Attorney Michael Lockaby spoke on the legalities of the payment method. The county has allocated $620,000 in its current fiscal year budget to finance the majority of the cost of the new engine while the Amherst department is picking up the difference of $47,378, according to the agreement.

The EDA’s involvement allowed for the plan to move forward and generate a cost savings, according to Lockaby.

The nearly $34,000 discount is equivalent to the better part of an employee’s annual salary or a contribution to budget line items such as a raise or a new position, he said.

“That’s a fair chunk of change,” Lockaby said to supervisors. “So we wanted to go the extra mile and do something innovative to make this possible.”

Lockaby said Amherst Fire Department Chief Tom Martin brought the plan up early enough for the county to move on it and realize some savings.

“This is innovative for us,” County Administrator Dean Rodgers said. “He [Martin] was the one who muscled us through our fears of finding a way to make this happen.”

Martin thanked the county and said the department could not provide services at its current level without its support. He said the new engine is expected to take nearly a year to get into the department’s fleet and it will replace a 1989 model engine.

The department responded to a structure fire in the county when the 1989 engine broke down and a broken radiator cost about $10,000 to replace, Martin told supervisors. Martin, who who is running unopposed for the District 1 seat on the board of supervisors in the Nov. 5 election, said the trucks must be ready to go when the siren sounds and securing the new engine meets a great need.

“There were a lot of people who came together to make this happen,” Martin said.

The department will sell the older truck and look to get as much as it can, he said.

Supervisor Claudia Tucker said the savings is a lot of money for the county the size of Amherst.

In other news:

  • The board voted to recommend the Amherst Circuit Court appoint Richard Wydner, Kenneth Althouse and Kelvin Brown as regular members of the Amherst County Board of Equalization and Monte Jennings as an alternate as the county is undergoing a countywide property reassessment. The equalization board will review appeals from property owners.
  • Supervisors recommended the Amherst Circuit Court appoint Leslie Gamble, an at-large member of the Amherst County Planning Commission, to a vacant seat on the Amherst County Board of Zoning Appeals. Clarence Monday, who recently served on the BZA and is a former county administrator, resigned due to moving out of the county. Rodgers said the county’s attorney found there is no conflict of interest for Gamble to serve on both bodies. “She will do extremely well in that position,” Tucker said of the board’s recommendation of Gamble.
  • A resolution proclaiming Sept. 17-23 as Constitution Week was read as part of celebrating 232 years since the historic document was formed. “I’m proud to live in a county where we celebrate Constitution Week,” Tucker said. “We celebrate it our hearts, we celebrate it visibly, we celebrate it in our schools.”

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Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

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