Purdy seeks better ISO rating

Friday, July 14, 2006

The proposed tax-based Purdy Fire Protection District issue could affect an evaluation scheduled to be conducted by the Insurance Service Office (ISO) this fall.

"We've made a lot of improvements over the years preparing for ISO to come back," said Mike Redshaw, Purdy Volunteer Fire Department chief. "However, there are still a lot of things we just can't afford to do. We just don't have the budget to make the improvements I'd like to make to have a major impact, especially in regards to the rural rating."

The Purdy Fire Depart-ment's current ISO rating is 8 in the city and 9 in the rural areas. The ISO rating schedule, which ranges from 1 to 10 with 1 being the best rating, evaluates each department on its water system, communications and department effectiveness overall.

Since appointed chief in 2000, Redshaw has researched the ISO rating system and what it will take to drop the rating in the area served by the Purdy Fire Department.

"With ISO coming this fall, we don't have a lot of time to make all the improvements I'd like," said Redshaw. "So, to make the most immediate impact, I'm looking at purchasing the equipment ISO requires on all the trucks."

ISO requires around $20,000 to $25,000 worth of equipment on each fire truck.

"It's taken years and several grants to get the trucks we've got now to the level they are equipped to, and we're still not fully equipped according to ISO," said Redshaw. "We're looking at needing another $4,000 worth of equipment to fully equip those two trucks. Then we have to find the equipment for the new truck when it gets delivered this fall."

The newest fire truck was purchased with $190,000 from an Assistance to Firefighters Grant, which the department received in September.

The fire department's overall grade takes into consideration the department's apparatus, equipment, training and the number and locations of stations.

"The department has made some major upgrades since the last rating in regards to apparatus capabilities," said Redshaw. "Since then, the 1950s model pumper has been replaced with a 1,000-gallon-per-minute pumper. We've added the truck we bought and rebuilt a couple of years ago, which will pump 1,500 gallons per minute (gpm) and the new pumper tanker will have a 1,750 gpm pump."

When rating communica-tions, ISO considers how the department receives fire alarms and calls and how emergency services are dispatched.

"Until the 911 system is in place, we're limited on our points in the communications category," said Redshaw.

ISO will also consider the number, size and style of fire hydrants, the size of water mains, and the amount of water available when rating the department's water system. Purdy's new water tower and water main improvements should increase the water system rating and could lower the department's ISO rating.

"Since our last rating, the city has made a number of improvements to the water system," said Redshaw. "These improvements should help increase the amount of points we received in the water supply category from 1990."

The department will rate lower when ISO considers the rural water supply. In order to drop the rating below a 9 in the rural areas, the department must deliver 250 gallons per minute, uninterrupted for two hours.

"We don't have the tankers to deliver that kind of water for that duration," said Redshaw. "Although we are looking into utilizing mutual aid resources to supplement our water supply operations, we're still limited by tanker sizes and travel distances."

The department would require at least two more tankers to attempt the 250 gpm test.

"When taking into account fill time, dump time and travel time that ISO looks at, we're looking at needing over 6,000 gallons of tanker capacity to even try to reach the 250 gpm mark," said Redshaw. "In the short amount of time we have until ISO is here, I don't see that we can get that done for this rating,even with the new pumper tanker."

If Purdy R-II School District voters approve the formation of a tax-based fire protection district on Aug. 8, Redshaw plans to fully equip all of the fire trucks and possibly build a second station in the McDowell area.

"ISO only allows the rating to extend to five miles from a station," said Redshaw. "With a station in the McDowell area, we could cover our entire district within that radius.

"This would also increase our response times to fires in that area, eliminating the need for our firefighters who live that way having to either wait on scene for a truck or come back to town and drive back with a truck."

Redshaw's other improvement ideas include: installing water cisterns in the country to decrease travel distance to water sources; adding other types of apparatus; and building or purchasing training props and materials to train personnel.

To better service the west side of the school district, the fire protection district could consider locating another station off of Highway B or work with Wheaton and Butterfield to put a joint station between the three cities, said Redshaw.

"Until the Corsi Community Fire Department formed about five years ago the area had been covered by Purdy, Butterfield and Wheaton for decades," said Redshaw. "There are still members of all of those departments in that area."

All members in that area have been issued a 9 rural area ISO rating, which will remain the same regardless of which department serves the area, said Redshaw.

"If the tax-based district goes through, the opposite could be the case," said Redshaw. "With the increased budget, the district would provide we would be more likely to drop the ISO rating in the district, including the Corsicana area, than if the district fails."

Currently, both the Purdy Fire Department and the Corsi Community Fire Department operate on revenues received primarily through voluntary memberships dues.

The Purdy Fire Department currently operates on a $20,000 annual budget, which is provided through around $13,000 in voluntary membership dues and around $8,000 in general revenue funds.

If the district is approved, all residents of the district will be required to pay for fire protection. The tax-based fire protection district will be funded by a 30-cent property tax, which means residents of the Purdy R-II School District will be charged 30 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

Revenues for the proposed tax-based fire protection district will raise the operating budget to between $66,000 and $70,000 per year.

"With rising equipment and fuel costs, it's difficult enough for a membership-based department to survive, let alone buy the equipment it takes to make an impact on ISO," said Redshaw.

"If voters approve the fire district in August, we'll have a dramatic budget increase that will allow us to purchase the equipment and tankers we need to make a larger impact in the very near future," said Redshaw. "At that point we'll contact ISO about returning for another evaluation."

If improvements are made, the district can request an ISO re-evaluation without waiting another 15 years.

The proposed Purdy Fire Protection District will be governed by a five-member board of trustees. David Redshaw, Tommy Joe Tate, Glen Terry, Mike Bennett and Cecil Wormington have announced candidacy for the first five seats on the board.

If the issue passes, the newly elected board will meet with Purdy City Council to discuss the sale or donation of Purdy Fire Department equipment, which is jointly owned by the city and dues-paying department members, and use of the city-owned fire station.

In January of 2005, after voters approved a tax-based Cassville Fire Protection District (CFPD), the Cassville City Council passed a resolution to donate all of the city's firefighting equipment to the newly formed CFPD.

The aldermen also voted to to lease a portion of the city hall, which was used as the city fire station, to CFPD for $1 until January of 2006.

If the Purdy Fire Protection District passes in August, the Purdy City Council could pass a similar resolution.

Although no public forum is planned to discuss the proposed tax-based district issue, Purdy firefighters plan to attempt to reach each resident personally by going door to door with information.

For more information, call Redshaw at 417-442-7202 or Mike Bennett, Purdy Fire Department captain, at 417-442-3636.

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