Ballots due Tuesday for special election on ladder truck

Back in August, a four-unit apartment complex on First Street in Hoquiam was consumed by a fire. But because Hoquiam no longer has a ladder truck, Aberdeen was forced to respond and helped control the situation and contain the fire just to the apartment complex. Luckily, no one was injured.

And, fire officials say, luckily, there was even a ladder truck available to respond to the fire.

Had the fire happened in December, there wouldn’t have been a ladder truck anywhere on the inner Harbor. Aberdeen Fire Chief Tom Hubbard said Aberdeen’s ladder truck went down in December for three weeks because of a mechanical malfunction. That puts the closest ladder truck in either Montesano or Ocean Shores.

In Hoquiam, voters are being asked to raise their property taxes to pay for a 100-foot platform ladder truck for the city’s fire department. Ballots are due on Tuesday. Thus far, County Auditor Vern Spatz says fewer than 3,000 valid ballots out of more than 11,800 sent have come back for the February elections. Also on the special election ballot is a sales tax hike for roads in Aberdeen.

The City of Hoquaim wants to take out a 20-year general bond valued at $1.2 million to pay for the truck. The city has said the cost would be an increase of 19 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for Hoquiam property owners.

The city’s 1979 ladder truck broke down more than a year ago and was sold as surplus.

“One of the questions I am asked most often is, ‘Do we really need a new ladder truck? Why can’t we just use Aberdeen’s?’” Hoquiam Fire Chief Paul Dean wrote in a recent newspaper column. “Without an aerial ladder we lose the ability to conduct rescues above the second floor. This is extremely important as many of our higher buildings house senior citizens and citizens with disabilities.”

Aberdeen Fire Chief Tom Hubbard says Hoquiam and Aberdeen work together all the time. And, on major fires, multiple fire trucks have been needed. Hubbard points at the Grays Harbor Equipment fire in Aberdeen as a good example. In Hoquiam, there was also the old auction house on 8th Street across from City Hall that was destroyed back in August of 2010.

“When you have a major commercial fire and you’re defensive, pretty much the normal service operation is to use an elevated device on the four corners of the building,” Hubbard said. “An agency that can share a ladder truck helps make that possible.”

The last time the city took the ladder truck out for a vote was in May of 2011, when the measure ended up with 59.85 percent approval, narrowly missing the 60 percent threshold.

A new truck is expected to last 30 years.