Okolona Fire Department’s new fire truck.

OKOLONA --The city of Okolona’s new fire truck displayed Monday, Aug. 26, is expected to help save three things important to all residents of the Okolona Fire District: Their lives, property, and eventually, the money homeowners pay for fire insurance, city officials said this week.

The new four-door International pumper truck is a classic example of state residents helping each other, Fire Chief Terry Tucker said. “The truck was built by Deep South Fire Trucks in Seminary, Mississippi, so you can say it was built by Mississippians, in Mississippi, for use by Mississippians.”

Added Mayor Sherman Carouthers: “It’s a great asset for the city of Okolona, and the citizens for whom we serve. It will help improve their quality of life, and eventually lower the cost of fire insurance.”

Getting the truck was the culmination of eight years of effort pursued through two administrations, seeking grants and/or low interest loans, and lining up city finances to pay for it.

The project took on added urgency when the city learned it would have to buy another engine if it hoped to be able to help homeowners lower their fire insurance rates.

The truck’s base cost of $253,000 swelled to $319,000 after all necessary equipment was installed. The truck can pour water on a fire at a rate of 1,250 gallons per minute.

The truck was paid for by a CAP loan for a 10 year term from The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA). The Capital Improvements Revolving (CAP) Loan Program provides loans to municipalities and counties for the improvement of public facilities and infrastructure to assist with business locations and expansions with community-based projects.

Loans made under the Capital Improvements Revolving Loan Program may be made for a maximum of 20 years. The annual interest rate on these loans is 3 percent for taxable activities and 2 percent for tax-exempt activities, according to MDA sources. Okolona’s loan was for 2 percent.

“The Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors through the Chickasaw County Fire Service allowed the City of Okolona and Okolona Fire Department to use their Round 11 Rural Fire Truck Acquisition Program (RFTAAP) from the Mississippi Insurance Commission. This is a $70,000 grant that has to be matched with $70,000 tax base money, with the remainder of the money being paid from the Mississippi Insurance Rebate Fund,” Chief Tucker said.

It’s the first new truck the department has bought since 2004, the chief said. It was purchased to help bring down the city’s fire rating – currently a Class 7 – at some point in the future, and thereby help reduce homeowners’ fire insurance premiums, Chief Tucker said.

The new 2019 engine will be the third engine in the department’s fleet, which also includes International trucks bought in 1997 and 2004.

The 23-person department responded to about 38 fires last year across its 77 square mile area of operation in Chickasaw County. The department also responds to fires outside the county via a mutual aid pact with other departments.

The new truck will benefit the city in several ways.

“This will be the next step in trying to lower our insurance rating and save our taxpayers and our citizens money on their insurance,” said Chief Tucker. “Hopefully we will be able to get to a Class 6 with this truck within the next couple of years. There’s a couple of other things we need to get done, but this is a step toward that direction.”

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