By Roz Kohls
DASSEL, MN The Dassel Fire Department rejected the proposed $491,900 pumper truck for the second time. The department more strongly rejected the sole bid from Custom Fire Apparatus of Osceola, WI with a 21-7 vote, than the first time, with a 17-10 vote.
“If you don’t want it, you don’t want it,” Mayor Ava Flachmeyer told the firefighters at the special meeting last Monday.
“It’s senseless for us to proceed,” she added later.
The majority of the department thought the $491,900 cost was too high for tough economic times, and when only 9 percent of the department’s calls are for fires, said firefighter Chuck Nelson.
City Administrator Myles McGrath said the council feared if the department waited until 2009 or later, the cost of the pumper will increase. In six months, the department might end up with less truck for the same money. It might last only 10 years instead of 15, or it might be a lighter truck, made from aluminum instead of stainless steel, he said.
Wade Kirvida, a representative from Custom Fire Apparatus, attended the meeting and explained some of the reasons why delaying the purchase to 2009 and beyond will make the pumper cost more. National Fire Protection Agency standards, alone, will increase the price of the truck by $20,000, he said.
Some of the new standards are “red tape BS,” Kirvida said. Requiring third party testing on the phone system, for example, isn’t necessary because the system is already tested, he added.
The Environmental Protection Agency also is raising emission standards by 2010. No one knows yet how much EPA standards will add to the cost, but the equipment will make the truck heavier, and reduce the truck’s performance, Kirvida said.
In between the time the Fire Equipment Committee was reviewing the specifications for the pumper truck and last Monday, the cost of the chassis increased $6,000, he added.
At the Dec. 15 city council meeting, the fire department was asked to deduct equipment from the pumper’s specifications to bring the price down, if the department felt the $491,900 cost was too high, pointed out Council Member Bob Wilde.
Instead, the department chose to delay the purchase. Interest rates and prices will most likely get higher, Wilde said.
Council Member Wayne Medcraft said he was worried about the “what ifs?” A crisis might occur in which the city council will decide to use the capital equipment fund for other purposes. Also, the primary pumper is 15 years old, and the secondary pumper is nearly 30 years old.
“You’ll be running old equipment down the road,” Medcraft said.
Firefighter Jon Trotter said the trucks recently have been refurbished and currently meet NFPA standards.
Some of the firefighters rejected the proposed pumper truck because there was only one bid, said Fire Chief Dale Grochow. After the city received the one bid from Custom Fire Apparatus, Grochow called two of the six manufacturers that received Dassel’s specifications to find out why. They never returned his calls, Grochow said.
Some of the firefighters at the meeting said they thought other manufacturers didn’t respond because they figured Custom Fire Apparatus had rigged the specifications so that only Custom Fire Apparatus’ pumpers would match.
However, the specifications the city submitted to the bidders included a clause giving the city the right to accept bids that don’t match the specifications exactly, McGrath said.
Kirvida said he knew of five other cities that received only one bid each.
Also, some of the firefighters said they didn’t realize the city had set aside money for the past three to four years for capital expenses such as a pumper truck. The city already has the $150,000 in the bank for the down-payment on the truck, McGrath said.
The council approved a resolution to lock in financing for a fire truck at 4.5 percent interest rate or lower with the USDA, in case the fire department decides to get a pumper in 2009.