Purchasing a new fire truck for Powell River Fire Rescue (PRFR) has been delayed after City of Powell River council sent a recommendation to award a contract for building the vehicle back to staff.
Chief financial officer Adam Langenmaier will report on the finances for the new truck at committee of the whole on Tuesday, January 15.
At the December 18 committee of the whole meeting, PRFR chief Terry Peters reported to council members with a recommendation to hire a contractor to build a new rescue pumper, as per city policy and insurance requirements. Cost to the city would be $709,000.
But council, in particular mayor Dave Formosa, questioned Peters on what cost savings might be made if the aging fire truck could be replaced differently than the way Peters proposed.
The new truck was approved in the 2018 capital budget through the equipment replacement plan, which was developed to provide a replacement schedule for aging equipment in a fiscally responsible manner.
The winning bid was awarded to Commercial Emergency Equipment Co., and it came under the $850,000 budgeted in the plan.
Peters said the city’s equipment replacement plan calls for a 20-year lifespan for PRFR’s fire apparatus. According to Peters, the city’s policy has been in effect since 2005 and has been revisited in subsequent years. It stipulates that trucks need to be purchased and spread out over five years.
“Just because it’s the policy doesn’t mean it’s the right policy,” said Formosa. “I’m saying order two trucks, we need them in five years; order them in 2021.”
The truck to be replaced was built in 1998. Fire Underwriters Survey sets a standard of a 25-year maximum service life for pumper trucks but, according to Peters, they actually start addressing the lifespan of a truck at year 20.
“Pushing it to the 25 years is where we’re pushing the risk,” said Peters. “When you’re coming into the 20th or 25th year is when we have to spend more money on that truck to make sure it’s passing those standards that are set by underwriters.”
Formosa said he wants PRFR to get new apparatus that is in compliance with the underwriters’ 25-year limit, but needed more explanation on why the truck needs to be bought now.
If building the new truck is delayed four years, another 1998 vehicle will need to be replaced at the same time, and each apparatus takes about 11 months to build. Peters said the city would be stuck with buying two trucks in four years.
“If we actually don’t go through our policy and at least space it out then we’re going to be hit with a very large bill,” said Peters.
City chief administrative officer Russell Brewer said since it is a 1998 vehicle, he felt the city should go forward with replacing one of the trucks and suggested staff come back to council with a report on financing and existing policy.
“The life span is 25 years and we’re going to give up four years?” said Formosa. “I’m just wondering if we’ve crunched the numbers. That’s my concern. Did we crunch the numbers?”
Peters estimated that out-of-service trucks can be sold for approximately $10,000, to $20,000, if the city can get that much.