SPEARFISH — Christmas came a bit early for the Spearfish Fire Department. During its Dec. 20 meeting, the city council voted to approve the purchase of new fire truck.
The new Rosenbauer Aerial Fire Truck (ladder truck) from Heiman Fire Equipment will replace the department’s current ladder truck, which was built in 1998.
“The 1998 truck is currently at end of life and is outside of the 20 year National Fire Protection Association professional standards for use,” read a document presented to the council during the meeting.
Pat Rotert, Public Safety director for the city, said that the ladder truck was slated to be replaced by 2017 before it reached the 20-year limit, but plans were put on hold while the Spearfish Volunteer Fire Department and the Spearfish Firefighters Association were merging into a single department.
“Transitions in the fire department occurred in the 2013 to 2018 range, and bumped it out of the capitol plan,” he said.
Rotert said that he and Fire Chief Travis Ladson started looking again at the capital plan around 2019 to identify spending needs and prioritize apparatus replacement moving forward into the next five years.
“This apparatus floated to the top very quickly,” Rotert explained.
In addition to the age of the ladder truck causing failure concerns, operating any apparatus outside of its recommended age range impacts the insurance services office’s (ISO) rating for fire departments, which factors into a community’s ISO fire score, and contributes to homeowner’s insurance premiums.
“When you’re working 85 feet, 100 feet, 110 feet in the air, people don’t want failure. It’s all about the safety and after 25 years those components are worn out,” Ladson said.
Rotert said he and Ladson had intended to replace the truck within the next three years, giving the Fire Capital Fund a chance to grow, cutting back on the amount that would need to be supplemented from the city’s General Fund.
“We’ve just had that fund such a short time, it’s not prepared for this large of a purchase,” he said.
In the meantime, while exploring their options, Rotert and Ladson found a truck that met the technical specks needed, which was being built and would be available for purchase at the end of this month for $1,250,783.
“We’re also seeing a very clear picture that that price is probably going to be in the $200,000 to $300,000 range more if you have that build happening in 2022/23/24/25 than it is now,” Rotert said.
To capitalize on the opportunity, Rotert worked with city Finance Officer Michelle De Neui, to formulate a financial plan to pay for the unbudgeted item.
“Back in November when we were looking at the bonding for Sky Ridge phase 2 project, I initially had $800,000 penciled in for a ladder truck,” De Neui said.
Using $100,000 from the Wildland Fund, De Neui was able to drop the total amount from the General Fund to $700,000, with $450,783 coming out of the department’s Fire Capital Fund.
Because the $700,000 from the General Fund would be coming out of a bond issuance, Councilman Larry Klarenbeek argued that the interest accrued by not waiting for the Fire Fund to absorb the entire cost might not be worth spending the money now.
“Just rough calculations, we chew up probably $150,000 plus in interest, so the savings that we’re talking about, probably isn’t all that significant when we add on interest so that’s a factor,” Klarenbeek said. “Plus, as you know, I’m a real stickler about things (being on budget).”
Rotert was asked about the potential resale value of the old ladder truck, but he said that number would be negligible at best due to its age.
“If it’s outside of standards for us, it’s outside of standards for everybody else,” he said.
Councilman Scott Hourigan said he agreed with Klarenbeek’s point, but also saw the need outweighing the cost.
“In the last two days we’ve had two fires, so I don’t want to make an emotional response, but its just the harsh reality that we face that no one wants to have a fire,” he said.
The council voted 5-1 in favor of approving the purchase, with Klarenbeek’s as the only dissenting vote.
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