The fire department, which operates an all-volunteer staff of 15 active fire fighters, has 9 trucks in its fleet: 1 ladder, 3 pumper, 2 brush, and 2 rescue trucks. A retired 1955 model is sometimes rolled out for parades.
Of the 1,000 or more calls it receives each year, 80 percent are for medical emergencies, Simpson said. The last structure fire was back in June, a potentially devastating event that highlights the need to update equipment.
“The service life of these trucks is about 20 years,” said Kevin Simpson, volunteer fire chief for the department. “And ladder trucks like this one have higher price tags than other types.”
Simpson, who worked with the supplier to outfit the truck to the department's needs, said another pressing need is for more volunteer firefighters.
But only the truck purchase was on the agenda Tuesday when the commission unanimously approved the purchase.
Money to pay for the new fire truck will come from the state fire fund, which now has close to $1 million. The purchase will drop account reserves down to just under $250,000.
“Recent emission standards imposed by the federal government have raised the costs to diesel trucks to the tune of $50,000,” Simpson said.
Like any car owner facing the prospect of replacing an aging vehicle, the city has anticipated the purchase and has been saving up.
“We have put aside annual funding distributions from the state in our fire fund, anticipating the need to replace the truck,” said Kathy Lamb, the city's finance director. “Those distributions each year have averaged nearly $200,000 each.”
The State Fire Marshall's office has urged the city to demonstrate a need to the legislature for continued funding or risk losing it, according to a staff summary report by Austin Randall, the finance department purchasing agent.
The last time trucks were bought for the department by the city was in 2009 and 2004 when two of the department's three pumpers were replaced.
The ways in which the city purchases its trucks and equipment vary, Lamb said. This purchase was made using a cooperative contract pricing agreement, essentially allowing the city to avoid a lengthy bidding process.
“It saves us time,” Lamb said. “Because of the holiday and commission meeting only once this month, we might have delayed this by six weeks.”
Lamb said Randall finds the most effective way to spend taxpayers' money.
Despite a $2,000 processing fee assessed by the Houston-Galveston Area Council, who provided the city with the bid-free contract, Lamb cited a $40,000 discount as evidence that the city is getting the best deal it can.
“We haven't used it a whole lot, maybe two or three times, but in this case, buying through a cooperative contract pricing agreement, under state statute guidelines, also saves us money,” Lamb said.
Made by E-One, a manufacturer in Florida, the new 6-seat, telescoping ladder truck, with its myriad component parts - the description catalogue of options for it runs over 100 pages - will take 12 months to be assembled. Pete's Equipment Repair of Albuquerque will supply the truck.
The old ‘89 workhorse isn’t ready to be put out to pasture just yet. It will be part of Friday's Aztec Christmas Fest parade.