COURIER STAFF WRITER
OTTUMWA — Mindful of the need for the Ottumwa Fire Department to purchase newer and safer equipment, the Ottumwa City Council still showed some concern with how a replacement firetruck was going to be paid for.
During Tuesday’s meeting at Bridge View Center, Interim Fire Chief Pat Short brought forth a proposal to purchase a firetruck to replace an aerial and truck that has suffered from corrosion and, in some ways, is defective.
The cost of the replacement truck, according to the proposal, was just over $869,000, but that price was set to increase if the council didn’t approve it that night. Short said that particular truck’s price increased 8% in a six-month period.
“I’m all for this, and our fire department does have to have the correct equipment,” council member Cara Galloway said. “I just want to make sure we have the funds because we all know if you put funds toward something, something else has to give.”
The action item passed 4-1, with council member Keith Caviness casting the dissenting vote. Caviness, starting his third non-consecutive term as council member, was also troubled by the fact that the truck wasn’t budgeted.
“I just don’t like to see us put on the spot and have to make a decision tonight to save the money tomorrow,” he said. “I just think that’s wrong. I’m concerned that we don’t have anything in the budget for this. Have we known about this in the past and it’s just now coming forward, and we just haven’t been able to work on it?”
Short understood Caviness’ position, but said the constraints were handed down by the Sutphen Corporation, which dated the proposal to the city on Dec. 28 and gave a 15-day window to respond.
“If you don’t take it someone else will,” Short said. “We can’t extend that.”
Short said by purchasing the firetruck now, it will arrive in October. Many times, a firetruck purchase can have at least a 36-month lead time.
“I would say that last time we purchased a firetruck, it was a thought-out process and we weren’t put on the spot like this,” Galloway said in defense of the fire department. “This is not a habit the fire department has gotten into.”
City administrator Philip Rath said the truck would likely go in the next round of bonding, and admitted it was a quick process.
“You want to save the dollars now, but this is the market not only for firetrucks, but for public works vehicles, a plow, or anything else out there,” he said. “If it’s not in a bond issue, we have no way to purchase it. We don’t just have the money sitting in the bank for it.”
By purchasing it now, the city would save about $70,000 before the next price increase. Short said used firetrucks don’t typically sell for a lot, but it depends on what kind of shape it’s in.
“The one we took out of service isn’t safe to sell off,” he said. “It’ll be basically used for scrap.”
Galloway said there are tradeoffs made when deciding to purchase something.
“It is important to remember that when things like this come up, there are things that we have to say no to in the future,” Galloway said. “Because we only have so much money.”