Township board OKs fire truck purchase

FLINT TWP. — In a 5-2 vote, the Flint Township Board of Trustees gave approval to solicit sealed bids for a new multipurpose fire truck.

Fire Chief John Ringwelski asked the board at its meeting last week to authorize taking bids to buy a new Quint pump and ladder truck costing approximately $733,000.

The proposed truck’s 75-foot ladder generated a lengthy discussion about its cost and ability to best serve firefighting needs. One concern is that the ladder’s approximately sevenstory aerial reach is too short for the township’s tallest buildings including a nine-story senior citizens apartment.

Ringwelski said when needed a 100-foot ladder truck is available from Clio, Grand Blanc or Davison but even those are not tall enough to reach the roof of the tallest buildings.

Addressing the board, Ed Levy, a sales representative for Pierce Manufacturing, which sells fire trucks, said the 75- foot truck is a better buy because it cost less and serves more functions than a dedicated aerial truck. A needs assessment determined that few township fires require a bigger truck, he said.

Levy said by making a quick decision the township might save some money by pooling with other communities in a group buy pending in September. He also described pre-payment and other options that could reduce the end cost.

Ringwelski stressed that the truck will be paid for with 2011-2016 millage funds earmarked only for equipment purchases. It cannot be used for salaries or other personnel needs the fire department is facing, he said.

Trustee Frank Kasle questioned the wisdom of spending so much on a fire truck in uncertain economic times.

“There may be things coming up later on that we might need more,” Kasle said. “We are heading into a period of time when we will be running large deficits on an annual basis in this township. … We are also starting a discussion with other municipalities about consolidation or having shared services and operations. If we are heading in that direction, for us to go out on our own and buy an $800,000 truck, it may not be the time to do it.”

Ringwelski responded that obviously the township has been getting by without an aerial truck but at one time had two of them. Relying on neighboring fire departments to supply an aerial truck is a matter of at least 15 miles and an unknown amount of response time, he said.

“We protect two senior high-rise facilities as well as two adult care facilities … office buildings and a whole slew of commercial buildings,’’ he said, adding that the new truck would improve safety margins.

Police Chief George Sippert voiced his support of the purchase, also citing safety because police officers often are first-responders to fires.

“If we are going to rely on a aerial truck to come from another jurisdiction, it won’t be a rescue operation, it will be a recovery operation,’’ Sippert said of the potential for casualties at taller structures.

“I believe that we need something that will reach up above three stories. … What we are currently running is dangerous. Thank God nothing has happened.’’

Ringwelski added that the fire department’s insurance rating is based on having an aerial device in service. Without the proposed truck, at its next evaluation, that rating could change which ultimately means commercial and residential fire insurance rates would increase, he said.

Board Treasurer Sandra Wright and Trustee Barb Vert voted against the bid authorization.

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