It appears that a new ladder truck will be on the way for the Williams Lake Fire Department.
In a 5-2 decision at Tuesday’s Committee of Whole Council meeting, Council endorsed early budget approval of $1.2 million for the replacement of the current 1998 truck.
“This has been a debate around the Council table for many years,” Councillor Scott Nelson said.
“If we order it today, we’re six months in the tendering process and by the time we scope it all out, put the order in, send it out to tender, award the tender in 2020, we’re two years out realistically to get it into our community.”
Nelson said the 1998 75’ Ladder Truck is used extensively in the industrial sector and was used during the November 2017 Tolko Lakeview fire, last month at a fire at Pinnacle Pellet, and most recently to assist RCMP with a distressed man on the roof of the Slumber Lodge.
“It is a key piece of equipment. We’ve taken the philosophical view that as we go along we want to try to pay cash for our items to make sure that our debt doesn’t go up,” he said.
“It’s a 1.2 million dollar investment and I recognize that cost is there. We’ve got about $204,000 existing now in the fire department reserve account. I think the most important thing to recognize is that if we plan for it today and start to set aside money in the course of the next few years we will have it.”
Nelson added that the truck has broken down several times including the middle of the fight of the fire at Tolko’s Lakeview Division.
“I think that it’s the right time,” he said.
Fire Chief Erick Peterson said the fire reserve fund is dependent on what happens across the province and how much of their equipment is sent out. He said there have been five positive years of approximately $100,000 each year.
Councillor Jason Ryll pointed out the replacement of the ladder truck has been looked at for the last number of years and has continuously been put off.
“In discussions with the fire chief and experiencing some malfunctions already to date, it’s put us in a position where I think we’re just increasing our own risk if we put this off any further,” he said.
“When it comes to how we’re going to fund this it’s great that we have the initial balance of $200,000 in the fire department reserve. I think through incremental summers or opportunities for us to deploy our sprinkler services around the province, plus whatever we’re able to divert into this fund over the next few years, deferring this would be the wrong thing.”
CAO Milo MacDonald said in using the ladder truck on the industrial fires that we have, it goes a long way as an insurance policy to protect the industrial tax base and the jobs that are within it.
Mayor Walt Cobb and Councillor Ivan Bonnell Suggest Holding Off Until Truck Is 25 Years of Age
Councillor Ivan Bonnell said he will not be supporting the recommendation of replacing the piece of equipment in 2020.
“We have to commit financially now $1.2 million before we can put a tender out. We don’t have the funds identified unless we’re going to go out and pilfer whatever is in the forest reserve accounts. That’s the only sort of funding we have available to us,” he said.
“It’s a 21-year-old piece of equipment. To the best of my knowledge, it’s still performing to the best of its specifications to what it is built for. Sure it’s getting old, sure some things will break down on it but that’s the adequacy of a maintenance program in order to address those sort of things.”
“The community is not at risk by not replacing this piece of equipment this year.”
Councillor Marnie Brenner said she wondered if the Fire Department should have a fundraising gala like the hospital or as Councillor Sheila Boehm suggested perhaps a calendar.
Mayor Walt Cobb said he agreed with Bonnell and that to fund the replacement of the truck through borrowing could result in a more than 3 percent tax hike.
“When we have equipment that’s 20 years old and it immediately goes to another fire department and they use it for another 20 years, that’s the problem that I have,” Cobb said.
“If we can’t find equipment that has replacement parts so that we can keep them running then I think it’s another issue there.”
Peterson said while the insurance part is a tough one to swallow, the replacement of the truck he believes is an investment into our community.
“This new truck will have greater reliability. The old truck if it was to break down at this time we have nothing and there’s nothing else within 100 kilometers, and within the last month, it would have been the turning point at Pinnacle,” he said.
“It would have drastically different results for a lot of different fires if we don’t have this apparatus functioning.”
Peterson added that replacing the current apparatus does not necessarily mean they need to get rid of the other truck.
“Right now if we’re going for a tire change, we don’t have another truck. Right now if we do need to fix the hydraulic system we don’t have another truck,” he said.
“By buying this second piece of apparatus we can keep this second truck for five to six years as a reserve unit to have that ability. When costs start exceeding its value than yes we can look at getting rid of it, but no department will buy it to use as an aerial apparatus, not at 25 years life. That would be quite difficult for them to swallow because there’s extensive testing that needs to required when it gets beyond its regular service life to certify its ladder and its pumps.”
Peterson said while the truck looks pretty on the outside and is kept inside and washed each time it comes back to the fire hall, internally is another word.
“This truck has run really hard. It ran for three days straight at Tolko Lakeview.”