The Ottumwa Courier

August 19, 2013

Firetruck cost to go before council

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Fire Department has set its sights on a new firetruck and now needs City Council approval to buy it.

In a last-minute change, the OFD decided to go with the lowest bidder for a new aerial fire apparatus. The City Council will vote on the matter at its meeting Tuesday night.

Replacing the OFD's 1977 American LaFrance snorkel is long overdue, said Fire Chief Tony Miller, especially now that it's been taken out of service due to ongoing maintenance issues.

The truck can only reach 85 feet, whereas a new truck would be able to shoot up to 100 or 101 feet, high enough to reach the top of Westgate Towers and angle around Ottumwa High School. The truck also doesn't have a water tank or water pump, it's leaking oil and all of its hydraulic hoses are cracking or leaking fluid.

"We know how important having a working aerial is," Miller said. "It's something we need. The bottom line is you need the stuff or you don't need it. In our situation, we do need it. If we push it off and go another year, it's just going to cost more money."

On Friday, the OFD had decided to reject all of the bids for a new firetruck and relet the project. But on Monday morning, Miller decided instead to go with the lowest qualified bid, Rosenbauer America, for nearly $1.07 million.

Two other bids had been received for the project: Sutphen Manufacturing for nearly $1.14 million and a bid from Feld Fire, which was disqualified after not meeting the specifications.

When discussions of purchasing a new firetruck began, it was budgeted at $1.2 million. But manufacturers had predicted the bill would actually come in closer to $1 million.

"We've been trying to get down closer to $1 million or so," Miller said. "Originally we were going to reject it because it came in over budget [at $1,068,657]. But after talking with some council members and the city administrator, they want to go ahead and push forward with it for many reasons.

"As the fire chief, that's great with me."

City Administrator Joe Helfenberger said at this point, the city needs to go ahead and purchase the truck for the safety of the citizens.

"Presently, we can't save everybody in Ottumwa without having a taller ladder," Helfenberger said.

The funds will come through a borrowing issue.

"We've had favorable borrowing rates at this point," Helfenberger said. "In order to take advantage of that and to look at the principle cost and the cost to finance it, it looks like it's not going to get any cheaper. We'd always like it to be a lot cheaper, but I don't think rebidding it will change the prices materially."

The OFD also needs to purchase $38,895 of loose equipment from Heiman Fire Equipment which will attach to the new truck.

"We'll order that stuff now so we'll have it when the truck gets here in nine to 12 months," Miller said. "We want to purchase it now before the price goes up. And we'll save the city a lot of money by installing it ourselves."

The loose equipment will include axes, ladders, hoses and more — all the equipment that isn't permanently attached to the truck.

The council will also hear the second consideration of the revised nuisance ordinance. Three readings must pass before the ordinance can be adopted.

The City Council will meet at 6:30 p.m. today in council chambers in City Hall. The meeting will be broadcast on GO-TV, cable channel 6.