Friday, October 31, 2008–Council Supports Scaled-Back Fire Truck Request

OCEAN CITY – Getting two out of three isn’t always a bad thing, even for Ocean City’s bravest.

The Ocean City Fire Department got approval to purchase two new fire trucks totaling just over $962,000 from the City Council on Tuesday, despite originally hoping for three.

Fire Chief Chris Larmore brought a proposal in front of the council proposing the low bid award purchase of three new fire trucks to KME (Kovatch Mobile Equipment) in Nesquehoning, Pa., which would provide “three much needed new apparatus to our fleet.”

However, Larmore amended his proposal, seemingly on the fly, after hearing the council’s decision to suspend all capital improvements until further review earlier in the meeting, and asked instead for two fire trucks, on one condition.

“We realize in these economic times, we have to weigh our absolute needs with the things that we desire. We will agree to only purchase two trucks if we are permitted to come back after the 09/10 budget is released and request the third,” he said.

The possible purchase of large firefighting apparatus was planned for in advance as a Vehicle Trust Account was created in 1997, which set aside money from the town and the volunteers, and has accrued to approximately $2.8 million.

Larmore said that the fleet would “retire” four trucks and add the three new trucks, but it is unsure if all four will be retired now, despite some being upwards of 35 years old. The manufacturer, who will build the new trucks, was chosen by an internal committee made up of a handful of fire veterans boasting over 230 years of combined service. They chose KME on basis of price, delivery time and the ability to adhere to product specifications.

Councilman Doug Cymek praised the proposal, saying “I’m very impressed by the time and effort that you obviously put into this. I think you’ve made fine choices.”

As for the four retiring trucks, Larmore said that they will be sold and the money made from the trucks’ sale will go directly back into the Vehicle Trust Account. Councilwoman Margaret Pillas questioned who would buy the trucks if they were deemed to be unfit for use here in town. Larmore said “some smaller fire departments in rural areas looking for a second line engine would be in the market for these trucks, but for the 1,500 calls we get a year, they are unfit.”

The trucks themselves are actually a bit smaller in size than existing trucks on the fleet, according to the proposal, a fact that Larmore cited to be strategic for some of the tighter turns and narrow streets in town.

“We already have two large pumpers, and the specs on these trucks are smaller and have a better cramp angle or turning radius which will be kinder to all the new development in the area,” he said.

Pillas noted that Pierce Manufacturing makes some of the existing trucks in the town’s fleet and questioned if the firefighters will have to be trained on the new KME trucks.

“In a perfect world, we’d love to have four identical trucks by the same company, but in these times, that isn’t possible, and KME gave us not only the best price, but the delivery time was the best available at 180 days,” Larmore said.

Fireman Chris Schaffer, who served on the committee to choose the trucks, said that KME was also a good decision as the plant is “within a five-hour drive” should anything need to be fixed on the trucks themselves.

according to the proposal, the purchase of the first truck will be split 50/50 between the town and the volunteer fire company and the second will be weighted towards the town picking up 67 percent of the bill.