OCEAN CITY – The Ocean City Fire Department received approval this week from the Ocean City Mayor and Council to purchase two new fire engines and a fire rescue boat.
On Monday evening, Fire Chief Chris Larmore presented the council with a package that requested the approval of a fire apparatus replacement schedule, bid award for a fire rescue boat and a sole source purchase of two fire engines.
“A lot of this package started many years ago,” Laramore said. “The replacement schedule … has been asked for as long as I have been in the fire department. The last two or three years we have been more financially geared toward being able to provide something a little more long term at the same time as you are aware we did start to replace some of our apparatus that was long overdue until two years ago and also started looking into a fire rescue boat five years ago.”
Larmore added the apparatus replacement schedule includes money and commitment but asked the council to keep in mind that the dollars and commitment have been going on for the last five to 17 years.
In 2009, City Manager Dennis Dare and the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company (OCVFC) Board of Directors requested a written apparatus replacement schedule for long-range financial planning and in 2010 the Ocean City Fire Department (OCFD) Equipment Committee completed a needs assessment.
The apparatus needs assessment examined legal and regulatory requirements, outside municipal comparatives, call volume and apparatus use reports, environmental concerns, staffing capabilities and the impact on service to the community.
“The call volume for fire-related emergencies nationwide has continued to go down,” Larmore said.
“In light of the fact that our call volume on the fire side has gone down, it is very noteworthy to look…at the possibility of downsizing our fleet and/or a consolidation.”
He explained that because the majority of the calls the fire department receives are false alarms or service calls the department has reduced the number of apparatus it initially dispatches.
The assessment recommendations include a consolidation of apparatus fleet and to develop consistency in layout and design of the engines. In 2009, the fire department decommissioned three engines and replaced them with two matching engines.
“I am pleased to say that those two engines that were replaced in service everyone is very pleased with,” Larmore said.
Another factor that had to be reviewed is how long apparatus should realistically be kept in service. Larmore said that Myrtle Beach only keeps their apparatus in service for seven years as well as leases them.
“The committee and I met with Martha Lucey [Finance Administrator] and we found that that is not something that is a financially responsible thing to do with the Town of Ocean City and a very difficult thing for the public to except that you are trading in apparatus every seven years,” Larmore said.
The assessment concluded that the reasonable life of a fire engine is 20 years and an aerial truck is 25 years. The fire replacement schedule included the request to immediately purchase replacements for engine 12, which has been in service for 20 years, and engine 2, which has been in service for 26 years. The department will decommission engine 9 with no replacement, which has been in service for 26 years.
The replacement schedule continues to list apparatus that needs to be replaced within the next year up to 21 years.
Laramore requested the council approve the recommended funding allocations and the apparatus replacement schedule and replacement cost projections for use as a framework for mid- and long-range fiscal planning for the town and the OCVFC.
Next Laramore requested the council to award a bid for a fire rescue boat. The bid would require $400,000 of city funding to purchase the boat.
Councilwoman Mary Knight asked where the boat would be stored. Laramore responded that there are four locations available at two local marinas, United States Coast Guard service or property on a street end at the south end of town that the town currently owns.
He explained that there is a program in place where the department will periodically page the operators who are set up to operate the boat throughout the summer. The program will assess the locations of the operators to decide which location is the most reasonable to store the boat.
Larmore’s final request was the approval to consolidate the three engines that are soon to be decommissioned and purchase two new engines at a cost not to exceed $535,000. The funding will come from the Apparatus Replacement Fund of the budget.
The Mayor and City Council voted unanimously to approve Larmore’s entire request.