By Lynne Beauchamp, email@example.com
In continuance of the September Dexter Area Fire Department (DAFD) board meeting, the topic of purchasing new equipment was addressed again during the October 18 DAFD board meeting.
The DAFD board was approached by DAFD Fire Chief Robert Smith with the need to purchase a quint and two fire engines to replace its current equipment. Last month representatives from Pierce Manufacturing were on hand to discuss finance options and other concerns. The cost of the three apparatuses was approximately $2 million.
No decision to purchase was formally made by the DAFD board in September, only to take back information to discuss with the three governmental boards involved-Dexter Township, Webster Township and the City of Dexter.
During the October 18 meeting, once again it was discussed- needs verses wants, cost factors and other scenarios.
Shawn Keough, City of Dexter Mayor and DAFD Secretary, started the discussion interested in what the other boards had discussed on purchasing and what decisions can be made during this meeting to take back to the respectable boards.
“I think we could practically pay for one with cash,” Keough said. “With [the money] we have in an apparatus fund and the fund balance we are not spending from this year’s budget…but I would like to share that discussion with my board and I have not had that opportunity”.
DAFD board member at large, Jim Seta, stated concerns about what should happen if one if the three municipalities should opt out of the DAFD, who continues to pay for the investment?
“I fully support Shawn in regards to the one pumper and then as a board, we can figure out if we really want to finance it or if we truly think we can pay cash so there is no long term liability to this board,” said Seta. “I would rather take that $200,000 or $300,000 we would have paid in interest and staff our department the way it needs to be staffed.”
Seta went on to explain the variables of storing the equipment now as opposed to if and when the City of Dexter builds a new hall and when Webster Township builds its new hall. He also agreed the DAFD needs new equipment but as a board needed to figure a way to finance it.
DAFD board member and resident of Webster Township, Dan Munzel, questioned the need for some of the equipment requested and whether a tower truck was used much for fires.
“To maintain the level of service that we are accustomed to in Dexter, we need that tower,” responded Chief Smith. “Without that tower we will be less efficient and less effective in certain types of fires and certain types of events.” Chief added that the department could go without a tower truck but it changes what the fire department does for service and the dependency of mutual aid.
Webster Township Trustee and DAFD Vice Chair, John Westman discussed Webster Township’s board comments on the purchase.
“We are not eager to go back to our voters for an increase [in millage] right away,” Westman explained regarding how any of the costs for the equipment could impact their budget, especially when the public safety millage was approved by only five votes. “We don’t want to run out of money before we run out of time on the millage.” Westman added that the Webster board also realized the need for equipment but was concerned about finances and the need to review the budget more in depth.
Webster Township board members John Kingsley, John Scharf and Barbara Calleja were in attendance.
John Scharf addressed the DAFD board. He voiced his concerns on the Webster Township budget and the purchase of the three apparatuses in question. He offered some suggestions toward the purchase but wished to discuss these suggestions with his board first.
John Kingsley suggested spreading out the purchases rather than all at once. Kingsley favored Scharf’s suggestions, but those suggestions had not been discussed with their board.
Dexter Township Supervisor and DAFD Chair, Harley Rider offered his comments. Rider said he felt the tower truck is useful, but at this point not a necessity and would like to continue discussing with another township (out of the DAFD) on a shared ownership. He added he was not in favor of paying for one engine outright and depleting cash reserves. (Keough voiced his disagreement with this, being in favor of paying for one engine outright). Rider said he would like to finance the two trucks but when the first payment comes due, if the cash reserves are still positive, then pay for it.
After two hours of discussion, the DAFD board agreed to postpone the final decision on the purchasing of two engines until all municipalities in the DAFD had the opportunity to further discuss; recommending purchasing two Pierce engines with $500,000 down and a seven year finance on the balance as well as asking Pierce to extend the warranty on one of the current engines in fleet.
Following this discussion, the DAFD’s agenda included a Fire Chief Evaluation. Per the request of Chief Smith, the board went in to a closed session to discuss (per the Michigan Open Meetings Act). In a separate interview, Rider said Chief Smith received a positive evaluation from the board and extended Smith’s contract for another two years.