Apparatus Replacement and Station Development

The Fire Chief and the Fire District Board are taking a hard look at our trucks and our stations. There is a range of ideas and opinions about whether or not we should replace some or all of our equipment and if so with what, and we are only at the very beginning of developing plans for a new station.

Chief Appleton is asking for citizen input in this process. Ultimately we may form an advisory committee made up of District Volunteers, Board, and general public. At this time all we’re asking for is attention, feedback, and ideas.

If you have interest or expertise in how public funds are spent on fire equipment and facilities, and in the services we provide, we’d like to hear from you.

You can leave comments here, or you can contact us by phone or by email.

And anyone is welcome and encouraged to attend the next few Board meetings, as this topic is one of our main agenda items. Meetings will be second Thursdays:

November 14, December 12, and January 9, 7 PM at 208 Washington St.

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Mosier Fire District apparatus

as of November 2013

ENGINES
E87 1982 GMC fire engine (E-One)     35K miles
E86  1982 Ford fire engine (Pierce)     35K miles
E84  1984 International fire engine (H & W)     39K miles

BRUSH  ENGINES
B80  [leased]   1987 Chevy diesel brush truck (improvised)
B81  1998 Dodge p/u with tank/pump unit     257K miles
B82  1999 Dodge p/u with tank/pump unit     163K miles
B84  [leased]  1987 Chevy brush truck, old ODF engine     64K miles
B86  1978 Chevy brush truck, old ODF engine     86K miles

WATER  TENDERS
T85  1995 Ford water truck    2K miles on rebuilt engine
T88  1984 International water truck     80K miles

Chief Appleton would like to see all but two of these apparatus replaced as soon as feasible.  He has drawn up a hypothetical “wish list” which reduces the fleet by three vehicles and replaces five trucks in 2014, for an annual cost of about $90,000 for ten years.  This is less of an actual plan than a wish list, although the need is pressing for better and safer replacements for our first-out engine, water tender, and light engine.  The logic of the wish list is to show what it would cost to enact the Chief’s version of equipment priorities in one fell swoop, if we were to finance all equipment at current rates over ten years, and projected to meet all our apparatus needs for the next twenty years.

The Chief’s priorities can be characterized as a front line consisting of the newest, safest, and most effective equipment we can afford for the apparatus which we rely on most heavily, followed by sensible reduction of the number of vehicles in the fleet and updating the remainder to good-quality used fire apparatus, phasing out improvised equipment lacking up-to-date operational and safety features.  Our current fleet was well chosen and has served us well, but many of these vehicles are well past their useful lives and/or were never intended for the services we now provide, and lack safety features common to newer equipment which are widely seen to prevent fire fighter casualties.  We also currently end up paying a lot for maintenance and repairs — about $40,000 since the new District was formed in 2010 — at least some of which would be covered under warranty with new equipment.

The Fire District currently has about $240,000 in its capital reserve fund.  We transfer about $50,000 per year into capital reserve.   This means it is unlikely under present budgeting that we could fulfill the wish list completely in less than ten years, assuming there is a will to do so and that we finance 100% of the costs and that there are no changes to the list.  Even if we gradually deplete the capital reserve fund to zero (by spending out of the fund $24,000 per year for ten years, in addition to $50,000/yr from operating revenue — no one is saying this would be a good idea) we would come up short.

We also have up to about $50,000 per year available to us if we raise the tax levy from the current $1.65 per thousand, to some level up to the maximum $2.10 approved by the voters in 2010.*(see footnote below)

In addition to replacing our equipment, we need to build a new station.  Arguably this is our greatest priority, although it’s hard to say we can “get by” without some upgrade to our equipment very soon.  Both goals need to be met simultaneously as best we can.

But can we afford to replace our equipment and finance a new station?

The answer to that question is unclear at the moment.  If we finance all of our equipment needs and a new station, our annual payments could easily be greater than the maximum we can conceivably commit per year in loan/lease payments, even after exercising all available options for revenue out of operating funds.

We continue to apply for equipment grants, but success here is rare.

We are just beginning to look into station grants.  There’s some reason to hope for funding from USDA and FEMA, but don’t hold your breath.

And we have the option of bringing a bond election to the voters.  Clearly no one wants to increase the burden on our taxpayers, but we also need to be honest about what it costs to maintain even minimally adequate equipment and facilities.

If anyone reading this has comments, questions, or suggestions, please feel free to reply with a comment here, or contact us by phone or email:  541-478-3333, mosierfire@gmail.com.

*     *     *

* Footnote:  The Fire District Board has not indicated a desire to increase the levy from the current $1.65, and if they choose to do so they do not have to go all the way to $2.10.  To see how a change in the tax levy might affect your property tax bill click here if you live outside the City of Mosier, or click here if you live within City Limits.  Enter your taxable assessed value (“TAV” on your tax bill) in the box above the middle of the table, then press “Recalculate” to see the total tax and a breakdown of each tax item.  Then choose either the “$1.65″ or $2.10” button above the left side of the table, to see how the respective levy rates change your tax picture, keeping in mind that the Board can set the levy at any rate between zero and $2.10.

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