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County council postpones decision for Coalhurst fire engine

Posted on May 5, 2020 by Sunny South News

Decisions to be made regarding what to do with engine that is being replaced

By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News

Lethbridge County council has postponed a motion regarding a replacement fire engine in Coalhurst pending more discussion.

During their regular April 16 meeting, Lethbridge County Council received an update to the planned replacement of the jointly owned Fire Engine 108 with the Town of Coalhurst. The engine is shared on a 50/50 basis between the town and county, and is scheduled for replacement in 2020, with each municipality paying for half of the replacement.

The replacement engine was anticipated to cost a total of $411,229, which includes a four per cent annual compounded increase included from 2015 onward. However, with a fairly weak Canadian dollar exchange rate versus the U.S. dollar and other external factors beyond anyone’s control, the expected cost of the replacement has come in higher than expected at $511,366. The quote given was around the 45-day quotation window at the time of the meeting, and may be subject to another quote to ensure the price is accurate.

The county has already budgeted their half of the expected replacement cost of the engine.

“Because the quoted cost is over budget by $100,000, the Town of Coalhurst had no choice but to make us aware of that fact, and come forth and ask for $50,000, half of of the $100,000 cost overrun towards the purchase,” said Larry Randle, director of community service for the county.

Administration recommended that up to $55,000 be drawn from the Emergency Services Contingency Reserve to cover the cost of the scheduled fire engine replacement on a 50/50 cost share basis with the Town of Coalhurst.

Alternatively, council could delay purchase of a new truck in hopes that the price will come down and that engine 108 will not require extensive and expensive repairs in the interim.

Reeve Lorne Hickey asked what the exchange rate was like at the time of receiving the quote. Coalhurst Fire Chief Mat Conte said the bid was from a Canadian manufacturer out of Manitoba, so no exchange rate was applied to it.

Randle apologized for his miscommunication about his comments about the U.S. dollar. Conte noted that while the U.S. dollar does not directly affect the price of the truck, the majority of it’s components are coming from the U.S., so while it’s quoted in Canadian dollars, the U.S. dollar does affect the price of the truck. Coun. Klas Vander Veen inquired about the age and mileage of the truck they are replacing. Conte said that while he didn’t have the mileage on hand, the engine was from 2000, making it 20 years old. Hickey asked what the resale value of the engine would be or plans, to which Conte said that Coalhurst town council is looking to keep it as a reserve engine.

“What we would like to do is actually keep that engine as a reserve status engine for the town,” said Conte, adding he does not have a replacement value on it.

“Whether or not the county would like to put it as a reserve engine or not, would obviously be a decision for yourselves to make. If not, than there will be a presentation of the (town) council to but out the county’s half of the truck to keep as a reserve engine for the town.”

When asked what the approximate value of the truck would be, Conte said he looked into it a bit, and it was hard to get a price on it because there wasn’t much of a market for it. However, some of the preliminary numbers he saw was it could be worth $30-50,000.

When asked about the shape of the truck, Conte said that it still passes it’s CFIP inspection every year, and although they needed to replace a part on the pump last year as it failed pump testing, it now passes pump testing. While the engine has cosmetic issues, it is mechanically sound.

Vander Veen wondered if council wanted to “take the chance or risk” of postponing the replacement purchase for a year in hopes the price gets better, or if they should go ahead with it now. Conte noted at the last Coalhurst town council meeting, they were ready to go head with it.

County CAO Anne Mitchell asked that if the town wanted to keep the truck and buyout the county’s portion, if they could use that money towards the replacement truck. Conte didn’t foresee an issue with council, although he needed to talk with town council about that.

Vander Veen noted that as Coalhurst would like to keep the engine as a spare, that was something that county council needed to discuss before they make a decision. Coun. Tory Campbell asked when the fire agreement with Coalhurst would expire, to which Mitchell said they are starting negotiations to get new agreements in place before the end of the year. Campbell said they had similar conversations with their other urban partners who they share the purchase price and ownership of firefighting vehicles with, and asked if “it would be prudent” to examine that.

Mitchell noted the county has expressed interest in divesting themselves of vehicle ownership, and having agreement more like the one they have with the City of Lethbridge, where it is a fee for service.

Council unanimously passed a motion to defer the discussion to council’s scheduled for May 7 meeting.

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