WORTHINGTON — It appears the city of Worthington will purchase a used aerial fire truck to replace a similar truck that has been consistently plagued with problems.
During a special Worthington City Council meeting Wednesday afternoon, council members agreed that the purchase of an aerial fire truck in the $550,000 to $750,000 price range should be explored. A contingent of Worthington Fire Department members present at the meeting were amenable to that plan, despite expressing a desire earlier in the discussion to pursue buying a brand new truck.
Worthington City Administrator Steve Robinson noted early in Wednesday’s meeting that one option for replacing the current aerial fire truck was the purchase of a new truck priced at $1,237,500. Several multi-year financial options were available, he said, with a 10-year option carrying annual payments of $140,592.71 on an interest rate of 2.39%.
“We feel that’s the best fit for the city for the long haul,” WFD Chief Jason Larsen said. “We understand the huge financial difficulty that creates, but we’re looking at the longer term for the city.”
Worthington’s current 100-foot aerial truck, a 1994 model purchased in 2008, has experienced mechanical difficulties with the ladder mechanism, which has made it unstable and unsafe for continued use. In addition to multiple problems since its purchase, it’s also cumbersome to maneuver.
Robinson noted during a special Sept. 16 city council meeting that the fire department’s equipment revolving schedule has the aerial truck slated for replacement in 2039, when it would be 45 years old. It was also acknowledged during that meeting that the city had under-budgeted in its 2020-2024 fire department equipment schedule by at least $2 million.
Larsen explained Wednesday that he anticipated a new aerial truck would be the fire department’s number two turnout vehicle, and that a new truck would allow the department to better serve both the city as well as other smaller fire departments across Nobles County. He noted that a new truck purchase was discussed at a Nobles County Board of Commissioners meeting last month, but that there was worry “about other departments saying, ‘you gave them money, where’s ours?’”
Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle pointed out an accounting analysis that indicated the purchase of a brand new truck would impact the city levy by 2.8% annually, and council members subsequently spoke of additional likely impacts.
“To look at another million-plus that’s nowhere on the budget, what does that do to the next truck down the line?” Councilman Chad Cummings asked. “You’re kicking the can down the line quite a ways.”
Councilman Alan Oberloh said that one negative experience with purchasing a used aerial truck shouldn’t prohibit the consideration of other used vehicles. He added that buying a $1.2 million truck could have adverse ramifications beyond the levy, including firefighters’ retirement funds and per-call compensation.
“We’re trying to propose the best thing we can propose,” Larsen said. “But if you think the used truck is right … we’re not opposed to it.”
Kuhle, for one, was interested in making sure the same mistakes aren’t made when another aerial fire truck is bought by the city.
“We bought this one for about $400,000 and it was a problem from day one, I hear,” the mayor said. “How can we protect ourselves if we buy a used one for five, six, $700,000?”
“I think it’s important that if there’s anything out there that looks of interest, we have to have one or two guys mobilize immediately to check that out, even if we have to fly somewhere to do it,” Robinson said. “If we’re going to look seriously at (buying) used, we’re going to have to be able to move quickly.”
Oberloh noted that the city of Roseville recently was offering a truck for a deeply discounted price, and Cummings suggested contacting the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association to see if there’s knowledge of what may be available to meet the city’s immediate needs. The purchase of a demo model could be examined, Robinson said, and Cummings noted that various parts from the current aerial truck may be able to be sold to help defray some costs.
Robinson ultimately asked firefighters present during Wednesday’s meeting on what they thought a “palatable” budget for a used aerial truck would be.
“I think 600 to 750 (thousand) probably would be,” answered Wade Roesner, a WFD member.
“Which is about a half million less than what this (new) one is,” Robinson replied.
The city has approximately $250,000 in reserve funds for equipment replacement that could be used, and the other $500,000 or thereabouts would likely be financed. The plan moving forward, Robinson said, is to buy a used truck that would cause no impact to future city levies, while also re-examining the city’s equipment replacement schedule.