Sidney stands to save more than $1 million after councillors signed off on the purchase of a used tower ladder truck for the fire department.
The purchase, recommended by Sidney Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brett Mikkelsen, was approved by committee-of-the-whole during recent budget consultations.
Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith credited Mikkelsen for his diligence in finding the used vehicle in the United States, noting, “It’s resulting in tremendous savings to our community in the future and is greatly appreciated.”
The approval sees $1.3 million advanced to the 2022 budget toward the purchase of the 42-foot-long vehicle, equipped with a 100-foot-ladder. The purchase price is about C$1.02 million – US$802,500 – but the budgeted amount includes taxes, import fees and costs to convert the truck to metric pump fittings, among other smaller changes.
Mikkelsen’s report to council called this the best opportunity to purchase a tower ladder truck without debt financing, noting the previous such purchase required a five-year-lease to make it affordable.
“The cost of new fire apparatus has grown exponentially,” the chief said during the Feb. 7 committee meeting, pointing to Sidney’s changing urban form as one reason for the cost escalation.
Sidney’s increasingly dense and compact form requires smaller and more maneuverable vehicles, which are ultimately more expensive. “This is a function of having to condense the capability of a truck typically 45 to 50 feet long into a truck 42 feet long,” the report said.
The report described the truck in question as well-suited to serve the municipality, but not perfectly. Asked whether a new truck would be a better alternative, Mikkelsen told councillors such a truck exists but would cost $2.45 million.
“Everything is a compromise,” he added later. “We feel that for these cost savings, this (vehicle) offers tremendous value and is very usable and it will serve the (municipality) well.”
By purchasing the used vehicle in 2022, the municipality trims its 2023 budget by $1.1 million.
Andrew Hicik, Sidney’s director of corporate services and chief financial officer, said taxpayers stand to benefit from the purchase.
“I realize that we may have to replace this one three years earlier than a brand new truck, but that gives us plenty of time to build up the reserve to the required level and I would feel much better about our reserve levels and not having to do short-term borrowing if we were to buy this used truck,” he said.
The longer ladder includes a tower platform that permits crews to safely evacuate residents from upper-floor balconies and windows. “This is much safer for both residents and our firefighters,” Mikkelsen said in his report.
With the purchase, the plan is to sell the department’s existing ladder truck, which features a 75-foot-ladder. While Mikkelsen could not cite an exact figure citing the uniqueness of the market, he estimated the sale could fetch between $35,000 and $50,000.
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