Less than a month after the Atwater City Council approved purchasing $80,000 of equipment for the city’s new firetruck, fire officials still haven’t released a list of prices to the public.
“We’re spending taxpayer dollars and the public has the right to see what we’re spending it on,” Councilman Joe Rivero told the Merced Sun-Star on Friday. “It should be open to the public.”
During a council meeting last month, Rivero made a request to release the price list to the public. The City Council members each got a list with pricing details, but because the purchase is funded with Measure H revenue, a voter-approved sales tax for public safety, Rivero said everyone should see the list.
Mark Pimentel, battalion chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, previously told the Sun-Star that releasing the price list could compromise relationships with vendors. Some companies gave the Fire Department special pricing and promotions and disclosing that information could be problematic.
Pimentel could not be reached for comment Friday.
Atwater’s new firetruck has fueled a heated controversy and divided residents for nearly a year. Critics say the $890,048 truck is too expensive and the money would have been better spent on hiring more police officers. Supporters say the 109-foot ladder truck replaces aging equipment and will help Atwater grow by attracting multistory developments.
After a divided City Council approved the firetruck purchase in June 2014, fire officials said $80,000 in equipment would be needed to make it functional. An 11-page list of equipment was released last month, but it contained no prices. The list included everything from hoses and nozzles to medical supplies and vehicle-extrication equipment.
Atwater Mayor Pro Tem Larry Bergman, a retired Cal Fire captain, said individualized price lists typically are not provided to the public – or even the City Council. Bergman said fire officials went above and beyond to compile the detailed list of prices.
“I don’t know if it’s necessary to see every penny listed,” Bergman said. “We don’t see itemized lists from Public Works or other departments requesting purchasing. Whether it’s general fund money or Measure H, these are taxpayer dollars the citizens are providing, so I don’t see any difference.”
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