New Albany (IN) Fire Apparatus Purchase Questioned

The New Albany fire department circumvented the bidding process on its new $1 million fire truck after a salesman guided the city fire chief and a top city administrator on how to speed up a purchase and avoid the standard bid process.

Now some residents are asking — after the new 100-foot aerial ladder truck has been delivered — why the fire department didn’t seek bids for such a large purchase, as is required by law for most purchases over $50,000.

A review of records detailing the purchase show New Albany officials purchased the aerial ladder fire truck after a sales representative showed the city how it could avoid the bid process using a state law that allows equipment acquisitions by citing an emergency where there’s a threat to public health, welfare or safety.

The city also used another provision of the same law which allows fire departments within 175-miles of each other to “piggyback” on a purchasing contract with a vendor. Emails show salesman John Mullin helped New Albany execute contracts with two Indianapolis-area fire departments as a third party.

Fire Chief Matt Juliot said the city usually bids out truck purchases, but when they were presented with a way to handle the purchase on a nearly new truck, they decided to speed up the process.

Juliot said he met several times with Mayor Jeff Gahan more than a year ago, asking for truck funding, but was told the city didn’t have the money. When a second ladder truck went down last winter, the city had to borrow one from Sellersburg to provide coverage in case of a large fire, he said.

Records obtained under the Indiana Open Records Act show the city began discussions with a manufacturer’s representative two years ago about buying a new ladder truck, but Juliot warned Evansville-based salesman Rob McAtee of Global Emergency Products in late 2012 that funds weren’t available for a truck.

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