Petoskey (MI) Lacks Funding for Fire Apparatus Replacements

When Petoskey officials gathered about a year ago to consider key city priorities, updating the city’s fire fleet was one key challenge for which funding had yet to be identified.

While the city has yet to identify a revenue source it can tap in replacing several aging Petoskey Department of Public Safety fire apparatus, some officials expect renewed discussion of the possibilities in the near future.

“It’s something we have to deal with,” said public safety director John Calabrese. “We’re looking at some ways that that can happen.”

As they’ve often done during the winter months in recent years, city council members and key city staff met for a priority-setting process in early 2014. Discussion tended to focus on the budgetary challenges brought by the real estate market downturn of a few years earlier and the resulting declines in taxable property values. While those values have since begun to rebound, city staff have said tax revenues could take years to return to their pre-downturn levels. City officials responded to the tight revenue situation with steps such as leaving some vacant staff positions unfilled, having employees take on more of their health care expenses and holding off on some proposed capital spending.

Last winter, city staff noted that several fire vehicles dating back to the 1980s and early ’90s were showing age-related issues. 

Of these, the 1984-model, 100-foot aerial platform truck would perhaps be the most critical at a major structure fire scene. Public safety director John Calabrese recently said this truck’s aerial ladder has remained in generally good working order and has continued to pass annual inspections, but that repair and maintenance needs occasionally have taken it out of service for a day or two at a time in the past year. Limited availability of replacement parts is one challenge the city faces in the truck’s upkeep, with a lack of parts keeping the truck’s broken speedometer from being repaired.

While the city also has a 2002-model truck with a 70-foot platform in its fleet, staff have noted that the older truck is the only one in the city — or anywhere in Emmet County — with the vertical reach that would be needed for aerial fire attacks at some of the area’s tallest buildings. The 1984 truck’s lack of various safety features that are present on newer vehicles also has figured in city staff’s case for replacing it, along with the 100-foot ladder’s significance in calculating the city’s rating for fire insurance purposes.

Officials have estimated that a similar new truck’s price tag would be around $1.2 million.

Along with the aerial truck, city staff have noted need to replace three other older fire units, and hope to replace all three with a single vehicle.

One is a 1984-model pumper truck. This vehicle is Petoskey’s only one with a specialized hose setup for marina firefighting, and has been put to use along with the department’s newer pumpers at numerous working fires in recent years. Staff have noted it presents issues such as corrosion, limited replacement parts availability and a lack of modern safety features.

Since last year’s discussion of fire vehicle concerns, Calabrese noted that his department has taken another of the older trucks — a 1992 pumper that had been used as a reserve in recent years — out of service. The truck was showing corrosion and wear, with some cracking on its frame.

The department’s 1992 hose reel truck — which carries a cascade system for refilling breathing-air bottles along with 1,500 feet of water supply hose — requires a firefighter to ride on the side of the vehicle to unload the hose, and the truck is seldom used because of the safety concerns that involves.

Staff propose replacing both older pumpers and the hose reel truck with a multi-purpose truck, estimating in 2014 that this would cost $450,000.

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