By a unanimous vote, the council gave its approval for city officials to issue certificates of obligation of just over $1 million to finance two fire engines and the necessary equipment to outfit them.
The purchase was necessary, Schertz Fire Chief David Covington said, because three of city’s current trucks are essentially wearing out. These trucks, he said, are now worth more as trade-ins for new equipment than they would be to either sell or continue to maintain.
Of the city’s fleet of five fire vehicles, three — a 1995 Freightliner and Ferrara trucks built in 1999 and 2001 — have high mileage. The Schertz Fire Department also has a 2013 “quint” truck, equipped with a ladder, and a 2002 platform vehicle.
Due to the city’s burgeoning growth, use of the existing trucks has steadily increased, Covington told the council, noting the 1999 vehicle has more than 106,000 miles, “effectively more than 400,000 miles when you add in the pumping and other uses,” he said.
Annual costs to keep Schertz’s fire fleet as “first-line” equipment — designated as immediately ready to respond to calls, with older units held in reserve — have been running more than $50,000 a year. “Maintaining them was eating us up,” Covington said. “If we continued to hold on to the old equipment, it had to be maintained as if it were first line.”
Searching for a solution, Covington discovered that manufacturer Pierce Manufacturing of Appleton, Wisc., had a demonstration fire engine for sale at a bargain price of $400,000. He tentatively negotiated a deal to trade in the city’s three older vehicles for that demonstration truck and a brand new truck yet to be built.
The new front-line engine will cost $754,000 and tools and equipment will run another $46,000. The process to actually build an engine takes more than a year, he explained, so that new vehicle will not arrive until December 2016.
However, “the demo engine is toward the end of the (company’s) production of that line and could be here within a month or two,” he added.
To sweeten the deal, the city also agreed to trade in two ambulances that have been out of service since January and were already slated to be sold.
With that trade-in equipment, the manufacturer agreed to give a $104,000 discount on the total purchase, he said, for a total cost to Schertz of $1,020,000, paid out over seven years. The city should expect 12 years use of the new trucks in front-line service, plus an additional three to five years as reserve equipment, Covington added.
The total savings to the city was $112,000. James Walters, a senior budget analyst with the city’s finance department, said the deal “satisfies our immediate needs and will still be under warranty to take the load off of our repair people throughout the service period, not to mention the continued cost savings.”
With its unanimous vote, the council agreed, authorizing officials to issue certificates of obligation to finance the deal. The first of the two new fire trucks should arrive from Pierce within the next two months.
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