Village board passes on new fire truck

By Jim McCabe on October 16 at 7:17am

The South Jacksonville Fire Department’s desire to see a top-of-the-line fire truck added to its fleet was not fulfilled last night.

The village board of trustees failed to pass a measure approving a waiver of competitive bidding and the approval to purchase the truck at a special meeting. The truck would have cost $239,000.

Voting for the waiver were board members Steve Douglass and Sonny Smith. John Gotschall, Mike Elliott, and Kem Wilson voted against it. Steve Waltrip was not present. The motion needed four “yes” votes to pass.

The South Jacksonville Public Protection Committee, made up of the board members at the meeting, met last week with fire chief Dave Hickox. The committee recommended the purchase of the truck.

Mayor Gordon Jumper says the uniqueness of the vehicle- a “demo” model- did not allow for a competitive bid.

Hickox says it’s time to update the fleet.

“Most fire trucks are 20, 25 years, 30 years life, and we’re pushing that button,” Hickox says.

The fire department’s front line truck is 25 years old, but it still passes the “pump test” that ensures it can adequately do its job. Jumper says three vehicles have been purchased to the tune of nearly $750,000 over the last 15 years for the SJFD.

Elliott, who says the village went “overboard” on spending for certain aspects of the fire department’s new Sequoia Drive station, says putting that figure over a million dollars warrants keeping the competitive bid process in place.

“That’s why that ordinance is in place, and that’s why we should abide by it. We’re trying to maintain the level of excellence that we have with our fire department, and they do a very good job,” says Elliott.

“However, I think we’d be well-deemed in using that [money] for other areas of the village, and then let’s visit this next year if we’ve already got a front line truck that is still operational and suits the needs for the department,” he adds.

Specifically, Elliott cited the village’s street department as one that’s in need of equipment upgrades. He stated at the meeting that other departments don’t bother bringing full wish lists to the table when it comes to the village’s budget because they don’t think they’ll get what they want.

Jumper disputes that notion.

“For the last fifteen years, I have endeavored to the extent possible- and to the extent resources were available- to make equipment available to all departments sufficient to meet their needs based on their technical specifications, and no department has taken more advantage of that opportunity then the fire department has,” he says.

Elliott was not present at last week’s Public Protection Committee meeting.

Jumper says four or five different vehicle purchases were discussed at that meeting, with the low-end price more than $100,000 cheaper than the 2013 model. He says the fire department believes the village is obligated to provide fire protection and necessary equipment.

“The fire department expects a much lower standard than has been used to evaluate the purchase of their equipment in the past, and honestly, I plan to propose and consort with the Public Protection Committee chairman vehicles that, frankly, meet that substantially-lower standard,” Jumper says.

“That may very-well mean we elect to propose to the board the purchase of a piece of used equipment and save the taxpayers $100,000.”

The competitive bid waiver was the only item on last night’s special meeting agenda. No future Public Protection Committee meetings have yet been scheduled.

Pictured above: Gordon Jumper (right) discusses things with Mike Elliott (left).