After ambulances twice broke down on the way to calls this year, village officials finally gave the South Shore Fire Department the go-ahead to put out a bid to buy a new one.
During the Finance/Legal/License Committee meeting Wednesday, Interim Fire Chief Mark Pierce told committee members two med units have broken down in the last month alone.
"This has been a hard year so far," he said. "We've had four breakdowns all together, but two were in the last month and two of those break-downs occured on the way to a call."
Committee members Wednesday unanimously approved Battalion Chief Jon Keiser sending out requests for proposals for a new ambulance, but they also asked that bids come back for the cost of remounting two ambulance boxes off existing rigs.
A new ambulance has been budgeted in both Mount Pleasant and Sturtevant for the last three years, and in 2011, trustees on the committee were this/close to approving the purchase when Trustee Jerry Garski floated the idea of a remount instead.
Remounting includes taking an existing ambulance box—the back portion where patients are typically loaded—and attaching it to a new chassis complete with all new mechanical and wiring. Where a new ambulance can run between $165,000 to $200,000, a remount is significantly less at about $100,000 or so.
Because Sturtevant gets a say in capital purchases for the department, without that village's approval of a remount, Mount Pleasant had to choose between paying for it on their own or shelving the project until some kind of agreement could be reached.
"We approved a new ambulance because that's what our fire department said they need," Sturtevant Trustee John Johnson has said. "They're the experts on what it takes to run a fire department."
SSFD has six ambulances in its fleet; three from 2005, two from 2001 and one from 1998. Pierce said the average life span of a med unit is about 10 years, give or take depending on how much use it gets. Using that benchmark, the department needs three ambulances now and will need three more in the next couple of years.
"I did a quick survey of neighboring communities and very few have any ambulances this old," he added. "And with our history of putting off capital purchases, we're getting into a compression situation where we're going to need several purchases of equipment all once."
Caledonia Fire Chief Richard Roeder who attended the meeting for another matter backed up Pierce's statement.
"Our oldest rig is a 2007," he said. "We do have a 2000 or 2001 in reserve, but we don't use it very much."
Garski pointed out that had Sturtevant not blocked the remount option, South Shore would have what amounts to a new ambulance or possibly two.
"Two years ago when (the fire department) brought this forward, we would have that remount and maybe another one if Sturtevant didn’t have a say," he said. "At 18 percent, they think they can have a say in what this village buys."
Trustee Harry Manning agreed, pointing out that the mechanical issues center around powertrain or engine trouble.
"We have to move forward no matter what but if we’d done two remounts by now, we could have two new powertrains out there now," he said.
Keiser will put together the RFP packages and instruct vendors they have 45 days from the date of receipt to return their bid to Mount Pleasant, putting any movement on this issue out to at least May 1.