The Town of Qualicum Beach council has approved plans to purchase a new custom rescue pumper truck for its fire department.
Council endorsed the purchase from Fort Garry Fire Trucks, based on the proposal price of $908,355.10 and a contingency of $20,000.
The new rescue pumper will replace the old apparatus that was purchased in 1999. It has been used by the town for more than two decades, past the allowable life cycle under the National Fire Protection Association Standard on fire apparatus. It was allowed a five-year extension.
Fire Chief Marc Norris said although the apparatus still works and is still safe for use, they’re spending more down time making it serviceable. He added it’s not suitable to be on the front line any longer.
“It should be in second-line service or sold,” said Norris.
The new pumper, Norris explained, will make operations more efficient and also help reduce cost. It will be able to carry more equipment as it will consolidate the tasks performed by Engine 51 and Rescue 55 into one apparatus.
Before council approved the purchase, Coun. Robert Filmer raised some concerns. He stressed it’s his job to ask questions especially when the town is making an expensive purchase.
One of the issues he raised is the money that was budgeted for the purchase. Filmer indicated $450,000 was allocated in the 2021-2022 capital budget but that amount has doubled.
“That’s not what our fire department is asking for,” Filmer indicated. “They’re asking for $908,355.10 with a contingency of up to $20,000. That’s not what we budgeted for. I have some reservations about that. Have we budgeted it properly?”
Filmer also wanted to know from director of finance John Marsh how the budgeting process works and was concerned about similar situations occurring in the future, citing the purchase of the ladder truck as an example, for which $1.5 million has been earmarked in the town’s 2022 capital budget.
“When that project comes to tender for us, are we also then going to be looking at having to go above that number?” Filmer asked.
Marsh said the price of the new pumper is more than $900,000 but it has not been determined whether the town will place a down payment of half the amount this year or next year.
“We have to tidy that up, either now or in the spring on the budget,” Marsh explained. “But the bottom line is it’s about $900,000 and depending on when council and if council approves this purchase, that will dictate the actual timing of the financial arrangements. Furthermore, the idea here was to get a five-year lease, a debt payment through the Municipal Finance Authority. So that will play out as well.”
Coun. Teunis Westbroek pointed out that the planned purchase has been in the works for a number of years. He said a two per cent tax has been instituted annually in the town’s budget more than 10 years ago for this purpose.
“We did this thinking ahead that we actually didn’t have to borrow and scrape or beg to get the money for new equipment,” said Westbroek, who added the two per cent tax allows them to provide the volunteer firefighters with the best equipment and facilities possible.