Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

January 17, 2013

Council considers fire truck financing

Nicole Dominique
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — Delaying the purchase of a fire engine for another year could have a "domino effect" on the Effingham Fire Department, according to Fire Chief Joe Holomy.

One discussion item on the Effingham City Council agenda Monday night asked commissioners to consider the purchase of a heavy rescue squad vehicle as three of the department's engines approach 20 years of age - all at the same time.

The purchase was delayed in 2011, and was recently quoted at $505,724.

"If you delay it, it's still going to, in the long term, cost more to replace it in the future," Holomy said, referring to rising costs. "In my plan, I've got those vehicles staggering in five-year increments so you don't have to replace them all at one time."

He said the average cost increase each year ranges from 4 to 7 percent.

Commissioner Matt Hirtzel had reservations about not paying for the vehicle outright.

"Half a million dollars is a lot of money. It's a tremendous amount of money," he said. "If you want to save money, you save up for these things ... I won't support a loan."

City Administrator Jim Arndt said as a fiscally conservative individual, he has been setting aside as much money as possible in the budget for this purchase, but the result hasn't been as much as he would like.

His plan is to get the vehicle in the budget so the council can purchase the vehicle outright, but that would put other proposed projects, such as road work, on hold.

"I don't want to push off that many projects," said Commissioner Brian Milleville.

Mayor Merv Gillenwater pointed out while commissioners may change every few years, the needs of the taxpayers won't unless they are resolved in a timely manner.

Arndt said "kicking the can down the road" does not eliminate the need; the issue will always need to be approached again, and in this case can be exacerbated by the wait.

Hirtzel pointed out that, like any vehicle, the fire truck would depreciate quickly.

"It's a bad idea taking out a loan on something that loses value that fast," he said. "We can't afford to purchase these vehicles."

"I'm not sure we can afford not to," Gillenwater said.

No vote was scheduled to be taken at Monday's meeting.

Nicole Dominique can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 138, or at nicole.dominique@effinghamdailynews.com.