The Ceres Fire Department is in need of about $2.7 million worth of new firefighting appartus and on Monday the City Council indicated it’s willing to endorse a plan to replace the aging equipment.
Ceres Fire Battalion Chief Jeff Serpa appeared before the council and presented the case for a new $1 million quint ladder truck, two fire engines at $600,000 a copy, a $375,000 engine to fight brush fires, a new $75,000 chassis to refurbish an existing grass fire engine and a new $75,000 SUV for a fire chief when that position is filled.
Serpa noted that the city hasn’t purchased any fire apparatus since 2006, which has led to a fleet of vehicles that have increased maintenance costs and reliability concerns. He said that the five years from 2013 to 2018, the city spent $740,981 for repairs in the fire fleet.
“It is not uncommon to have a piece of fire apparatus in the repair shop every day during the work week.”Ceres Fire Battalion Chief Jeff Serpa
“It is not uncommon to have a piece of fire apparatus in the repair shop every day during the work week,” said Serpa. “We are spending tens of thousands of dollars at every turn to repair these vehicles back into service. We currently have a fleet that has become extremely costly to repair and it has become reliable. We have kept this apparatus in service well beyond what it’s been designed for. Both the city and fire department have been forced to do that due to the financial status of the city in the last eight to 10 years.”
He recommended buying the equipment and spreading the costs over a period of 10 years, which will cost the city $295,000 annually starting in 2020.
Serpa recommended that Ceres could help pay for the equipment by again participating in the state’s fire strike team program which reimburses the city. He noted that payments by the state to Ceres for 2017 strike team activity were $111,000 above personnel and vehicle maintenance and repair.
He also said the savings from the reduced repair costs could go toward the payments on the new equipment.
Serpa said if the council approved the replacement plan, the equipment could be bid on and contracted for construction by October. It would then take over a year to deliver the vehicles to Ceres, likely from an east coast manufacturer. Another 60 to 90 days would be needed to train personnel in their use. The soonest vehicles could be in service would be Feb. 1, 2020.
“Even if you told us go tonight, we still have a long way to go to get these vehicles here in Ceres,” Serpa told the council.
City Manager Toby Wells said the financing options would be brought back for council approval at a later date.
“We’re definitely way overdue for our equipment to be replaced,” said Councilwoman Linda Ryno. Despite the absence of Finance Director Suzanne Dean, she said the city needed to start the process.
Wells said Dean would be able to provide input on how the finance the replacement program.
“I agree it’s time to get this stuff replaced,” said Councilman Ken Lane. “It’s going to be a while obviously but we’re going to have to get it moving and hopefully February or March of 2020 you guys will have all this new equipment in.”
Lane expressed the need to be ready for apparatus replacements after a decade of use and was told by Wells that the city would have to double its financial commitment. But he also pointed out the city could also plan to spend the estimated $290,000 per year indefinitely once the new equipment becomes old in 10 years.
When the time comes to purchase the equipment, it may be able to save time and money through the use of group or consortium purchasing. Serpa said consortium purchasing utilizes the power of large orders and bulk pricing. This type of purchasing also reduces the timeframe of bidding by one to two months.