New pumper truck is big-ticket item for C-R fire department Rockland Budget wish list

wish list for the 2012 budget. That position belongs to an $11,000 request to buy five newsetsofprotectiveclothingformembers ofthevolunteerforce.Afullkitoffirefighter gear must be tailored to the body size and build of the person using it to provide proper protection and not leave the department and city at risk for any liability claims in case of injury. Third item on the top four priority list is a service pickup truck for the department for use in attending bush fire calls or other off-road situations where access might be difficult or impossible for a regular fire truck. Right now some of the volunteer membersofthedepartmenthaveusedtheir own pickups for ferrying equipment to such calls but their own vehicle insurance won’t provide coverage for any damage that results. “We don’t feel that’s fair on our guys,” Sabourin said, noting that the limit that the budget review committee has put on the pickup truck purchase is $40,000. The last of the high-priority items is $157,000 for purchase of several new self- contained breathing units for members to wear when going inside smoke-filled buil- dings for either search-and-rescue or to deal with specific fire containment situa- tions. There are three other items on the fire department’s wish list. They include $10,000 for 10 new radio pagers for members, $100,000 for a new Rockland fire station plan, and starting to reserve money for future expansion of the Rockland sta- tion site. Council's budget review sessions conti- nue through the week with other departments coming under the micros- cope.

The budget pill is proving a hard one to swallow for Clarence-Rockland’s mayor and councillors as they try to find ways to reduce costs and avoid a repeat of last year’s double-digit tax rate increase. After the Friday the 13 th snow storm blew itself out over the weekend and usheredintwodaysoffreezingcold,Mayor Marcel Guibord and council hunkered down in chambers Saturday for an all-day reviewsessionwithstaffonthecommunity service, bylaw enforcement, and fire pro- tection services portions of the budget. One high-priority item on the fire department’s capital expense list occupied a large part of the afternoon portion of the review. The department needs a new primary response pumper truck. The current one is now 20 years old and Fire Chief Pierre Sabourin told council that homeowners will end up paying if the city does not replace it. “Everyone inClarence-Rocklandwould see an increase in their (fire) insurance,” Sabourin said. The reason is that the Fire Underwriters, the organization that does insurance rating, will not provide coverage on an out- of-date pumper unit that is used as a primary response vehicle for a fire call. The insurable limit date for such a vehicle is 20 years. “Fire Underwriters do not rate anything 20 years older or more,” Sabourin said. The department could keep the pumper as part of its fleet for another five years without affecting local homeowners’ insurance rates according to the Underwriters but only if it is used a secondary or reserve unit. The city still has tohaveaninsurableprimarypumpertruck. The estimated cost for a new pumper truck that meets the Underwriters’ condi- tions is $450,000. Mayor Guibord and Councillors Guy Félio and René Campeau all questioned Sabourin and his advisors, Deputy Chief Alain Hupé and Jim Ullett, a member of the fire service review board, about whether there was a way to either avoid the expense or spread the potential purchase debt over a period of time.

Photo Gregg Chamberlain Flanked on his right by Deputy Chief Alain Hupé and to his left by review board member Jim Ullett, Fire Chief Pierre Sabourin explains to council why cost-cutting won't work for some big-ticket items in his department's budget report.

Campeauwonderedwhythetruckcould not continue to serve the department if it is well-maintained and in working condi- tion. He also wondered how much of an extra expense it would be to homeowner fire insurance rates compared to the property tax rate. “If I’m going to pay $200 more in taxes and maybe $20 more for insurance,” said Campeau, “I knowwhat I’mgoing to pick.” “You can expect a couple hundred to $300 more,” Sabourin said, regarding the impact on fire insurance rates if the pumper remainsthedepartment’sprimaryresponse vehicle. Mayor Guibord and Coun. Félio wondered about the impact on the city’s debt capacity. Félio suggested maybe the purchasecouldbespreadoverseveralyears. City finance director Chantal McLean-Le- roux said that could work through amortization. Campeau asked whether the city could get a cheaper truck fromanother supplier or whether a standard transport or freight truck frame could be bought at lower cost

and then fitted out with the pumper truck equipment. Sabourin explained that fire trucks are not “off the rack” designs. “They are built to our own needs,” he said. “Ottawa, when they buy a pumper, it’s $600,000 for their needs. Councillors Raymond Serrurier and André Henrie also advised Campeau that standard freight truck chassis systems would not meet the needs of a fire truck. “It cannot be ‘backyard built’,” said Henrie. A new pumper truck was not the first item on the department’s capital expense

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