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Boyceville fire district undecided about new UTV or fixing old brush truck

By LeAnn R. Ralph

BOYCEVILLE  — When it came down to a vote, half of the Boyceville Community Fire District wanted to fix the old brush truck and half did not.

Fire district members voted three “yes” to three “no” at the June 10 meeting to either fix the engine on the Boyceville fire department’s 1978 brush truck or put in a rebuilt engine.

The Boyceville fire department operates with three brush trucks.

At the May meeting, fire district members had asked Brian Marlette, fire chief, to research prices for a new Utility Terrain Vehicle to use for fighting fires to replace the brush truck that was badly in need of engine repair.

Marlette had told the fire board that a UTV would be more versatile than a brush truck for fighting brush and grass fires.

The Boyceville department already has one UTV, which was considered instrumental in fighting a large grass and brush fire near Knapp a few weeks before the May fire district meeting.

Marlette said he was of the opinion that since the fire department has two other brush trucks, replacing the oldest brush truck with a UTV would help the fire department be more effective.

Part of the problem with the Knapp fire was that because it was early in the spring and the ground was soft, the brush trucks got stuck in the mud.

Polaris 

Marlette reported at the June 10 meeting that the cost for a 2016 Polaris Ranger would be $12,500. An aluminum trailer for the UTV would cost $4,700. And the “skid unit” on the back of the Ranger for the pump, water tank and hose reel would be $7,860.

The skid unit also would have room to hold a rescue basket, he noted.

Marlette said he thought it was likely that a 50/50 state Department of Natural Resources grant would be available for the skid unit, which would reduce the cost to Boyceville by $3,900.

The grand total for the UTV, trailer and skid unit, without a grant, would be a little over $25,000.

Since two of the brush trucks are much newer models that were purchased within the last ten years, Paul Wathke, representative for the Town of Sherman, wondered how long the Boyceville fire department has been operating with three brush trucks.

“We’ve always had three,” Marlette said.

Truck vs. UTV

In response to a question from Wathke about the usefulness of a brush truck as opposed to a UTV, Marlette said the UTVs allow firefighters to get into much tighter terrain.

The UTVS “are easier to take off road to get to where we need to be,” Marlette said.

Jo Palmer, representative for the Village of Boyceville, wondered if the majority of the fires that Boyceville fights are grass fires.

Boyceville fights both structure fires and grass fires, Marlette said.

In the winter, the UTVs are useful for rescues, and there have been a few times the fire department could not get up an icy driveway, but the UTV could navigate the slippery terrain, he said.

“They are quite handy,” Marlette said.

Rich Monn, representative for the Town of Stanton and acting chair of the fire district at the June 10 meeting, asked about the cost of a used four-wheel-drive pick-up truck.

Marlette said he thought at least $25,000, although some members of the fire district thought that was a low estimate.

Not the time

Mike Blechinger, representative for the Town of Tiffany, wondered about the cost of a rebuilt engine for the 1978 truck.

Blechinger said he was of the opinion it would be better to fix the old truck and not buy any new equipment until after the new fire station had been built.

Wathke agreed.

Fix the old truck and make it last until after the fire station is built, they said.

Russell Hitz, representative for the Town of Hay River, suggested that Marlette contact Polaris directly.

Polaris will make deals outside of their dealerships and would probably offer a good deal for a fire district, he said.

“Now is not the time to spend money on new equipment. It is cheaper to fix the one we’ve got … get the equipment in shape and make it last a few more years,” Blechinger said.

Monn said he agreed that the fire district should fix the existing equipment.

Waiting to buy new equipment until after the fire station is built is fine if the station is built in the next three to five years, said Jill Huber, representative for the Town of New Haven.

“But what if it is ten years (before a new fire station is built)? Are we going to cobble together equipment for ten years?” Huber asked.

Palmer wondered about an equipment budget for the fire department.

Marlette said the fire department has $233,000 in funds on hand and another $100,000 in a certificate of deposit.

Marlette said it was his understanding that the money the fire department has on hand would not go toward the new fire hall.

The Boyceville fire department does not have a separate equipment fund, and restricted funds are not set aside every year for equipment, he said.

Motion

A motion to the fix the engine on the 1978 brush truck either by repairing it or installing a rebuilt engine failed on a vote of three “yes” to three “no.”

Blechinger (Tiffany), Wathke (Sherman) and Monn (Stanton) voted “yes” on the motion.

Hitz (Hay River), Palmer (Boyceville) and Huber (New Haven) voted “no” on the motion.

Members of the fire district asked Marlette to find out costs for a rebuilt engine for the 1978 brush truck and to check on costs for the UTV with Polaris and other dealerships and bring the information back to the July meeting.

The Boyceville Community Fire District meets next at 6:30 p.m. July 15.