By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — It’s not a brand new tanker truck — but it’s new to the Colfax fire district.
The Colfax fire board approved at the June 11 meeting the purchase of a 2005 International truck chassis and moving the tank from the existing 1978 tanker truck at a cost not to exceed $75,000.
The purchase price of the International truck is $49,374, reported Don Logslett, Colfax fire chief.
The remaining $25,000 of the approved amount will, if needed, go toward taking the tank off the existing truck, repairing the tank if necessary, painting the tank and the truck chassis, and installing the tank on the International.
A new tank for the International truck would cost about $70,000, said Gary Hill and Joe Solberg, both members of the fire department who serve on the department’s truck committee.
The fire district’s vehicle replacement fund has a balance of $164,792, Logslett noted.
Each year, the fire district’s budget sets aside $20,000 for the vehicle replacement account.
The International truck has an automatic transmission. The department’s existing 1978 tanker truck is a 13 speed.
Fire board members wondered about selling the 1978 truck intact with the tank.
Logslett said he doubted the fire department would be able to get very much for it or that another department would want it.
“Everyone is going to automatic. The younger (firefighters) do not know, have not had the opportunity, to learn how to drive a 13 speed properly,” Logslett said.
Even with all of his experience driving heavy equipment, Logslett said he is not an expert on driving the 13 speed.
“I can drive it, but it’s not pretty when I drive it either,” he said.
Considering the age of the truck and the difficulty of driving a 13 speed, the 1978 truck is not the easiest piece of equipment to get to a fire, Logslett said.
Logslett noted that when he joined the fire department at the age of 18, the average age of the Colfax firefighters was about 50, and more of the older firefighters knew how to drive the department’s tanker truck. Now the average age of the firefighters is in the early to mid-30s.
Mark Dietsche, representative for the Town of Grant, wondered if a new or refurbished stainless steel tank would have more value.
The new stainless tanks are warrantied for 15 years, but the stainless tanks crack along the weld eventually, Hill said.
The Colfax fire department has been looking for a used tanker truck for about four years, Logslett said.
Every time a suitable truck was located, by the time someone called about it, the truck had already been sold, he said.
“These guys (Hill and Solberg) have spent hours and hours and hours over days, weeks, months, years looking for trucks,” Logslett said.
A few years back, the fire board approved buying a specific tanker truck for $98,000, but by the time representatives for the fire department called about it the next day, the truck had already been sold, he noted.
The Colfax firefighters’ association put $2,000 down on the 2005 International truck to hold it, and fire department members were allowed to bring it to Colfax. The International was in the fire station’s equipment bay the night of the meeting, giving fire board members the opportunity to personally inspect it.
Mark Warner, representative for the Town of Otter Creek, asked if the firefighters were sure the existing tank was in good shape.
Solberg and Hill said they thought it was in an acceptable condition.
“We need to get it off the truck, though, to know for sure,” Solberg said.
Hill explained that the dump mechanism had been wearing a hole in the tank and that he had gone inside the tank a few years ago to repair the hole and had fixed it from the outside as well.
The proper way to fix that section of the tank would be to cut it out and weld in a new patch, Hill said.
Scott Gunnufson, chair of the fire board and representative for the Village of Colfax, noted that during the meeting, he had gone on the Internet with his phone to check out prices for fire department tanker trucks.
A new 2015 is priced at $220,000, and a 2009 is priced at $162,000, he said.
“I can’t see spending $220,000 on new,” Hill said.
Fire board members agreed that a new tanker truck would not be the best use of the fire district’s financial resources.
The existing tank should last another 15 or 20 years, Dietsche said.
“We could always put another tank on this (International) chassis in 20 years if we need to,” Logslett said.
Dietsche asked when the Colfax fire department would need to buy a new fire engine.
Logslett estimated a replacement engine would need to be purchased in five or six years, noting that the department’s newest fire engine is 20 years old.
“At $20,000 a year, that gives us another $120,000,” Dietsche said.
In six years, after purchasing the International truck and with no other equipment purchases, the fire district would have a little over $200,000 in the equipment replacement fund.
Brand new fire engines today cost between $300,000 and $350,000, Logslett said, adding that the Colfax fire department would most likely purchase a good used fire engine when the time comes, unless there is a substantial grant available for a new truck.
The Colfax fire board unanimously approved a motion to spend up to $75,000 on the 2005 International and for removing the existing tank, repairing it, painting the truck and tank and installing the tank on the International.
In addition to Gunnufson, Dietsche and Warner, Gary Bjork serves on the fire board to represent the Town of Colfax.
In other business, the Colfax fire district reviewed the financial report for 2014.
The fire district had income of $112,998 for 2014 and expenses of $123,092, representing a budget deficit of a little over $10,000.
The deficit was mostly due to extra firefighter training, Logslett said.
The firefighters were paid for 2013 in 2014 — and in fact are always paid the following year.
In 2013, the fire department arranged for a comprehensive refresher course for all of the firefighters. The training was a 16-week course, and there were many newer members of the fire department who had never gone through the comprehensive course, Logslett said.
“It was good training for all of us,” he said.
The firefighters are paid for going to training sessions. The payroll for the firefighters was nearly $37,000, but the budgeted amount was $28,000.
The Colfax fire department currently has 35 firefighters on the roster, Logslett said.
“We are fortunate to have a lot of new, younger, active members. They are always at training. They always come to the meetings. And they go out on fires,” he said.
Dietsche wondered if the new fire station was instrumental in attracting new fire department members.
“Yes. You said it,” Logslett said.
The new fire station has a meeting room with sufficient space for all of the firefighters to sit comfortably at tables and to see and hear the person who has come in to do the training, he noted.
The old fire station on Main Street did not have a meeting room.