Colfax fire board considering purchase of new engine
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By LeAnn R.Ralph
Editor’s Noter: LeAnn R. Ralph serves as chair of the Town of Otter Creek and as chair of the Colfax fire board.
COLFAX — The Colfax Community Fire District Board is considering the purchase of a new fire engine.
Gary Hill, Colfax fire chief, presented information about new fire engines at the fire board’s April 26 meeting.
The Colfax fire department’s main fire engine was purchased in 1993 and is now 30 years old and is past the time when it should have been replaced.
According to information Hill presented to the board, a fire engine without a custom cab from Pierce Fire Apparatus and Equipment would cost $589,000, and a Freightliner fire engine without a custom cab from Custom Fire would cost $575,000.
Fire engines from Custom Fire with custom cabs were $700,000 (Spartan FC-94) to $792,000 (Spartan Metro Star) and $804,000 (Spartan Gladiator), and a custom cab from Pierce was $739,000.
It is interesting to note that when the new fire station was built a little more than 10 years ago, the cost was about $750,000.
When fire board members asked what the difference was between the custom cab and a regular cab, Hill said that six firefighters could fit in the custom cab and five would be able to fit in the regular cab.
That’s assuming there are six firefighters who show up to go to fire, commented Kyle Repaal, assistant fire chief.
The custom cab also would have more room for maps and some other equipment, Hill said.
Fire board members decided that the ability to carry one additional firefighter was not worth $175,000.
Several years ago, while Don Logslett was still fire chief, the cost of a new fire engine was estimated in the neighborhood of $400,000.
In the past few years, the cost of many different kinds of equipment has increased significantly.
The front inlet and the foam system could be removed and would reduce the cost by about $25,000, Hill said.
Two other vehicles already in service at the Colfax fire department have foam capabilities, and the foam is used to mop up after the fire out, he said.
After the fire engine is ordered, delivery is two to three years out, Hill said.
At the April 26 meeting, the fire board approved transferring the $11,300 budget surplus from the 2022 budget to the equipment fund, and with the transfer, the equipment fund contains $280,644.
Every year, the Colfax fire district sets aside $20,000 to go into the equipment fund, so that as of January 2024, the equipment fund will have $300,000.
Every year, the Colfax fire district also transfers the budget surplus from the year before into the equipment replacement fund.
Last year, in April of 2022, the surplus for the 2021 budget was $20,300.
In April of 2021, the surplus from the 2020 budget was $22,975.
The new fire engine would not have to be paid for until delivery, and fire board members concluded that by the time the new engine was delivered, the equipment fund would contain another $60,000.
Board members decided to put $300,000 of the equipment fund toward the new fire engine, when the time comes to pay for the purchase.
The remainder in the equipment fund could be used if other equipment needed to be replaced, and the fire district has $43,000 in another fund that can be used for emergencies as well.
The remaining approximately $275,000 would be covered by the municipalities in the district according to their percentage of equalized value in the fire district.
The cost for the municipalities would be approximately 40 percent of the remaining cost of the fire engine for the Town of Colfax and approximately 20 percent each for the Village of Colfax and the Towns of Grant and Otter Creek, with Grant paying somewhat less than the Town of Otter Creek.
Each municipality would pay their share of the fire engine either by borrowing the money or using fund balance or some combination of borrowing and fund balance, and the decision for how to finance each municipality’s share is a decision made by the individual governing board.
By the time the fire engine is delivered, the respective boards will have decided how to fund their share, and the money would be paid to the fire district right away so that the cost of the engine would be paid off immediately.
The boards that decide to borrow money will then pay off their loans according to whatever terms under which they have borrowed the money.
The Colfax Community Fire District Board instructed Hill and Repaal to talk to the manufacturers to refine the specifications for a new fire engine for the Colfax fire department.
The fire board members agreed to take the information about a new fire engine back to their boards for their May meetings.
The Colfax Community Fire District Board will hold a special meeting May 18 at 7 p.m. at the Colfax fire station to consider ordering a new fire engine.
The Colfax fire department’s second engine, a used engine from the Bayport fire department purchased by the Colfax Firefighters’ Association in the summer of 2014, would be taken out of service.
The Bayport engine has an extended cab, but it is open in the back, and the regulatory agencies would like to see those taken out of service, Hill said.
The Colfax Firefighters’ Association has purchased many pieces of equipment over the years, or has contributed significant amounts toward equipment purchases, with money raised during the Colfax Firefighters’ Ball held every September.
Hill and Logslett have both gone on record saying the firefighters want to give the money back the community by purchasing items for the fire department since the community is generous in their support of the Firefighters’ Ball.
The fire engine from Bayport is a 1990 model and replaced a 1973 model that was previously used as a reserve for the Colfax fire department.
In early 2015, Woods Run Forest Products in Colfax donated the purchase of a deck gun, at cost of approximately $1,800, for the reserve engine purchased from Bayport.
The deck gun was purchased new from Elkhart Brass, has a maximum capacity of 1,250 gallons per minute, is fully adjustable up and down, can rotate 360 degrees, and has a reach of about 200 feet.
Deck guns are useful for fighting two-story structure fires.
The Bayport fire engine had previously been outfitted with a deck gun, but the Bayport fire department removed the deck gun before selling it to Colfax so it could be installed on another Bayport fire engine.
Hill did not talk about whether the deck gun on the Bayport engine could or would be removed and whether it could be installed on the new fire engine.
In addition to LeAnn Ralph representing the Town of Otter Creek on the Colfax fire board, Jeff Prince represents the Village of Colfax, and Dean Logslett represents the Town of Colfax, while Mark Dietsche represents the Town of Grant.