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By LeAnn R. Ralph
Editor’s note: LeAnn R. Ralph serves as chair of the Otter Creek Town Board and as chair of the Colfax fire board.
COLFAX — The Colfax Community Fire District Board has approved purchasing a new Pierce fire engine from Fire Apparatus and Equipment, Appleton, at a cost of $565,624.
The Colfax fire department’s truck committee is recommending the Pierce with an International engine and a commercial cab, said Gary Hill, Colfax fire chief, at a special meeting of the Colfax fire board May 18.
At a meeting April 26, the fire board had decided not to pursue purchasing a custom cab at an additional cost of $175,000.
The original cost of the fire engine was quoted at $589,568, but the front inlet was removed at a cost of $11,237, and the foam system was removed at a cost of $12,707, for a total price reduction of $23,944 to arrive at the amount of $565,624, Hill explained.
At the April 26 meeting, Hill had told the fire board that two other vehicles already in service at the Colfax fire department have foam capabilities.
Delivery on the truck is expected to be anywhere from 28 to 31 months out.
Unfortunately, the fire district is unable to lock in the price on the chassis, so any price increase will be passed along to the Colfax fire district, Hill said.
Hill said he expected that there would be some price increases along the way on the chassis, and that the total cost on delivery would probably be closer to $575,000.
Town board members in Otter Creek had asked if there would be a way to lock in the price on the contract for the new truck.
In addition to Otter Creek, the Colfax fire district includes the Towns of Grant and Colfax and the Village of Colfax.
Dean Logslett represents the Town of Colfax, Jeff Prince represents the Village of Colfax and Mark Dietsche represents the Town of Grant.
The representatives of the other municipalities did not indicate that their board members had questions or comments concerning the purchase of a new fire engine.
The deck gun purchased by Woods Run Forest Products and donated to the Colfax Fire Department for use on the reserve engine, which is a used fire engine purchased from the city of Bayport, will be transferred to the new fire engine, Hill said.
The fire engine currently used by the Colfax fire department will become the reserve engine, and anything that can be taken off the Bayport engine, such as nozzles and hoses, and transferred to the new engine will be removed and transferred, he said.
The engine from Bayport will be sold, Hill said, noting that the older a fire engine gets, the less money it is worth.
Hill estimated that the Bayport fire engine would bring a price of a few thousand dollars.
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.
The Colfax Firefighters’ Association purchased the Bayport engine with money raised during the annual Colfax Firefighters’ ball in September.
In early 2015, Woods Run Forest Products in Colfax donated the purchase of the deck gun, at a 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.
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.
The fire district has $43,000 in another fund intended to be used for emergencies if needed.
Jessica Checkalski, secretary-treasurer for the fire district, reported that the checking account currently contained $39,000.
Dietsche reported that he had talked with representatives from BMO Harris Bank and Bremer Bank.
BMO is offering a certificate of deposit for 13 months at 4.3 percent interest. Bremer Bank is offering one CD for 13 months at 4.15 percent interest and another at 4.25 percent interest for eight months, he said.
If the fire district put $300,000 into CDs at 4 percent interest, that would yield an additional $12,000 per year, Dietsche noted.
Since the fire truck will not be delivered for at least two years, in addition to $24,000 in interest, assuming the interest rate remains at 4 percent, the fire district will also set aside another $40,000 from the line item in the budget for the equipment fund along with whatever might be left over from the previous year’s budget.
By the time the fire truck is delivered, the money set aside for the fire engine is expected to be about $365,000, not counting the $43,000 in the emergency fund.
Fire members discussed at length various ways to put the money into CDs.
Board members and the fire chief suggested checking with other banks, too, such Security Bank and Dairy State Bank.
Since the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) only guarantees up to $250,000, Dietsche suggested keeping $240,000 at one bank and putting that money into a CD, and depositing the remaining money at a different bank.
The Colfax Community Fire District Board authorized Checkalski to put $240,000 into the highest yield CD she could find at one bank and the remaining money into another CD at a different bank.
Cost for each
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 that 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.
If the cost of the fire truck on delivery is $575,000 and the fire board is able to put $300,000 toward the purchase price, that would leave $275,000 for the towns and the village to cover.
Hill said he also would continue to look for grants that could help offset the cost of the fire engine.
The Colfax fire district does not owe any money on the fire hall and does not owe any money on equipment.
From the perspective of the people Hill said he had talked to about grants, the Colfax fire district is not in a very good position to secure a grant for the fire engine because the fire district “already has enough money.”