Council OKs $860K for fire truck

SALEM – City council cleared the way for the purchase of a new 102-foot platform ladder truck for the fire department Tuesday.

In one ordinance, city Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst received authorization to enter into a contract with Warren Fire Equipment for the purchase of a KME truck for an amount not to exceed $860,000.

In another ordinance, council approved the borrowing of up to $375,000 from the city Utilities Department to help cover the cost of the fire truck purchase, with the remaining $480,000 to $490,000 to come from the city’s capital improvement fund.

Both moves had been recommended by city council’s Finance Committee, with the authorization for Kenst discussed during a meeting late last year and the bond issuance for borrowing the funds discussed just prior to the council meeting Tuesday. The city Utilities Commission gave its approval to lend the funds last week.

Councilman Dave Nestic, a member of the Finance Committee, questioned why the amount to be borrowed was less than previously announced, with Auditor Betty Brothers explaining they did not want to go higher than a $25,000 annual payment.

Originally, the plan was to have a longer pay-back period, but state law only allows for up to 15 years for this type of borrowing for fire equipment through a treasury investment note. The note will be renewable every two years at the tax-exempt bond market rate in effect, with an annual repayment of both principal and interest paid to the Utilities Department by the city.

Brothers stressed that interest paid on the loan will go to the utilities department, not the city’s general fund.

“I want to make that quite known,” she said.

Finance Committee Chairman Councilman Jeff Cushman said it’s not unlike a loan from any other financial institution. He asked about the fate of the department’s current truck, a 23-year-old 75-foot ladder truck which has been having maintenance issues in recent years.

Brothers said plans call for the truck to be advertised on with a reserve price set and bids accepted. Mayor John Berlin said he’s already been approached by another municipality about the truck. The mayor of that community was told he’ll be notified when the truck goes on the site. If the truck was traded in, the city would only get about $17,000. Officials think they’ll get more through the bidding process.

Councilman Rick Drummond, who was in attendance at the committee meeting, questioned whether the utilities department could come back a few years from now and call the loan, but was told the terms of the agreement are clear.

Nestic questioned the time frame and whether they could just do one reading on the proposal regarding the loan so he could have more time to read the ordinance.

“If we intend to buy the truck, buy the truck,” Berlin said, adding that if it’s going to be debated, the truck may be gone since it’s a demo and the city would have to wait for another demo.

“I personally don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t pass tonight,” Brothers said.

The city has been talking about purchasing a new ladder truck for the past two years. Chief Jeff Hughes applied for a grant to try to cover the cost previously, but the city was turned down. Talks became more concrete late last year.

In other business, the Finance Committee agreed to recommend council commit $52,000 from capital improvements to cover the cost of new lights and light poles along the Dean Cranmer bridge overpass on West State Street. The Ohio Department of Transportation is planning a renovation project on the bridge overpass in 2015, but needed an answer from the city on the lights by March 3 this year. The city was just notified about the need for an answer on Jan. 8.

Berlin said they’ll make sure they don’t spent the money on something else and keep it set aside for the lights. The cost of the bridge renovation will be paid by ODOT, but the lights fall to the city. He said the city would be remiss if the lights weren’t replaced.

Nestic questioned whether there was a restriction against putting an archway over the bridge, but the mayor said it’s likely too late for that since ODOT’s plans are already in place. Nestic also questioned whether ODOT requires the bridge to be lit.

Berlin said ODOT doesn’t require it, but added “our residents would, though.”

Council also approved the taking of bids for the sale of a used 2008 Ford Crown Victoria police cruiser and accepted a donation of $500 from Helen Cranmer to be used to purchase medical supplies for the fire department. A resolution was approved thanking her for the generous donation. Her husband, Lee, passed away last fall and previously served as the city’s fire chief, retiring in 1990.