Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fire Department Vehicles and the Budget

The Bloomfield Township Fire Department has a budget separate from the police budget and the dispatch budget.  However, all three departments are grouped under the Public Safety Fund which share the revenue generated from the many dedicated public safety millages,  property taxes transferred from the General Fund, and from EMS Transport fees (among other sources).  For the past three years, that total revenue has been fairly steady at or above $24,500,000.

From the Public Safety Fund Budget:
Fire department total expenditures have been over $10,700,000 for the past three years.
Line item #978:  vehicle purchase for the fire department:
2009-2010 @ $181,093  
2010-2011 @ $250,000  
2011-2012 @ $382,000

Ladder Truck Purchase
On July 26, 2010, the Board of Trustees met at a Study Session. One of the items discussed was the fire engine that was purchased in 2002 with Public Safety dedicated millage money.
"A fire truck was purchased from E-One in 2002 and since that time many problems have occurred with this vehicle. On the first day of service, the truck broke down and was unusable for a year. The truck, outfitted with a Bronto Skylift aerial/articulating device, has been out of service since July 18, 2009, due to safety issues with the aerial platform."
This revealing report goes on to discuss the "settlement" and "costs" associated with this 2002 fire truck and it's replacement.
"E-One has offered the Township a settlement proposal (Bronto is not participating), in which the Township will purchase a new 78’ aerial ladder fire truck from E-One for
$722,203.00, less a settlement discount of $151,663.00 and a trade-in credit of $350,000.00, for a total out-of-pocket cost of $220,540.00. "
  • How did the almost one million dollar 2002 vehicle break down on the first day?  
  • What was done to replace the vehicle on that first day?  
  • Why did it take until the summer of 2010 to make a final "settlement" concerning this vehicle?  
  • How many actual fire runs did this vehicle perform?
  • Why is the "settlement" offering only a 78' aerial ladder fire truck when the original purchase fire truck was a 100' aerial ladder truck?  
  • How much of the taxpayers' dollars were wasted with this purchase? 
  • How many taxpayers knew about the "costly million dollar lemon" in the fire station?
More importantly, why was all this information discussed at a Study Session and not at a regular Board of Trustees meeting?  The public is permitted to attend Study Sessions, it's just that not many know when one is scheduled. The attendees at a study session are most likely to be just staff, trustees and lawyers with a "need to know" concerning the agenda items.  Don't know the date this "settlement agreement and authorization to order a new fire truck" was approved at a public meeting of the Township Board of Trustees.  Was it?   However, I did find:

The Fall 2011 Newsletter (p.5), the new fire truck was proudly announced in the newletter  and showcased at the Open House.
"On June 17, after almost two years of research and planning, Central Fire Station took delivery of an E-ONE 2011 Typhoon HP78 ladder truck."
Wow...  Research and Planning? The "spin" stories continue at the Township.
The 2002 Public Safety Millage that provided the million dollars for that "lemon" of a fire truck is expiring in 2012.  Before we renew any millage, I think it is time for a reality check at the Township as to what kind and how many vehicles the taxpayers are willing to purchase.  As a taxpayer, I believe that "lemon" should have been exposed the very first day.  For ten years most taxpayers believed we had a viable 100' aerial ladder fire truck in the fleet.  Open and transparent may be uncomfortable at times, but necessary for the trust and confidence one expects from the leadership.  What will the leaders lead us to believe with the next millage and budget?

Two Rescue Vehicles Purchased
On Feb. 14, 2011, the Board of Trustees approved the purchase of 2 rescue trucks at a price of $314,671 less trade in value of $26,000 for 2 "older" rescue vehicles in the Township fleet. The trade- in price seems very low.  Could a higher price been gained by selling the vehicles to another community?  Was that considered?  Final price approved for the 2 rescue trucks: $288,671.28.

What was not recorded in the minutes was the fact that the "trade in" vehicles were NOT the "oldest" rescue trucks in the fleet.  The department traded in vehicles that were causing a lot of down time with repairs.  More "lemons"?   How old are the oldest rescue trucks that are still owned?  At millage renewal time, remember that  newer vehicles were traded in for $13,000 a piece.  The Township kept older trucks.

Where are all the "utility" vehicles and cars for the fire department leadership budgeted?  Line item #978 needs closer review in the 2012-2013 budget.

In the 2010 Annual Report for the Fire Department, Fire Chief, Dave Piche wrote:
"...... it is a goal of the fire department to achieve the upgrade of all four of the front line fire engines to ALS status over the next three years......"

Fire Department vehicles:  copied in part,  from the 2010 Annual Report:
"Central Fire Station is located at 1155 Exeter, in Bloomfield Township’s Municipal Government Complex. It houses one Paramedic Engine, one Incident Command Vehicle, one Reserve Paramedic Rescue, one Technical Rescue Vehicle, and numerous staff and utility vehicles.

Fire Station 2 is located at 1063 Westview, on the Township’s northeast side. This fire station houses one Fire Engine and one Paramedic Rescue to protect its district. A Paramedic Lieutenant and three firefighters, including at least two paramedics, are assigned to this station.

Fire Station 3 is located at 4151 W. Maple on the Township’s southwest side. This fire station houses one Paramedic Fire Engine, one Paramedic Rescue, and one Reserve Fire Engine. A Paramedic Lieutenant and 3 paramedic firefighters are assigned to this station.

Fire Station 4 is located at 2389 Franklin Road on the Township’s north side. This
fire station houses one Fire Engine, one Paramedic Rescue, one Reserve Fire Engine and an Air Supply Trailer. A Paramedic Lieutenant and three firefighters, including at least two paramedics, are assigned to this station.
The Bloomfield Village Fire Department continues to provide fire services for the Bloomfield Village Association as a volunteer organization of village residents. The Village Fire Department is staffed by 17 volunteer firefighters and a full time/paid Deputy Fire Chief. Our department operates one Fire Engine and one four wheel drive utility vehicle from the Village Fire Station, which is located at 3595 Bradway.
FYI:  The Village Fire fund budget is authorized by a Special Tax Assessment District. These monies are billed by Bloomfield Township in the Winter Tax Statement to all properties in the Birmingham school District No. 34. "

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