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Brown Township debates replacement fire engine

A proposed new fire engine purchase dominated the discussion at Thursday's meeting of the Brown Township Advisory Board.

According to fire chief Rex Morley, the township used to have a 1990 Pierce Engine until its motor blew last fall. Given the age of the vehicle and the expense of the repairs, estimated between $60,000 and $70,000, Morley said the department decided to sell the vehicle. As a result, the fire department was down to one engine, which Morley felt was not enough to adequately protect the township.

"We sold it to a guy up north, and he's fixing it up on his own," said Morley. "We're down to one engine, and I don't feel that we can protect the township with just one engine. It's an '06, and if it goes down, we're stuck without an engine because we don't have a backup or anything like that."

During discussion regarding the purchase of a replacement, Brown Township Advisory Board Chairman Steve Oschman told Morley and the board that he had done some research on engines and found that they last, on average, 15 to 19 years with a standard deviation of 5.6 years. Oschman said that according to his research, he had also found out about a new foaming technology he felt should be included on any new truck purchased by the department.

Brown Township Trustee Mark Harris said he had met with Morley, Capt. David Gilkerson and advisory board member Adam Johnson Wednesday night to discuss purchasing options for a vehicle. Harris said that he, Morley and Gilkerson agreed that the department needed a new engine as soon as possible.

Johnson said he felt that since it was taxpayer money being spent, the best informed decision should be the one made. He said he proposed a cost analysis report prior to the purchasing of a new engine for the department so that the best informed decision could be assured. Johnson said it was important for a cost analysis to consider new versus used, as well as commercial versus custom built.

Harris said, while he liked Johnson's suggestion for a cost analysis and fleet management and replacement plans, he felt those would take too long to complete and that the department should purchase an engine sooner rather than later.

Board member Chris Hester said that he supported giving the department whatever truck they asked for because they do the job every day and would know what they need better than anyone else. Hester also wondered who would author the replacement plan and which attorney would look over the paperwork to make sure that it was all in order.

As the discussion continued, Morley said his team did a full survey across four manufacturers and the fire engine they had selected has the best safety features and new technology at a good cost. Oschman asked if it could be agreed that the township needed an engine now. Harris said yes, and Hester said that he was ready to sign the paperwork. Johnson said that he would like to see the cost analysis and fleet replacement plan completed first.

Eventually, Hester made a motion to allow the Brown Township Fire Department to purchase a new fire engine, which was seconded by Oschman. The motion passed 2-1, with Hester and Oschman in favor and Johnson against.

Following Hester's motion, Johnson made a motion that a vehicle replacement plan and cost analysis be created before the purchase of the engine, which was passed unanimously.

Resident Arthur Slatinsky then inquired how much it would have cost to replace the motor in the old engine and how many times over the motor could be replaced for the cost of a new engine.

Morley said that the replacement cost of a motor for the old fire engine was about $60,000, and Hester, after some quick math, said that the motor could have been replaced over 100 times. Slatinsky asked why the department didn't just replace the motor or get a used vehicle in order to save costs and time.

Morley said the old engine was out of date, being over 25 years old, and the vehicle had other issues besides the motor. Morley also noted the higher maintenance costs for a used vehicle. Hester said that the fire department was saving people's lives and that he wanted them to have the best equipment for doing so.

Resident Virginia Perry asked how much the fire department got when they sold the old engine. Morley said that the department received about $5,000.

Johnson asked to amend his motion to add a line he had initially forgotten to include, stipulating the fire department would need to complete and present a full cost-analysis report, as well as a fleet-management plan, for all tanker options - including new and used, and commercial and custom options - to the board before consideration for a new truck. The amended motion received no second.

In other business

The board also discussed confusion surrounding meeting notifications.

Oschman said some residents had expressed concern about meeting notifications and a lack of transparency from the board.

Vicki Nowak, Brown Township clerk-treasurer, said she had done her part to ensure that the public stayed informed of Brown Township Advisory Board meetings.

"Our prior meeting was one that was advertised in the public notice section of the paper. It was advertised in both the Martinsville and the Mooresville papers," said Nowak. "This one I had sent something to the paper on Monday and it didn't get in the paper."

Harris asked Oschman who had raised the concerns and said that the township government had nothing to hide.

"We don't hide anything down here," said Harris. "I don't know who is raising that flag, but it's absolutely not the truth. We always notify the papers and we also hang up notification of the meeting 24 hours prior to our meetings, here on the front door."

Mooresville-Decatur Times reporter Anthony Woodside said Nowak's email notifying the paper was received, but not put into the paper by mistake.

Oschman thanked Woodside for taking responsibility for the mistake and said he didn't think that the board could be more transparent with the public.

The Brown Township Advisory Board also approved an amended salary resolution for 2018.

By Anthony Woodside | Reporter | Published May 26th, 2018 in The Reporter-Times

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