What started out as a request for matching funds for a new ladder truck for the Glasgow Fire Department became an argumentative discussion between city council members and Glasgow Fire Chief Brandon Brunelle.
Brunelle had a deadline of Friday, Dec. 6, to turn in an application for a grant that would provide the city with $400,000 to purchase a new fire truck. He explained that the match for the grant would only be 5 percent, costing the city $20,000, but he was hoping to give matching funds of 7.5 percent, adding up to $30,000. He also explained to the city that he had a few other businesses and individuals interested in helping to fund for the new ladder truck.
At a previous city council meeting in November, he handed out a letter explained the need of the fire truck. The letter described the city having more than 100 structures that were at a high risk of being lost to a fire due to inadequate equipment. Brunelle stated in the letter that the ladder trucks were not only used for tall buildings but for large spanning structures. He listed several other uses that the fire truck could provide along with the issues of being a rural community that has help far away.
Council member and future mayor Becky Erickson asked Brunelle what the difference between a fire truck and a ladder truck were and asked what the fire departments needs were. Discussion soon followed that led council members to discuss the possible excess costs for a fire truck and possible maintenance issues. Council members questioned if a cheaper solution could be found.
Council member Neil Chouinard, a previous firefighter for the department, said that the fire truck would have higher cost and maintenance and that two fire trucks had already been ruined in the department. He suggested buying a bucket truck for the fire department, which he thought would make fighting fires easier, along with rescues.
"I'd like to see a bucket truck over a ladder truck," Chouinard said. "There are not many buildings in need for a ladder."
He then mentioned that he worried about the buttons and levers on newer trucks and replacing parts could be difficult if something were to go out. Erickson then asked Brunelle what issues there were with the current trucks. Brunelle stated the same issues that were listed in his letter to the council at the previous meeting. The 1988 ladder truck in the department was out of service due to a hydraulic failure that would cost more than $60,000 to repair, on top of the $10,000 needed to keep it running.
The letter to the council also stated that the truck was given to them on a government surplus program four years ago to replace 1980 truck that caused the department issues every time it was used. Its value in good working condition is only $15,000-$20,000. None of this was discussed at the council meeting.
"It would be a huge discredit to our tax payers and our community to not approve this," Brunelle said at the meeting. "I disagree with a purchase of a bucket truck."
Council member Rod Karst asked what the different costs of a bucket truck would be and if it could be added into the application for the grant that Brunelle had prepared. Brunelle said that it would be cheaper but strongly disagreed that it would be better to go with the use of a bucket truck. He explained to the council and the city attorney that a bucket truck that is not NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) approved would be a huge liability to the city.
"There are over 100 buildings in this city that we don't have a proper truck for," Brunelle said at the meeting. "Think about the grandparents sitting at Nemont Manor, we don't have the equipment if a fire would break out there and the closest ladder truck available is 150 miles away."
Karst suggested that they approve the go-ahead for the grant application and the matching funds with the suggestion in the grant that could allow purchase for a different truck if needed. The city approved the matching funds and said they would discuss where those funds would come from at a later date if the grant was approved for the Glasgow Fire Department.
Brunelle stated in his letter that the cost of a used ladder truck ranges from $350,000 to $650,000. He said that normally the department would set aside funds for a new truck or take time to raise a mill levy to plan for the replacement, but the failure of the ladder truck they received four years ago left them short of funds to set aside. The fire department has only been able to set aside $80,000 currently for the purchase of a new truck. He mentioned in the letter that after the huge increase in taxes due to the new school the department didn't feel it fair to ask for another increase for a fire truck.
In other city council business that affected the fire department, they approved the appointment of Sara Johnson as a probationary firefighter with the consent of the city council.