The Centre Region Council of Governments voted to approve the sale of the troubled Sutphen aerial fire truck Monday after a closed-door executive session.
The truck, purchased by Alpha Fire Company in 2007 for $880,000, has been out of commission since July when Sutphen issued a “stop use” order after equipment failure in other trucks injured several firefighters in other states last summer.
Because the Centre Region couldn’t be without an aerial truck, a 1991 Pierce aerial truck was purchased for $51,000 to serve in its place. It remains in service with the fire company.
Fire Director Steve Bair said last month that the Sutphen truck had been sent back to Ohio for repairs by Sutphen itself. The plan at that time was to get the truck back into commission.
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Bair said Wednesday that the discussion over the truck has been an emotional one. Among the fire company volunteers, there are those who are upset over how the whole issue played out and are unwilling to use a piece of equipment they still view as unsafe.
“It’s really a matter of emotion and convenience,” he said. “I am personally satisfied that the machine has been fixed. I would go up 100 feet in the air, no problem. The problem is there a lot of people who are mad at Sutphen. It’s an emotional issue.”
Bair said funding is set aside for the purchase of fire equipment at the rate in which it depreciates. The Sutphen is 7 years old, he said. Its fair market value plus the amount the community has put away is roughly equivalent to the cost of a new machine.
The Pierce truck has about 12 months of life left in it, he said, so Alpha is looking sell the Sutphen and purchase a new truck in the next 12 to 14 months. This could either be a new machine or a good used machine at a reasonable price.
The emphasis now is on selling the Sutphen, he said. The money will go back into the capital fund to be used with money already in the fund to purchase a replacement. This means bumping the replacement date for an aerial truck from 2033 to about 2041.
This results in no financial impact to the regional budget, he said. If the community had to come up with money on an as-needed basis, the fire company would not be doing anything based on the emotions of volunteers.
“We have people who put a huge amount of hours into volunteering for the community and save the community a million-plus dollars a year,” Bair said. “If I can satisfy them without spending more of the community’s money than what COG said, I should do that.”
Given the circumstances, Alpha won’t purchase another Sutphen vehicle as a replacement, Bair said. The fire company will consider one of the other five equipment manufacturers.
“At the end of the day, our group will feel much better about the world,” he said, “and somebody will get a very nice aerial truck for a good price.”