Hemet City Council eyes new fire engine purchase and financing as a must

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A question about the type of funding for a new fire engine needed for the Hemet City Fire Department almost put its purchase in limbo by members of the city council Tuesday, July 14, at its regular meeting.

The purchase of the new fire engine from the KME company for $738,824 that will replace another engine which is completely out of service was initially approved by the council, March 10. The council opted to fund the purchase through the Measure U available fund balance.

In a related request April 14, the council also approved the first portion purchase of the Microwave system, a radio system replacement, which was also to be funded by Measure U available fund balance.

A question arose later about how the fire engine, which is to replace the out-of-service Engine 1, would be funded, and a request was made to find out what the interest rates from the Local Agency Investment Fund and how much it would cost if the city decided not to purchase the engine and equipment since the city was already strapped by COVID-19 revenue losses.

The council learned that if the city chose to cancel the fire engine purchase from KME, it would cost $30,000 in cancellation penalties. As such the city decided canceling the order was not an option and began to consider three options for its loan financing, each with different interest rates.

They choose the second option, using the LAIF Quarter-to-Date interest earning rate of 1.43%, which will cost $31,995.54 for the engine in interest payments for the engine and $83,725.01 in interest payments for the radio system loan. The vote was not unanimous with two council members voting no, even though the council members did agree that a new engine was needed to begin replacing the department’s aging five engine inventory.

Hemet fire Chief Scott Brown, who pleaded for the council’s help, said it would take up to a year for the new engine to be delivered, and in the meantime, he has moved the remaining engines to where they are needed most. Station 5, which only reopened this year, lost its engine to the change, but a paramedic squad remains at the station on Hemet Street and Florida Avenue where it is most needed. Council member Karlee Meyer, who serves that district, objected to the change.

In other action, the council tabled a recommendation establishing an investment policy and rescinding Resolution 4852 until more updated information becomes available on the city’s current investments.

The city council approved the updates and changes from the 2019 California Fire Code that includes a requirement that all business buildings have a highly visible street address on their storefronts and business facilities.

The council ratified a temporary use of parking lot spaces associated with restaurants to be used for the placement of table and chairs for outdoor dining, under the authority provided in the municipal code in emergency situations and waive the permits and city fees to allow restaurants to temporarily operate outside seating and service for customers in portions of their parking lots in compliance with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s guidelines and orders.

No changes were made to the COVID-19 Emergency Declarations update. The state is threatening to cut off the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding to the city, if they do not comply with the state’s orders.

They also approved with a 4-1 vote, with Meyer voting “no,” participation under the Riverside County Entitlement Local Government Designation for the Permanent Local Housing Allocation Program, which will designate about $1 million to Hemet, through the California Department of Housing and Community Development for the years 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023. Meyer said the city should know more about how the county will delegate the funding.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.