Hemet Council approves purchase of new front-line fire engine

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The Hemet City Council, after hearing a plea from the city fire chief, opted to approve the purchase of a new $748,324 first line fire engine to replace an aging engine now in the repair shop and out of service.

Hemet fire Chief Scott Brown earlier made the request for the purchase with a promise to come back and provide the council with options for the purchase of the engine and the best one available. Tuesday, March 10, at the regular council meeting he reviewed the need for the purchase of the new engine that had not been previously fully budgeted in the General Fund or Measure U funds.

He said the department has seven fire engines and one aerial truck available for response each day. Two the engines are “reserve engines” to replace any front-line engines that might go down, like the one in shop now. He said the engines are designed to have a 10-year front-line life span. Two of those engines, Brown said, have over 185,000 miles on them and need to be replaced. Another of those engines will only have three to five years of use left.

He said it takes 11 months to complete the construction and delivery of an engine with which he said, “After this time, the cost of repairs and down time outweighs the purchase of new equipment.”

He said the problem is the purchase of new engines has to be placed in future budgets if they have not already been authorized as with the current request.

He said, after first reporting the need to the council with more details, the department’s appointed apparatus committee field tested KME and Pierce manufacturing engines and found the KME engine would be better suited for the department at a lower cost, including the equipment and outfitting.

“The KME apparatus specification requires little modification and provides best value for city funds. Furthermore, the San Bernardino County Fire apparatus specification mirrored the current Hemet Fire Department apparatus, which allowed the opportunity to piggyback on their competitive bid contract and avoid the need for purchasing to go out to bid. Therefore, the apparatus committee’s recommendation is to purchase a new engine based on the specification provided by San Bernardino County Fire Department,” Scott said in his report.

The council, after hearing about the different financing options, including buying the engine outright, decided to make a $200,000 down payment and to borrow the remaining $538,824 balance from another internal city fund.

Scott said the option entails utilization of city funds from the $3,000,000 Fire Development Impact fund reserved for a future fire station in the recently approved McSweeny Ranch housing development to fund the purchase of the apparatus. The McSweeny DIF is set aside to build a future fire station, but it will not be needed for some time. The repayment of the loan and interest accrued would be paid from annual Measure U revenues.

The option, according to Scott and the finance department report would still utilize Measure U funds to purchase the apparatus, but the payments would be low enough so as to be handled by the ongoing revenues and not affect the overall fund balance. Both of the monies would generate interest.

The request was approved by a 5-0 council vote.

In other actions the council accepted the approval of allocations for 2020-2021 Community Development Block Grant entitlement and unexpended funding. Valley Restart won additional funding in the request.

The council approved the purchase of 911 phone hardware/software with electrical and data wiring movement and adopted a revised records retention schedule and records management program for the city and decided not to form an ad hoc committee to review the budget with the finance department giving monthly reports on the budget process to the open council.

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