Purchase of $1 million fire truck OK’d
Mar. 6, 2019 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
Despite continued and contentious comments from some members of the Plymouth Township Board of Trustees, the purchase of a new $937,739.30 fire engine ladder truck for the fire department was approved by a 5-2 vote at the regular meeting last week.
Township Fire Chief Dan Phillips was once again asked to address the board and discuss his rationale for the truck and talk about the specifications for the vehicle. He had presented a similar report at the last meeting, which also prompted heated discussion among board members. Phillips repeatedly answered questions from the board members and addressed their expressed concerns. The township has been without a ladder truck since 2012.
After intense dialog and impassioned comments from members of the public, board members finally approved the purchase with veteran Trustee Chuck Curmi and Clerk Jerry Vovra casting the two dissenting votes.
Three months ago township voters approved a public safety millage to fund the replacement of aging fire trucks and antiquated fire safety equipment and according to Treasurer Mark Clinton, the funds were included in the current budget. Several of the board members had campaigned door-to-door for votes on the promise of restoring the fire department to levels deemed acceptable by national standards.
After that election, Township Supervisor Kurt Heise stated his first goal was to properly equip the fire department and make the department fully operational. Heise had placed technical information and a proposed resolution for the procurement of the fire engine on the agenda of the Feb. 12 board of trustees meeting, based on the research and specifications developed over the past year by Phillips.
Vorva again appealed to board members that the purchasing decision be postponed and expressed his concerns about what he claimed was a “$1 million dollar no-bid contract.” Stressing that in order to be “good stewards” of the revenue derived from the new 1.2 mill public safety millage, Vorva stated he felt a competitive bid process should be followed and the township should “share with other fire departments.”
“I think it’s the right thing to do, but the way we’re doing it is not the right way to do it,” Vorva emphasized.
“I think we can postpone this for a couple of weeks, have a good bid package put out. If we don’t do that I’m going to vote no for two reasons; one for what I just said and two, we’re not sharing assets with other communities,” Vorva stated prior to the vote.
Phillips countered that the supplier selection was based on an established township purchasing policy and the City of Rochester Hills, was the “lead agency,” for this transaction under the Michigan Inter-governmental Trade Network, (MITN), a state network where participating local government purchasing departments invite suppliers to register for exclusive access to bid information for 200 local governments.
“We went through the Rochester Hills bid process, just like we did with the last vehicle…” Phillips explained.
Heise sought input from township attorney Kevin Bennett to as to whether or not Phillip’s purchase recommendation had been properly presented. Bennett confirmed that Section IP-2 of the Michigan code recognized Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties as author- ized participants. Heise and Bennett both concluded the bid process was proper.
Trustee Bob Doroshewitz stated he was disappointed that there wasn’t some type of regional agreement for sharing the new fire engine.
“Obviously we need a new fire truck-whether we need a ladder truck has been a topic of debate. I’m disappointed we have been unsuccessful in doing anything on a regional basis-not successful at all-working with any of our neighbors…”
“I wish we could work with our neighbors…The ladder truck is going to be the most coveted thing in this area-our neighbors will benefit,” he said.
Phillips countered that Canton and Northville townships have similar vehicles that are part of the mutual aid program.
Doroshewitz said he felt the purchase should be part of a comprehensive strategy of how fire and emergency services are delivered.
“So, we have the new ladder truck, that’s coveted, and will be used by other communities-they will call and ask for that, so what are they buying we’re going to have to borrow,” Doroshewitz expanded, in reference to the standing mutual aid agreements.
Curmi, who stated adamantly that he was opposed to the purchase, attempted to discount Phillips’ recommendation, stating he wanted to talk about financing and discounts.
“This $1 million could be spent on a regional basis to optimize all of these townships…” Curmi said. “I don’t think we’ve done our homework.”
Looking to Clinton, Curmi insisted, “We should look at bank financing and finance ourselves from the water department.”
“Don’t be in a hurry to spend your money, be smart about it” Curmi lectured, suggesting the township get a letter of credit to prove the qualification to banks to advantage the best rates.
Clinton explained the reasons for the 10-year financing plan.
“We’re looking at four different options and all were in the ballpark,” Clinton said. He added that he was supportive of the purchase plan for two reasons.
“One, we asked for the millage proposal for a fire truck with a ladder and that’s what people voted on. Two, don’t bring a knife to gunfight. I hope there’s never a situation where we need this ladder truck, but if we’re in a gunfight and we need a ladder truck-don’t bring a knife,” he said.
At the end of the discussion, township resident Bill Carter, describing himself an “octogenarian,” said he canvased door-to door supporting the fire department millage request, begged board members to approve the ladder truck purchase.
“I want this fire truck. We have a chief who’s been in this business for 29 years. We hired him because he knows what he’s doing. I’m not that far away where I might be in one of these retirement communities-on the fourth floor. I want my community I’ve lived-in for 29 years to have the use of that ladder truck. I went door-to- door for this millage, talked to lot of people. The people I talked to wanted the millage and they resoundingly approved it, and the ladder truck was in it. We need to have common sense prevail here and vote yes,” he said.
Photos: © Don Howard / Associated Newspapers
Correction: An earlier version of this story, which appears in this week’s edition of The Eagle, incorrectly recorded the title of Plymouth Township official Jerry Vorva, as Treasurer. Mr. Vorva is the Plymouth Township Clerk.