Monday, July 16, 2012
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City council voting session tonight: New fire truck back on the agenda

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[July 16, 2012]  Tonight the Lincoln City Council will meet for their voting session, and once again the purchase of a new fire truck will be included on the agenda.

The city has struggled for several weeks on what to do about replacing an antiquated and worn-out pumper truck.

Everyone agrees that there is a need for a new, or at least different firefighting vehicle. But, the real challenge has been figuring out how to pay for one and finding one that council members feel comfortable obligating themselves to.

Last week, the item was on the agenda, came to a vote and was defeated.

A couple of reasons were given for the negative response. To start, the city had not heard from CEFCU on an interest rate for a loan. Other local lending agencies had offered a rate, but CEFCU's was still pending.

Another reason for the opposition was in the prospect of giving the fire chief authority to spend approximately $370,000 for a vehicle that the council knew very little about.

Another question that came up was whether the city could purchase something used and much cheaper and get by for a few more years without going into deep debt. A used vehicle only a few years newer than the one the city now owns had been located in Springfield. Alderwoman Marty Neitzel had seen the truck and thought that from the outside at least, it looked good. She urged the chief to go and see the truck for himself, and he promised that he would.

Tuesday evening at the invitation of fire committee chair Kathy Horn, Chief Mark Miller addressed some of the questions that caused last week's vote to fail.

He said he had heard from CEFCU that they were not going to be able to offer the city a loan for the fire truck. Miller said that CEFCU is currently not making loans to municipalities.

Miller said that left the best quote from last week, which included borrowing $100,000 at 2.92 percent interest on a 10-year note with payments made annually.

He is also preparing a grant application for federal funds in the amount of $150,000 with a 5 percent match requirement. He said if the city should win that grant, the money could be applied to the purchase of the vehicle after the fact.

In regard to the new truck that is available for purchase, Miller said he had obtained the written specifications and drawings of the truck for aldermen to review. He said that when the process of searching for a truck had begun, three vehicles were available, but two have since sold.

However, the truck that was the department's first choice is still available. Miller said it would remain so through the weekend because as a stock or demo vehicle, it has been loaned to the Daytona Speedway for use at a car race on Sunday.

Miller said he had talked to the dealer in possession of the vehicle, and the dealer will pay for Miller and a member of his selection committee to fly to the vehicle and inspect it personally.

He also said that he had talked to the dealer about signing a contract to hold the vehicle. He had been told he could sign a contract, and if something happened that the city couldn't go ahead with the purchase, it would be held harmless in getting out of the agreement.

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Miller reported he had visited the surplus warehouse in Springfield and looked at the 1993 model Neitzel had seen. He said the truck had an aluminum body and did look good, but on closer inspection he had found some problems.

He had found motor leaks and said there was an issue with the electrical system. In addition, the steel frame was showing a lot of rust and wear. He told the council the vehicle could be purchased for $12,000, but it was going to take a lot of dollars to bring the truck up to snuff.

During discussion Tom O'Donohue asked how much money would be left in the bond balance if the city used $268,000 from the general obligation bond in this purchase. Mayor Keith Snyder said it would leave $168,000, which would have to last the city through December of 2013.

Neitzel wondered if the city should use an even $300,000 out of the bond and finance a smaller amount. She said that would still leave $144,000 in the bond.

David Wilmert recalled, though, that finance chair Melody Anderson, who was absent for the evening, had previously said she did not want to drain too much out of the bond. He was hesitant to make that kind of decision without the finance chair present.

Treasurer Chuck Conzo also weighed in, saying that the more the city pays outright, the better off they will be. However, he understood the need to keep some funds in the general obligation bond. He also said he would like to see the city go for a five-year note instead of 10 and get it paid off more quickly.

Jeff Hoinacki noted that just because the city signs a certain note doesn't mean they can't pay it down quicker if funding allows. "We can always throw more money at it," he said.

When discussion was finished, Horn said she wanted to put a new motion on the agenda for the emergency purchase of a pumper truck.

That motion will be on tonight's agenda and may be voted on. Or, if the council so chooses, the item could be tabled to a later date.


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