City council defers decision on replacement fire truck

Revelstoke city council has balked at committing to purchase an 'aerial platform' truck for Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services, saying they wanted more information on financial issues

Revelstoke city council has balked at committing to purchase an ‘aerial platform’ truck for Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services, saying they wanted more information on financial issues.

A proposal from the fire chief recommended purchasing an $887,448 aerial platform truck that has been used as a demonstration unit by the manufacturer. The plan would require the city to create a new bylaw to borrow $915,000 in order to make the purchase.

The discussion occurred at the city’s June 28 regular meeting. An ‘aerial platform’ is a truck with a long telescoping arm that can support firefighters on the platform. It is used to fight fires in taller buildings and also in situations where firefighters need to get above something laterally, such as a truck that has crashed into a ditch or above a warehouse fire.

Several councillors said they weren’t ready to make the decision because they hadn’t been presented with clear information on what the ramifications were to insurance policies in the city.

At past meetings on the subject of the new aerial platform, Fire Chief Rob Girard has argued that newer (and more expensive) equipment provided the city with a better insurance rating. Insurance underwriters periodically assess the capacity of fire departments and provide the communities they serve with a rating. This rating is used to calculate insurance rates, such as home and commercial fire insurance. “Everything hinges on ensuring we have up to date apparatus,” Girard said, adding newer equipment would mean a better, higher rating for more years into the future.

Girard noted that the city had recently been downgraded because of aging equipment such as their existing 1970s ladder truck.

In the past, council had asked the chief to provide more information on what the financial implications of these ratings are. This information would allow them to explain the purchase to residents. For example, they could make the case that homeowners would end up paying more in fire insurance than in extra taxes for the newer, better aerial platform truck, if the analysis bore that out.

Councillors Tony Scarcella and Chris Johnston said they couldn’t support the plan because they simply didn’t have the information yet.

Coun. Scarcella also expressed his view that the city could get by with a much cheaper used truck.

“I agree that perhaps we have to sell this to the public,” said Coun. Phil Welock, who is the councillor responsible for overseeing the fire department. “I agree I think we need a little bit more of a business case before we vote on this.”

At council’s request, chief Girard said he could compile the information and present it to council in August. He added there was a risk that the truck in question might not be available if the city waited.