Township discusses fire truck purchase

Published 8:09 am Monday, May 18, 2015

BERTRAND TOWNSHIP — In what could be described as a highly contentious meeting that lasted 2 1/2 hours, the Bertrand Township Board of Trustees received input on the possible purchase of a new fire truck, gave a local business one last chance to pay its property taxes and addressed concerns about the possibility of asbestos contamination in township properties.

Based on public comments at the meeting, there was no direct vocal opposition to a proposal to purchase a new fire truck for approximately $490,000.

The fire truck would replace one that is 28-years-old — eight years past when the National Fire Protection Agency recommends replacement (20 years), according to Fire Chief Bill Knisely.

Knisely said getting a new truck would cut down on truck maintenance costs, while allowing firefighters to do their job more efficiently and improving the safety of the firefighters and township residents.

“We need to know that the truck is going to be dependable to get us there and reliable to perform the work,” he said, adding that they’ve spent $40,000 in maintenance on the department’s two trucks in the past six years. The other truck is 17 years old.

A couple of residents asked if the department had researched leasing a truck instead of buying one. Another resident asked if township officials had looked into obtaining grants that would help pay for the new truck.

Assistant Fire Chief Matt Remmo said the department inquired about a grant from FEMA, but learned that those grants are reserved for departments that have far less funding and resources than Bertrand Township.

Knisely said he didn’t believe leasing was an option.

As for funding payment of the new truck, Knisely said they would not ask for an increase of the township’s fire millage.

Trustee Dave Kuhn said the fire department has just over $330,000 in savings and that the township has $1.3 million in reserves.

He outlined a possible payment plan that included $300,000 from fire department savings and $172,000 from township reserves. Kuhn said the price of the truck would decrease to approximately $472,000 if it is paid for up front.

Knisely said the price they received expires June 1 and that the cost would increase by an estimated $4,000 to $6,000 if the township has to re-solicit bids.

Several people spoke in favor of the new fire truck purchase in the public comment portion of the meeting, including resident Jim Lockwood.

“You just can’t put a price on a man’s life who volunteers to help save our lives,” he said. “I would want them to have the very best equipment.”

The board set a special meeting for 7 p.m. Thursday, May 21, to discuss how to proceed.

Also Monday, the board considered revoking an industrial facilities tax (IFT) exemption for Bauer Better Soft Water, located at 1760 Mayflower Road, in Niles. Kuhn said the company is delinquent on this year’s property taxes, which is a violation of the IFT agreement.

The owner of the company, Matt Bauer, pleaded with the board not to revoke the IFT, saying it could force his business to close. Bauer said he would pay his taxes and asked for a second chance.

After some discussion, the board determined it would not revoke the IFT this year in order to allow the company a chance to become current on its property taxes.

Kuhn warned Bauer that he wouldn’t get another chance.

During board comments, trustee Steve LeClaire asserted that, several years ago, the board might not have gone through the proper steps in removing materials from township properties that contained asbestos.

“All I am trying to do is get the buildings certified,” he said.

Prior to LeClaire’s comments, Lockwood said he was concerned that a proper asbestos inspection was never done on township properties, including town hall.

Sara Bell, the township’s attorney, said an inspector checked township hall for any asbestos issues and found none. A document proving this, the attorney said, is forthcoming.