Oak Harbor orders new fire trucks

Like a skydiver with his parachute or a babysitter with her babies, firefighters rely on their vehicles, without the use of which community safety would be impossible.

The Oak Harbor Fire Department uses a replacement cycle for ensuring that equipment continues to be highly functional, environmentally friendly and technologically up-to-date. The cycle for vehicles has almost lapped itself, prompting the Oak Harbor City Council last week to approve the purchase of two new engines.

Using a 20-year replacement cycle for vehicles, a 1979 Seagrave is almost nine years late to the prom while a 1989 E-One will soon be old enough to purchase alcohol.

In August, the City Council approved an interlocal agreement with Eastside Fire & Rescue, a fire department headquartered in Issaquah. The agreement provided the opportunity to purchase engines at a substantial savings to the city through Feb. 10, 2009.

United Fire Service, the local dealer for E-One in Everett, was the successful bidder. The original cost per engine was almost $330,000 apiece. However, by purchasing two vehicles, a multiple unit discount of $30,000 for each engine kicked in as a result of the interlocal agreement, driving the price per fire truck under $300,000. The total cost for both vehicles, including tax, will be slightly more than $650,000.

An equipment package comprised of a laptop computer, and pairs of intercom systems, thermal imaging cameras and mobile radios added $40,500 to the package, bringing the grand total to almost $700,000.

Fire Chief Mark Soptich addressed the City Council, explaining that $500,000 of the payment would be made with reserves previously set aside in the Equipment Replacement Fund. A loan from the state treasurer’s office would cover the remaining $192,000. Annual payments for the four year, 4.25 percent interest rate loan will be approximately $53,000, Soptich said.

The purchases and payments were specifically timed to create a relatively nominal $20,000 net increase in debt service.

“We’ve worked hard to make sure each piece of equipment would suit the department for years to come,” the fire chief assured the council.

Council member Sheilah Crider praised Soptich for his historical frugality and preternatural ability to find resources where none seem to be available. The safety his department provides also keeps insurance down.

“He and his department are part of what makes us shine,” Crider said.

In addition to approving purchase of the two engines, the City Council gave the green light to surplus the aging vehicles.

“There’s your Christmas present,” said Mayor Patty Cohen, sitting for her final meeting at the city helm.

“For the next 10 years,” quipped Councilman Paul Brewer.

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