TALENT — Critics of a narrowly defeated Jackson County Fire District No. 5 equipment levy said the district should stay with its historical policy of purchasing from within its budget.
Tuesday the district's board of directors did just that, authorizing a lease-purchase of two new Pierce engine-pumpers. The district will take on $820,000 in debt with a 15-year loan that will ultimately cost about $1 million.
An aging fleet and other equipment needs led to the November vote. Two 1980 Mack pumpers will be replaced when the new units arrive, probably in March 2014.
"It's one of the long-term issues we are being challenged with," said Chief Dan Marshall. The district serves Talent, Phoenix and rural southern Jackson County.
In November, the district had sought voter approval of a $1.8 million bond to purchase three new engines: a water tender tanker truck, self-contained breathing apparatus equipment and vehicle-extraction tools. The levy, the first since 1980, failed by 344 votes, 48 to 52 percent.
A loan from Wedbush Bank of Los Angeles will finance the purchase. The interest rate will be 3 percent, said Marshall, and payments will be about $70,000 annually.
Pierce had originally submitted a bid about $50,000 higher for the two engines, but the district was able to take advantage of options to reduce outlay. They paid up front, eliminated gold-leaf trim and ordered lower-output generators, which saved $15,000.
Additional savings would come if the district doesn't take advantage of Pierce's option to fly four district personnel to the Bradenton, Fla., factory to inspect the units.
"It's called a pre-paint inspection," said District Capt. Jim Campbell. "When we bought the last water tanker "¦ we changed a few minor things (at the inspection)."
Two or three individuals might make the inspection trip, said Campbell, although the district has also considered doing an inspection via video over the Internet.
Construction will start once Pierce receives a signed contract. Build time is estimated at six-and-a-half to seven-and-a-half months.
The two 1980s engines will be put up for sale after the new ones arrive. Marshall said the district might also sell a 1992 Western States engine, which would leave the district with five engines.
A compressor to service self-contained breathing-apparatus tanks, also sought in the levy, will be purchased with a $45,000 supplemental budget transfer from the district's contingency fund.
A 1994 compressor now in use is unable to fill larger tanks to their maximum pressure, although it can do so for units used by firefighters. The old compressor will be used as a backup.
Cascade Fire Equipment of Medford submitted a bid of $40,237 to supply the compressor. The additional appropriation will be used for installation and setup.
Transfers from the contingency fund, including the compressor, totaled $62,000. Marshall said that amount is down from the usual $85,000 to $100,000 the district transfers as it approaches the end of fiscal years.
In other business, the board reviewed and adopted a strategic plan for 2013-18. The new plan reduces the number of strategic goals to five from the previous 11.
Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.