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Ashland to buy new fire engine

Ashland City Council had to spend down its contingency fund Tuesday to buy a new engine deemed essential by the fire chief

Ashland City Council voted unanimously to use a significant portion of the city's contingency fund to buy a new fire engine.

Ashland Fire & Rescue Chief Ralph Sartain and City Manager Joe Lessard made the case to City Council Tuesday that it was imperative for the city to spend $700,000 of the $1.9 million contingency fund to replace the department’s primary engine for Station No. 1.

“Our backup engine currently is a heavy brush engine — what we’ve had to use several days and over the weekend. It is a 500-gallon-per-minute pumper; it is designed for fighting fire in brush, weeds and heavy timber,” Sartain explained. “Our primary structure engines are 1,500 gallons a minute. So through the weekend, we were down to one primary engine for the city of Ashland, which is in my opinion unacceptable for this community.”

In recent weeks the primary fire engine for the department has been increasingly off line and in need of various repairs, Lessard said, leading he and Sartain to believe the engine will soon fail altogether. Lessard told the council he believed it was necessary to take steps to replace the engine.

Sartain already had communicated with Hughes Fire Equipment, the company that supplies the city’s engines, and had been informed that while Hughes recently had three engines of the kind needed, two already had been sold, Lessard said, and City Council would need to approve the purchase immediately to obtain the remaining engine.

The primary engine for Station 1 already was slated to be replaced in the previous biennium, Lessard said, but the replacement was delayed to try to cut costs and balance the budget.

If the city acted now, it could expect a new engine by December. Otherwise, the wait time would be 30 months, Lessard explained, and buying the engine would require using the contingency fund.

Councilor Stephen Jensen proposed the motion to approve the expense, saying use of the fund for this purpose was essential.

Councilor Paula Hyatt said she and her fellow councilors may be reluctant to spend the contingency fund, but these kinds of emergencies are what the fund is for, and the city must have equipment that’s effective when it’s needed.

Councilor Shaun Moran compared the expense to an individual person losing their job but spending their savings anyway just to survive but, along with his fellow councilors, supported the motion and approved the purchase.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Morgan Rothborne at mrothborne@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4487. Follow her on Twitter @MRothborne.