Cash makes you careless.
This week the Board of Directors of the fledgling Mountain Vista Fire District called for another stealth “public” meeting – this time to, among other things, agree to spend nearly $870,000 for two fire engines. They followed the procedure initiated by other fire districts by posting the notice for it just hours before the session in three obscure locations, one an empty lot - and made no mention of it on their web site.
One of the pumpers they hope to purchase will inhabit a yet to be built fire station at North Shannon and Overton, the cost for which has not been published. The other fire engine is to be housed in a commodious fire station and administration building for which the plans are yet to be drawn but will eventually arise on a newly purchased $500,000 lot just a few blocks west of the present, well-worn fire station on Magee near North Oracle that is currently leased by Rural Metro Corporation.
Firefighters tell me that the equipment there is obsolete. Although the station and equipment are certified by the agency upon which insurance companies rely, it may be time to consider an upgrade.
The people who head up fire districts who have earned the right to spend enormous amounts of our money and direct a vital service do not have sinister intentions. They are honest citizens who pledge allegiance to the Flag at every meeting but see nothing wrong in operating as low below the public radar screen as the law allows - for that’s what we taxpayers permit them to do. Fire Districts are governmental entities and the amount of money they collect and dispense is staggering, yet we pay them no attention.
In regard to the agenda item about new fire engines: I had early in 2009 been shown by a fire chief and longtime friend, an almost carbon copy of the fire trucks Mountain Vista Fire District may still be intent on buying. The fact is, the Class A pumpers in question have important features that are less powerful and less effective than the one my friend’s town council bought for he and his crew this year for a lot less money. For example, the new fire-engine I saw in Illinois came from the same top-rated manufacturer, has the same crew-carrying capacity, same engine and same top-of-the line transmission but a two stage, more efficient pump and a water tank with a 1500 gallon per minute capacity, twice that of the engines about to be bought. These things seem important to a non-expert.
The rush to purchase two engines was suddenly on because the salesman who rolled up the three Mountain Vista representatives at a recent fire equipment show in Taxes where they were sent just to compare equipment, convinced them that they would save a lot of money if they purchased the pumpers before January 1, 2010, because any diesel powered fire engine must, by Federal mandate, have some new emission controls designed to reduce pollution beginning Jan 1. They also are participating in a bulk buy along with the Northwest Fire District, who are tagging on to a Los Angeles purchase.
Let’s do the math. The almost identical engine purchased earlier this year in Illinois cost $375,246 - A difference of $60,000 each or $120,000 more because the Administrator, the Chairman, and the Treasurer of Mountain Vist want to buy two fire engines even though construction of the first fire house has not yet begun and the architectural plans for the second are not even begun to be drawn.
We can thank two Directors who voted to put this purchase on hold until more can be learned. They expressed the opinion that it might be better for our health to curb some of the black smoke and the Federal controls may not cost nearly as much as presented.