Proposed fire engine purchase is not a financially prudent move | Guest Column
October 28, 2009 · 2:59 PM
By ROBERT LOW
When I was on my way to Lopez the other morning, it was beautiful. A gorgeous clear blue sky, crisp autumn air, and calm, smooth water. But instead of relaxing and enjoying it, I was thinking on how I should answer Mayor Jones’ article in the paper without making him an enemy ("Fire engine: Council correct for safety, cost reasons," page 8, Oct. 14 Journal).
There are only two people I hold in high regard and respect tremendously; they are my Grandfather and David Jones. So why bother running for mayor if it’s going to alienate my friends? Because there must be a choice.
If you, the voters, like the way the town is being run and the way our money is being spent, then vote for my opponent. If you think it’s time for something different, then vote for me who’s tired of the council spending money like they have an open-ended checking account.
I have no doubt that David believes everything he wrote about the new engine and spending $600,000, but I disagree. There are no inaccuracies in my statements about this engine or what funding was being used. I stand by what I said.
David, you can’t say on one hand that you (the Town Council) expedited things, then say that you have been working on it for two years. You said that you weren’t going to use money out of the emergency fund. I encourage you to watch the video of the Sept. 17 meeting; the council was clearly talking about using the emergency funds for this purchase, and even the town treasurer was caught off guard and unhappy with the way this was being done.
It was only after I wrote a letter to the papers pointing out what was going on it that changes started being made. As a matter of fact, you should look at the minutes of July 16 when you were talking about the money for a new engine and you said that it would be brought up at a later meeting and it never was until it was pushed through on Sept. 17 at 5:35 p.m. You guys are wrong in this. Why not just say you’re sorry, that you made a mistake (everyone does), and move on. Don’t try to justify it now.
The CAF system has nothing to do with the 1,500 gallons-per-minute pump. You don’t need that big of a pump to apply compressed air foam. District 3 has two CAF engines and they are on an automatic aid agreement with the town, so why do we need to spend extra money when budget money is hard enough to come by? Remember, we don’t have a balanced budget yet your administration chooses to cut some of our employees' time by 20 percent. Who is harmed? Employees and their families. They should be the last ones asked to give up their cost-of-living increases and have their hours cut.
To reduce our insurance rating, you would need a 1,500 gpm pump, but you also need a water supply system (hydrants), that can flow 1,500 gpm for 20 minutes which we don’t have. I noticed you suggest that our insurance costs could decrease by 20 to 30 percent. Without having the infrastructure to support that flow, the required rate can do nothing but stay the same.
I know how this works: the WSRB rates the water department, the fire department and the fire marshal’s, gives deficiency points for each category and then gives you the rating. You are not going to get a 4. I doubt you will even get a 5.
The proposed 24 percent increase in overall utilities this coming year would certainly make up some of the budget deficit, however, that same deficit could be cut by not spending more than is needed for a fire engine. Get a new one that cost half the price and, like Engine 6, it will last 20 or more years. And, it is my understanding that the new engine comes empty. No hoses. No gear of any kind. Where are the funds to equip the engine coming from?
There is a lot of work to be done, David.
— Robert Low is San Juan County fire marshal. He is a candidate for mayor of Friday Harbor.