RIO VISTA — Fire Chief Russ Sherman thought it was fortuitous that at the same time the aerial ladder truck broke down again, the department appeared to have snared a replacement.
The replacement didn’t work out, and the city’s mid-1970s aerial ladder truck is still in the corporation yard with a blown drive shaft. Couple that repair with others slated for the vehicle and the total repair bill would be $14,000 – more than the value of the truck.
Sherman said that for $1,000 or so, the vehicle could be made drivable, but the aerial ladder would still be inoperable. Without the hydraulic lift ladder, the city Fire Department’s reach is affected – from a reach of 105 feet down to a 35-foot ground ladder, which is the tallest the city has in use.
This isn’t the first time the aging truck has been in need of repair. Sherman said it’s out of service “most of the time.”
“We definitely need one,” said Capt. Brandon Wilson. “It’s a 1975. It’s older than me.”
The broken aerial truck will be 40 years old in 2015 – the average life span for a front-line vehicle is 15 years, with another five years as a reserve vehicle, Sherman said.
“That’s a 20-year maximum life span and we’re getting pretty close to double that,” Sherman said.
Sherman said they thought they’d found a good replacement in a 2000 Spartan Quint from the El Dorado Hills Fire Department. Representatives from the Sierra foothills department spent about 12 hours in Rio Vista while everyone went over the vehicle and reviewed its paperwork, including repair and maintenance records.
“We went over it piece by piece, compartment by compartment,” Sherman said. “We went over it with a fine-tooth comb.”
In the meantime, a neighboring department, Diamond Springs/El Dorado Fire Protection District, expressed some interest but not enough to generate concern within Sherman’s department. Bids were due Nov. 29 and Sherman said Rio Vista bid $150,000, close to the asking price of $175,000.
Sherman said he found out prior to bid selection that there was a push to keep the vehicle within the county and since El Dorado Hills wasn’t an incorporated city, the department wasn’t required to take the highest bid. And it didn’t. The Diamond Springs district won with a purported bid of $90,000.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little frustrated with the results,” Sherman said.
Keeping the aerial ladder truck within the fire district allowed El Dorado Hills to call in the truck for mutual aid situations, but it sent Rio Vista back to the drawing board after several weeks sunk into creating the lost bid.
A new aerial ladder truck costs about $1 million – and with an amended fiscal year department budget of $1.3 million and no vehicle replacement fund, that figure is out of the question.
Sherman, who took over the department in July, said he was surprised the department didn’t have a vehicle fund and will ask the City Council to establish one so dollars can be contributed annually for replacement purposes.
Funds for the Spartan would have come from the city’s personnel services fund, which comes from property taxes and annual allocations from the Delta Fire Protection District contract for services. Added to the mix would have been a financed four-year loan from either the El Dorado Hills Fire Department or a finance company.
Aside from the missing ladder truck, Sherman said the department has sound equipment, with two Type I pumpers, one Type II pumper, a rescue vehicle and a water tender.
“Our equipment is in good (shape) . . . with the exception of the (aerial) ladder truck,” he said.
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.