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4-9-14

On split vote, Central Platte
buys new fire truck

by Stephanie Eaton
Landmark reporter

The Central Platte Fire Protection District board meeting was extremely heated Tuesday night as the purchase of a new pumper truck came to a vote.

After much discussion from the board and the public, the board voted in favor of purchasing a new truck at a cost of $653,468.

The new front line truck will replace a unit that is a reserve pumper for the department.

The discussion became heated after board member Andy Stanton and a citizen questioned the board as to why they had not put the purchase of the new truck out for bid.

Fire officials and board members Mike Ashcraft and Paul Regan told Stanton and those in attendance they had no obligation to get bids for the purchase.

In February, board members originally had discussed the purchase of a new pumper truck.

Fire officials hoped to replace their current truck, which was built in 1986 and purchased used. Fire officials were hoping to purchase a pumper truck made by Pierce. However, Stanton said he needed more time to research the matter.

During the March board meeting, the topic of the pumper truck came up again. John Shuhmacher with Shuhmacher Fire Equipment, LLC, a company that sells fire trucks, spoke to the board about how much a
new truck would cost.

According to Shuhmacher, the cost of a new pumper truck would be $680,744. However, his company would offer a discount if fire officials would pre-pay the entire amount of the truck. The pre-pay cost of the pumper truck would be $653,468.62.

The board decided to not vote on the purchase of the truck during the March board meeting because Stanton was not present.

During Tuesday night's meeting, Stanton quickly questioned why the board did not put out bids. Larry Bigus, fire chief, told Stanton there was only one company that made the Pierce model.

Bigus said most fire departments around Platte County purchased Pierce trucks. He said the quality of Pierce trucks is better than the other trucks on the market. Ashcraft concurred with Bigus.

“Did you go look at any of the other units?” Ashcraft questioned Stanton.

Stanton said he had not looked at other models, but had contacted Boone County fire officials.

However, Shuhmacher said the last 19 trucks that Boone County Fire officials purchased were Pierce fire trucks.

Then Stanton questioned how not purchasing the new truck would negatively impact the ISO rating for the department. He said he had seen nothing in writing that said there would be a negative impact. Ashcraft disagreed. He said he did a lot of research and he said if the ISO rating increased it would negatively impact the taxpayers.

“I have researched the ISO ratings online and in person,” Ashcraft said. “I have talked to several insurance companies. For every point that our ISO rating raises the homeowners can expect a six to nine percent increase in their homeowners rate unless they are fortunate enough to be insured with State Farm because State Farm is the only insurance company in the State of Missouri that does not even bother with ISO ratings.”

Ashcraft said that he has done a lot of research about the new trucks. Ashcraft said he went to a fire show and was able to look at all of the different fire trucks. Ashcraft also said he has devoted a lot of time to the board researching different topics. He said that Stanton has missed five board meetings since he began serving on the board in 2012.

Kelly Goen, a citizen who attended the meeting, said she was disappointed in the board.

“I am disappointed there is not bidding,” Goen said. “That there is only brand we can look at. What is up with that?”

After Goen questioned the board, things between Stanton and the rest of the board and fire officials got heated.

“What is up with that is that in the past Stanley (Stanley George, former fire board member) and Larry (Bigus) have had a very cozy relationship with Pierce,” Stanton said. “They order a truck. They go down to the factory and get wined and dined.”

Bigus defended himself.

“I will tell you what. I have only been there once. I do not like to fly and I do not want to drive 10 hours. So don't be saying what you don't know.”

Regan told Goen that the fire department had other brands of trucks in the past. He said the other brands have broken down a lot and are poor quality.

“We do not have problems with Pierce,” Regan said. “It is a quality truck and they stand behind their stuff.”

Regan said fire departments in South Platte, Weston, Kansas City, Camden Point and countless other departments only purchase Pierce trucks. Fire officials also told Goen during the meeting that other fire departments do not put the purchase of their fire trucks out for bid.

Shuhmacher also told the board that if they did not make a decision to purchase the truck this evening, that the price of the truck would go up because of the rise in aluminum prices.

After the lengthy discussion, even Goen conceded that if she was a member of the board she would purchase the Pierce truck. However, she said she wishes they would have put the truck out for the bidding process.

Regan said the department needs the new truck.

“My opinion is we need to stay with Pierce,” Regan said. “They are a good truck. We do not have any problems. We need to buy the best equipment we can for our people. They are risking their lives. The people out in the public ain't. They might be financing it, but they ain't out there giving their lives up.”

When the Central Platte Fire Protection District board brought the purchase of the truck to a vote, Ashcraft and Regan voted in favor of the purchase. Stanton voted against the measure.