Council approves purchase of ladder truck

2011 demonstration model will replace damaged 27-year-old truck

By: Robin Ruehlen | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 29, 2013

BEVERLY HILLS — The  27-year-old ladder truck that has cost the village of Beverly Hills thousands of dollars in repairs and months of downtime is finally on its way out.

At a special meeting Jan. 22, the Village Council voted to replace the broken-down vehicle with a 2011 Pierce 105’ Velocity – a demonstration ladder truck with a $745,000 price tag.

At the Jan. 15 regular meeting, President Pro Tem Walter Briggs outlined the village’s options for repairing or replacing the current ladder truck, as well as what it would cost to lease a truck from a neighboring community.

“The current truck is 27 years old, when the average lifespan of a ladder truck is 20 years,” Briggs said.

“It’s had two major repairs in the last five years, both with significant downtime. At one point, it was out of service for six months, and for two months in 2009.”

The village has been relying on Franklin’s ladder truck for the past several months, after its own truck’s suspension separated from its frame last fall.

Briggs said it would cost in excess of $50,000 to repair the truck, which would likely break down again within the next six months.

“There’s no guarantee it could be repaired and meet the safety needs of our department, so it’s important that we look beyond that,” he said.

“The other thing is, it’s a safety issue relevant to people out there. We’re lucky the chassis didn’t separate or crack during a run and injure our residents, as well as the men operating the truck.”

The option of possibly contracting with an abutting community — Royal Oak, Birmingham, Southfield or Bloomfield Township, would cost the village approximately $825 for truck rental, equipment and the four men required to staff it.

“The cost of contracting with Birmingham is over $1,000 per use, or per hour. That truck was sent on 63 calls in 2012, so the low cost to the village would be $63,000 per year,” Briggs said.

“It would also require a backup plan in case the other community was using the truck at the same time.”

The third option, purchasing a brand-new truck, would not only cost the village between $825,000 and $1.2 million, but could take up to a year for delivery, Briggs said.

Instead, the village decided on the 2-year-old Pierce, which had the best purchase price and meets the needs of the department, officials said.

“Demonstration trucks aren’t used to fight fires, but travel around to communities and trade shows,” Briggs said.

“The hours on the truck aren’t true firefighting hours and don’t have the same wear and tear mileage. It’s been driven mainly in highway conditions, and not put through the same stresses as if it were operating in a fire.”

Councilman Jon Oen said that on the current truck, the ladder mechanism is bolted directly to the frame itself — something that contributed “tremendously” to the recent damage.

“The new truck has a torsion system that distributes the weight to the outriggers, rather than putting all the load it on the frame itself,” he said.

“Fire truck designs have changed tremendously in the past 25 years.”

Village Manager Chris Wilson said he sought multiple quotes for financing and received the best offer from Municipal Asset Management of Colorado. With a down payment of $160,000, the village will pay $90,125 per year for the next seven years at a 2.1 percent interest rate.

“The seven-year payment plan will cost us $641,000 versus $678,000 for a 10-year-plan, so we end up saving ourselves approximately $27,000,” Wilson said.

“The financing firms were very impressed that we had $160,000 to put down. Not that we can’t and won’t do better, but I do think the seven-year rate is in the best interest of the village.”