The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Council to study fire truck financing

 


The Cathlamet Fire Department wants to buy a new fire truck, but when presented with a financing plan, members of the town council put on the brakes at their monthly meeting on Monday.

Fire Chief Vernon Barton has proposed buying a demonstration model at a price of $412,015. With a $100,000 down payment from existing funds, the town would need to finance $344,564.18. The vendor, True North Emergency Equipment of Hillsboro, Ore., has proposed a lease-to-purchase financing plan with options to pay off in either seven, eight, nine or 10 years. Annual payments would range from $55,812.78 for seven years to $41,050.40 for 10 years.

The payment amounts concerned the council, with members asking each other where they'd find that much extra money.

"We do not have a sustaining revenue source for this," said Clerk/Treasurer Kerrie McNally.

After discussing options, Mayor Dale Jacobson said he would consult with Wahkiakum County, which has loaned funds to other governmental bodies, to talk about a loan, and Council Member Bernadette Goodroe said she would contact the vendor to discuss other possible funding options.

Also, town attorney Heidi Heywood noted that the lease proposal uses an incorrect sales tax rate in its calculations.

"I would not sign this as is," she said.

Jacobson said council members should be ready for a special meeting to act on the purchase as soon as they have more information.

Barton said the council needs to act fairly soon or the engine could go to someone else.

"This is the least expensive engine I could find," he said. "This is a demonstrator, but they're holding it for us. We could lose it."

Unfortunately, he added, the fire department is not a source of revenue for the town. The $100,000 for the down payment is a transfer of revenue from the sale of town timber.

(Editor: The print version of this story incorrectly states the $100,000 was a share of funds from the county wide Emergency Services Levy, which helps the different fire departments in the county with equipment purchases.)

Jacobson suggested the town could sell bonds to cover the purchase; Heywood said the town could sell bonds up to its borrowing capacity without holding an election.

However, they added, bonding takes time.

"I'll check it out for you," Jacobson said. "I have some experience in that in my former capacity [Jacobson has served as mayor of Long Beach--ed]."

In response to a question from Council Member Andy Lea, Barton said that without new equipment, the department's rating could go down, which would mean higher fire insurance rates for property owners.

Fire fighters want to replace an engine which is becoming too old to meet operational rating standards, Barton said.

"We have one engine that won't meet specifications," he said, "and in a few years, we'll be in the same boat with another engine."

 

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