Cost of new fire trucks higher than anticipated due to pandemic

ERIN – Town officials are attributing a $32,000 cost overrun for two new fire department vehicles to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On May 4 Erin council accepted the bid from Dependable Emergency Vehicles for the purchase of two light rescue vehicles at a price of $391,776, a nine per cent increase over what council had initially budgeted.

Council agreed to cover the $32,000 shortfall for the vehicles, which will replace two heavy rescue vehicles, with funds from its vehicle reserves.

The budget was originally set at $360,000, explained Fire Chief Jim Sawkins, who noted the fire department altered the vehicle, modifying the back end to a pickup truck bed to easily transport equipment back and forth.

“In reality, that change should have actually reduced the cost of the vehicle,” Sawkins told council.

Councillor Michael Robins asked, “from a budgeting perspective, did we underestimate in our budgeting or is there something going on in the industry that is driving up the costs?”

Sawkins explained both companies said the increase in pricing could be attributed to the pandemic, but he pointed out the cost of both light rescue vehicles is still substantially lower than the replacement cost of one heavy rescue vehicle.

“It’s producing delays and it’s no different than the construction industry right now,” he said. “I believe we’re in the same situation here with truck purchases.”

Sawkins added, “The problem we have here is that we inherited a very aging fleet of vehicles, while at the same time, we put in some foresight and said ‘let’s start a reserve.’

“We’re not going to realize the benefits of that reserve until after we work our way through getting rid of the aging fleet. Once that happens and we maintain that reserve, we’re going to be laughing.”