GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Officials with the Grand Rapids Fire Department and the union representing firefighters have come up with a new way to replace the aging fleet and save money on future purchases.
The income tax City voters approved in 2010 would fund the program.
On Oct. 8, GRFD officials will ask city commissioners to approve nearly $4.4 million from the City's Transformation Fund for the purchase of four new pieces of fire apparatus, and the rebuild of three other units to stabilize the aging fleet.
In a memo to city commissioners, fire officials say 60 percent of the fleet is more than 10 years old, and doesn't have newer technology that helps fight fires.
The Transformation Fund is generated through the 2010 income tax, which is set to expire in 2015. Transformation dollars have been used to fund a number of programs aimed at making the City run leaner.
But how does purchasing new fire apparatus fit the Transformation plan?
In the memo to city commissioners, Fire Chief Laura Knapp, along with Grand Rapids CFO Scott Buhrer and Deputy City Manager Eric DeLong, explain the new rigs will be medium-duty, as opposed to the heavy-duty rigs the department has historically purchased.
On the outside, the rigs on the wish list won't look any different than the traditional fire engines that protect the city.
But they will be less expensive, with lighter chassis and enhanced capability. The rigs will be assigned to areas of the city with lighter fire activity, reducing wear and tear.
That decision alone could save the City nearly $300,000 per unit, according the memo.
Three heavy-duty pieces of fire apparatus now on front-line duty would be rebuilt, with new powertrains, body and new technology, extending their life and lowering costs.
But according to those familiar with the idea, the transformation part of the plan is less about the hardware, and more about the financing.
Right now, the City borrows money, in the form of bonds, to buy fire apparatus.
Using the remaining $2.3 million from the Transformation Fund, GRFD officials want to establish a Fire Apparatus Capitol Reserve Fund. The cash on-hand will be used as seed money for an account that will eliminate the need to borrow money, and the interest that goes along with financing, for future fire apparatus purchases.
Officials claim the reduce operating costs, reduction in financing and other changes could save the City nearly $24 million during the next 30 years.
GRFD officials have not returned calls to 24 Hour News 8 about the request.
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