MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) — Right now, Muskegon Heights only has one fire truck capable of fighting fires.
That one truck was down for one day last week, leaving the city without any usable fire trucks.
It’s a situation that forces them to have to call in fire departments from other cities for help, like Muskegon and Norton Shores.
City Manager Troy Bell told News 8 on Monday night that the two other trucks the city has are 24 years old and in need of repairs. The newer truck is 11 years old.
“We have an aging fleet,” Bell said. “We are facing the challenge, like many cities that are underserved and underfunded throughout the state of Michigan, of how do we keep those large apparatuses functioning on the street and available to provide services.”
“We’re reaching the end of life of these devices, and it’s costing us money hand over fist in order to repair them,” he added.
Bell said some of the parts needed to repair the trucks are no longer made.
The city is trying to buy a new fire truck. Bell said they budgeted $200,000 for it, and its projected cost ended up being $500,000. Bell cited historic inflation and supply chain issues as reasons for the rising prices.
At Monday night’s Muskegon Heights City Council meeting, multiple members said it’s time to resolve the issue immediately by repairing the old trucks.
“We need to move forward and decide what we’re going to do with the updating and the fixing of these fire trucks,” Mayor Pro Temp Ronald Jenkins said. “We cannot operate a city and not have fire trucks. I cannot leave here tonight. I will stay here till 12 o’clock if I have to.”
“We need fire trucks on the road,” Councilman Andre Williams Jr. said. “We have the estimates here tonight. We should move on repairing the fire trucks.”
The city’s finance committee is going to meet Wednesday morning to discuss how to repair the older trucks as soon as possible.
The city has also applied for a FEMA grant to help pay for a new truck.
Bell said the streets in Muskegon Heights are “really hard on the vehicles.”
“When you’re running the number of service hours for these large devices, it’s bound to take its toll,” Bell said.
Bell says this problem is emblematic of a much larger issue in Muskegon Heights. He said they’ve had to tear down 500 to 600 homes a year in the last decade. Now, there is a significant vacancy of land.
“That is a gap in our tax base,” Bell said. “That tax base is critical to being able to provide these basic, fundamental services. So until we address the need to build new housing in Muskegon Heights, we’re going to constantly have to wrestle with these issues of how we’re going to find the funding to provide critical services to community.”
Bell said the fire department does have trucks available for medical purposes.
While the city council waits to hear back on the FEMA grant, Bell said they’re going to try and find “creative ways” to come up with the money for a new truck while they also try to repair the old ones.
Bell also thanked the fire departments in Muskegon, Norton Shores and Fruitport for their help.
“Everybody understands and realizes the value and benefit of working together,” Bell said. “Today we might not have something, but in a month or a year they might not have something.”