City council has approved replacing the Williams Lake Fire Dept.’s 1998 ladder truck. It will take at least three years for the new $1.2 million truck to arrive and council is hoping to build on the existing $204,000 fire dept. reserve account and pay cash for the purchase. Monica Lamb-Yorski file photo

Early budgeting approved for new Williams Lake Fire Department ladder truck

If ordered in 2020 it will take about three years for the new ladder truck to be delivered

City council has given early budgeting approval for a new $1.2 million ladder truck in a vote of four in favour, three against during the regular council meeting on Tuesday, May 28.

Mayor Walt Cobb, Coun. Ivan Bonnell and Coun. Marnie Brenner voted against, the other four councillors voted in favour, carrying the motion.

During the committe of the whole meeting the week before, council deliberated on the item, with councillors in support of giving early approval hopeful the Citywill save the money for it by the time the new truck will be ready in three years.

The Williams Lake Fire Department is wanting to replace its existing 1998 75-foot ladder truck, said Erick Peterson, fire chief and director of protective services, in a report council received at its May 21 committee of the whole meeting.

“As our City continues to develop larger and taller infrastructure, the ability to reach multi-story buildings for rescue and firefighting is clearly highlighted,” Erickson said. “During the Tolko Lakeview fire we ran it for three days straight.”

Peterson said the Fire Underwriters of Canada states that for a community the size of Williams Lake the apparatus should be replaced at 15 years of age, but continues to receive a five-year insurance credit as a backup and then five years as a reserve.

“Not replacing this apparatus now would have a negative impact on our Public Fire Protection Classification rating,” Peterson noted, adding the PFPC rating is used by the Fire Underwriters and national insurance providers to set fire insurance rates within the City.

Approval at the committee of the whole meeting for the new ladder truck was endorsed by councillors Sheila Boehm, Marnie Brenner, Scott Nelson, Jason Ryll and Craig Smith, while Mayor Walt Cobb and Coun. Ivan Bonnell voted against.

Nelson said the fire department has $204,000 in its reserve account and as council is aiming to pay cash for big expenditures rather than borrowing he is confident council can plan ahead.

Read more: Williams Lake Fire Department prepares for wildfire season

“It’s a political decision,” Coun. Nelson said. “It’s passed its age, it’s broken down several times.” It’s been a debate around the council table for several years.”

Coun. Ryll said putting the purchase off it puts the community at risk. “Deferring it would be the wrong decision.”

Coun. Ryll said.

Coun. Bonnell, however, argued the truck is still performing to specifications and said the community is not at risk by not replacing it.

“I don’t think it should be replaced until it is 25 years old,” Bonnell said, adding he’d rather get a three per cent increase on his personal fire insurance than a three per cent tax rate increase if the city ended up having to borrow money to buy the truck.

Mayor Cobb said he had a problem supporting the decision and making a commitment for 2020 to tender the truck.

He added it’s also troubling that some of the older equipment ends up going to other fire departments and then gets used by them for another 20 years.

Mayor Cobb said he felt the City could still be saving the money for the new ladder truck without having to approve the item in 2020.

Having good equipment is important to ensure safety, Coun. Brenner said.

“I wonder if the fire department should have a fundraising gala like the hospital,” she added, to which Coun. Boehm responded, “or a calendar?”

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