WEST ALEXANDRIA — Village Council voted to move forward with the purchase of a new ambulance on Monday, May 17.
EMS Chief Tom Smith suggested purchasing the vehicle in April, stating that the Fire & EMS department’s two current ambulances are approaching nine and seven years old, with roughly 87,000 and 40,000 miles on the odometer, respectively.
Smith stated that he’d ideally like to purchase a new vehicle every five years in order to stagger expenses associated with repair and routine maintenance, which tend to increase with age. Smith claimed the average unit has a lifespan of about nine or ten years.
Councilman Zach Shafer was skeptical about the need for the purchase in April, suggesting that Smith consult with Lanier and Twin Townships, which the West Alexandria Fire & EMS department also services, before moving ahead with such a major purchase.
Smith reported on Monday that the townships had “given their blessing,” and presented the council with bids from multiple vendors, ranging from approximately $237,000 to $253,000.
The village currently collects about $24,000 per year from the townships to fund the Fire & EMS department, with an additional $24,000 being retained by the townships themselves. Smith suggested that renegotiating those contracts to bring more revenue to the village would be beneficial.
“We’re looking at re-wording that contract and getting things tweaked a little better,” Smith said.
Councilman Geoff Justice advocated waiting to purchase a new ambulance on financial grounds, saying that under current terms the village would be unable to purchase any additional units until 2030, making the vehicles over eight rather than five years apart in age.
Justice also balked at one vendor’s offered trade-in amount of $5,000 for one of the village’s older vehicles.
“That’s a 94 percent loss in value,” Justice said.
Councilman Dan Utsinger expressed similar sentiments.
“I think we’re putting the cart before the horse,” Utsinger said. “We’re not going to bring in enough revenue to get on a five-year rotation, and it doesn’t hurt anything to wait until we work out better contracts [with the townships].”
Councilman Shannon Smith offered an opposing view, however.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about what’s going to happen to us if we don’t buy an ambulance now,” Smith said.
Chief Smith, meanwhile, reported that one of the department’s current units had recently broken down on I-70 with a patient onboard, and indicated that the need for a four-wheel-drive vehicle capable of reaching less accessible locations shouldn’t be underestimated.
“We had some calls this winter where we could have used a four-wheel-drive,” he said.
The resultant vote on whether to move forward with the purchase resulted in a stalemate, with Smith, Justice and council member Holly Robbins voting for and Shafer, Utsinger and council president Ashley Myers against. Mayor Jeff Hickey then broke the tie, voting to move forward with the purchase.
Village Council meetings take place the third Monday of each month at the Fire & EMS office, located at 8 Marty Ln.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @mproperenglish