Excerpts from the pjstar.com:

East Peoria Fire Chief John Knapp expertly pitched the need for a new fire truck at this week’s city council meeting. What he got in return was not the familiar response the fire department is more accustomed to. The council said no.

The council voted 3-2 to deny the request to spend $340,000 for a new demo fire truck, rather than pay upward of $200,000 to repair two old ones. Commissioners Mark Hill and Mike Sutherland voted against the purchase. Commissioner Seth Mingus, who’s role on the council is to oversee the operations of the fire department, and Dan Decker who is both a commissioner and an assistant chief on the East Peoria Fire Department, supported the purchase of the fire truck. The mayor expressed his doubts before casting the deciding vote.

A budgeted and approved plan to repair the prematurely rusted frames of two front line trucks changed recently when a new option to buy a discounted fire truck was offered by Pierce Manufacturing. Instead of repairing two old trucks — a 2000 and a 1996 —to be used as necessary back-ups, Pierce offered a 2019 demo at a cost of $380,000, paid over two years. Fire trucks typically cost around $550,000. And while the new truck would solve the problem of repairing the old ones at a cost of around $200,000 and fill all front-line and back-up slots in the department’s fleet with reliable vehicles, it would cost the city more than the old solution.

The ensuing debate was illuminating. Simplified, the disagreement narrowed to a fight between between the fiscally responsible and the staunch advocates for public safety. It went south from there. One commissioner tied his potential support of the demo fire truck to the result of on-going contract negotiations with the city’s firefighter union. Linking the contract to the purchase of a fire truck rankled another.



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