By Jim Newell
The Orion Township Fire Department is getting four new command vehicles after the board of trustees approved 6-1 the purchase during its meeting on Monday.
The total cost of the new cars – four 2019 Ford Police Interceptor Utility vehicles – is $174,112.
The fire department requested the township purchase the utility vehicles for $33,528 each, $134,112 total, through the Oakland County Cooperative Bid program.
The board also approved $40,000 ($10,000 per vehicle) to “upfit” the Interceptors with emergency lights, radios, console organizers that will accommodate an iPad and manuals and plans need on site during emergencies, bringing the total to $174,112. Treasurer Donni Steele cast the lone nay vote.
The fire department needs the new SUV-style vehicles to replace the ones they are currently leasing but cannot use because they reached the mileage limit.
“A few years ago, we were getting good lease deals where you got more miles,” said Trustee John Steimel, adding he would like to see a vehicle replacement plan in the future so that the township isn’t buying several vehicles at once. “So, we’ve gone back and forth on that, evaluating, at the time, what makes more sense.”
Fire Chief Robert Duke made the proposal to the board.
“Leasing vehicles again does not seem to be very prudent, in terms of vehicles for the fire department,” Duke said. “Purchasing seems to be the best. We’ll get longevity out of it by purchasing. Up until this point the fire department has never had a fleet or vehicle replacement program. I know this is a very heady expense, but this will get us on that goal of getting a vehicle replacement plan. Right now, all we’re looking at is staff vehicles.”
The vehicles will be used by the fire chief, the assistant fire chief, the EMS coordinator and the fire marshal, all of whom will drive the vehicles home with them.
Supervisor Chris Barnett said he and Duke have discussed addressing fire department capital improvement needs and want to come up with a vehicle replacement plan so that the township does not have to purchase more than one or two vehicles at a time.
“So, this is going to happen exactly one time. This time,” Barnett said. “Just like any good business, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a government entity, you don’t want to have to make your purchases at once, you want to do one every couple of years so you’re spending $33,000 every couple of years instead of $180,000.”
Previously, the township had leased only one vehicle for the fire chief. However, since the department has become a fulltime fire department with more employees, more vehicles became necessary for command officers, township officials said.
“We’re learning that for some departments it’s not the best fit. One is our fire department,” Barnett said. “I support this because I know it’s been thoroughly vetted and I know we’ll be on a replacement plan going forward.”
The command officers assigned the vehicles will drive them home so that they can respond quicker than if they had to drive back to Township Hall to get the vehicles and their turnout gear, Duke said.
“The important thing is we’re on call 24/7. There are call-backs,” Duke said, adding that the fire department had 18 calls for service on Monday. “The important thing is, in taking vehicles home, is that command staff needs to be there in the first 30 minutes to really size up the scene and really get a good idea of the incident that’s going on. So, if we were not able to take vehicles home, it would really hamper our operation.”
“It’s very important to get command staff on scene, just for command and control,” Duke said. “Auburn Hills, Independence Twp., Oakland, Oxford, they do the same thing.”
Out of the three vehicles that are leased, one is parked because it has almost reached the 20,000 miles per year limit. “We have two more that will be parked in three weeks, approximately, just because we’ve also had that mileage (limit),” Duke said.
The township had leased staff vehicles in 2015 and again in 2017, with one vehicle having a 10,000 mile per year maximum and two at 12,000 miles per year. The lease termination date for the vehicles is not until Jan. 23, 2019.