- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—Fire Chief Todd Schutte first discussed the Batesville Fire and Rescue Department’s need for a new ambulance at the July 13 Batesville Board of Works meeting.

He had found a barely used vehicle that would be a $55,000 savings, but did not reveal the purchase price.

Council member Kevin Chaffee wondered, “Don’t we have to go through formal bidding procedures” so that more than one company could try to sell an ambulance to the city at a competitive price?

With BBW member and council President Gene Lambert absent, Mayor Rick Fledderman said he would call a special meeting because he wanted the entire board to be there.

Ironically, when the Batesville Board of Works met July 20, all three members (Lambert, Fledderman and Bill Flannery) were present, but Chaffee was not.

This board and the Batesville City Council work hand in hand on many issues and meet consecutively each month on the second Monday in the Memorial Building.

Last year the department refurbished one of its two ambulances and leaders discussed the need to replace the other in 2015.

On July 20, Schutte explained in a written document, “Currently, this (2002 Ford) ambulance has 42,000 miles on the odometer and 6,700 hours of use. Although the miles are low, the hours are high … because the patient compartment needs to be climate-controlled for the patient, medications and IV fluids at all times. While on scene and at the hospital, the ambulance must be running to comfort the patient and provide the best care possible.”

A conversion chart provided by the manufacturer showed that the ambulance’s hours equate to between 167,500 and 221,100 miles. “This ambulance has more wear on the engine and driveline than the actual odometer shows … Since January 2014, the department has spent almost $15,000 on repairs and maintenance. During this time, the ambulance was out of service for over 41 days.”

Lambert asked, “How many times do you need both trucks at the same time?” The chief answered, “On average three to four times a week. Right now they’re currently out together. It’s a very common occurrence.”

The cost to refurbish the ambulance and replace the chassis would be over $100,000. Ford has discontinued making a diesel engine for that model and the gas engine counterpart has a shorter life span, according to Schutte. He felt, “It is essential that we stay with a diesel engine for its long life span and reliability.”

Schutte said while researching the cost of a new ambulance, “we found that all of the quotes we received were between $220,000-$240,000.”

Brian Hardebeck, Batesville Fire and Rescue Department first assistant chief, dug deeper. “He found a vehicle that would be a very good buy for us,” according to Schutte.

The 2012 Horton International ambulance was a demo model taken to conventions and has just 12,000 highway miles on it. Dealer Brindlee Mountain, Ocala, Florida, listed the price at $179,000 with a two-year, 24,000-mile warranty.

Fledderman said, “We haven’t done anything yet except explore our options … We have not put this out to public bid … We’re very limited on where we can go” for a new vehicle as there are few ambulance manufacturers.

He pointed the board to Indiana Code Chapter 10 — Special Purchasing Methods, which allows a buy without soliciting bids due to certain conditions. IC 5-22-10-4(a) states, “A purchasing agent may make a special purchase when there exists under emergency conditions a threat to public health, welfare or safety.” IC 5-22-10-5 notes, “A purchasing agent may make a special purchase when there exists a unique opportunity to obtain supplies or services at a substantial savings to the governmental body.”

Clerk-treasurer Ron Weigel said he did talk about the ambulance to the Indiana State Board of Accounts and the representative agreed Indiana Code could be used to make an exception to normal procedures. The dealer is holding the vehicle for Batesville, but if the board doesn’t act soon, Brindlee will sell it to another party.

The mayor presented funding options. Lease-purchase financing offered by Leasing 2 Inc., Tampa, Florida, which specializes in local government equipment financing, would have interest rates between 3.12-3.41 percent for four to seven years, respectively. “Those are favorable,” he said.

According to Weigel, the city’s Cumulative Fire Fund contains $370,000. Officials could pay for the ambulance out of this accumulating fund, leaving $191,000. The clerk-treasurer pointed out if leaders opt for the lease-purchase financing over seven years, they will spend almost $200,000 instead of $179,000. “I myself hate to see … that additional amount of money in financing.”

Fledderman suggested, “We could put more down and finance less.”

Council member Jim Fritsch asked if more firefighting or EMS equipment is needed besides the vehicle. The chief replied, “All of our equipment is in good shape.” Now firefighters are saving up for new breathing apparatus, which they hope to fund with “quite a few matching grants.” The department’s Summerfest proceeds would meet matching fund requirements.

Flannery said, “I know the firehouse needs some work and that would come from this same (cumulative) fund.” According to Schutte, “Replacing a roof section slowed down the mold. We still have some leaks.”

Mayoral candidate Mike Bettice asked how much it would cost to fix the building. Schutte wasn’t sure.

Bettice pressed, “How soon does that need to be done?” Director of operations Tim Macyauski reported the work should be done soon in two phases. Ollier Masonry, Batesville, estimated it would cost $165,000 to install brick veneer on the exterior.

Doing both projects — buying the ambulance and repairing the fire station’s facade — would eat up most of the fund’s balance. Bettice asked if the state had guidelines about how much to keep in funds.

Weigel answered, “That’s up to the department, mayor and board of works.” He added, “We do have some rainy day funds for something that would come up unexpectedly.”

Citing sections in the Indiana Code, the board voted to give Schutte the authority to make an offer up to $179,000 to buy the ambulance subject to review by the city attorney. Members decided to pay cash and not finance the vehicle, realizing they may have to get a loan for part of the firehouse repairs.

Debbie Blank can be contacted at [email protected] or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.

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(c)2015 The Herald-Tribune (Batesville, Ind.)

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