SHELDON—When the Sheldon City Council agreed to take out a $650,000 loan earlier this year to pay for new emergency service vehicles, it left a lot of residents and city leaders pondering the state of the community’s finances.
Those questions arose again during the Wednesday, Oct. 2, council meeting as the council authorized the loan it approved on Feb. 8.
The loan will cover the purchase of a $552,312 fire truck as well as two police cars that will each cost more than $35,000.
Sheldon resident Lori Anderson questioned if the city budgeted for the items and, if so, why wasn’t the cost of the vehicles covered from that.
City manager Sam Kooiker tried to clarify the situation for her.
“There is this belief that there is $25,000 set aside annually for fire trucks; that isn’t the case,” Kooiker said. “There was money set aside for other equipment, but not fire truck payments.
“So when we discuss this in the budget — actually, the purchase agreement was signed last year and we needed to find the money to follow through on the purchase agreement — so the deal we worked out is to do a loan on the fire truck and police cars that would count against the city’s debt limit but wouldn’t raise property taxes because it would be offset by the moneys in the emergency depreciation fund.”
Anderson followed by asking where the money generated by the Sheldon Community Ambulance Team goes — SCAT is projected to take in $160,000 in transfer revenues this fiscal year, which goes into the emergency depreciation fund — how does the city determine when new vehicles are needed and why isn’t the emergency service department applying for grants?
Councilman Brad Hindt, also first assistant chief of Sheldon Fire Co., noted the department does apply for grants. Anderson asked him why Granville Fire received two grants recently, which it is using to pay for a new truck.
Hindt said he was not sure why Sheldon Fire Co. does not receive as many grants and he said the department has been on a 20-year replacement plan for trucks to maintain Insurance Services Office, or ISO, rating.
“This has been on the radar for the last couple years, so it’s nothing new to the city; we’ve talked about it in budget meetings, capital improvement plan so there is nothing new about this or spur of the moment,” Hindt said.
Anderson also asked why the fire department does not use its fundraisers to pay for a new truck. Hindt noted those fundraisers go toward covering expenses such as radios, fire gears and a hydraulic rescue tool.
“I could go on and on what we bought,” he said. “But making $10,000 on a fundraiser doesn’t set aside money to buy a firetruck when you’re talking $552,000.”
Anderson said that in other communities she visits, she sees “really cool” boards used during those fundraisers to purchase new truck. Hindt noted they will not fundraise money for a truck because of the expense.
“At $10,000 a year, how many years is it going to take you to make $552,000?” he asked.
“The experience that I’ve seen in other communities is they do the specific ‘WE NEED A NEW FIRE TRUCK’ and then somebody comes out and writes a big check because they love the idea that we are getting a new fire truck,” Anderson said. “But you’re never going to see that if you don’t make the attempt.”
Hindt said when the department looks to replace another truck in a year, Anderson can chair the committee. She accepted the offer and volunteered to look over the department’s grant applications as well.
“I’m just real frustrated because this is a big chunk of change,” she said.