When city councillors approved fire chief Mike Figliola’s fire services realignment plan in October of 2015 they didn’t know at the time the city would also be on the hook for more than $125,000 in new vehicles for those positions.
A total of $120,000 was set aside in the 2017 budget to acquire five vehicles for Sault Ste. Marie Fire Services.
In the end, only four vehicles will be purchased at a cost to the city of $126,237.90, as approved at last night's meeting of city council.
Paul Christian, counsellor for Ward 1, wondered why the fire services did not decide to lease or look at pre-owned vehicles.
“Originally we were looking at five vehicles, and we’re coming away with four vehicles, and yet we are still over budget,” said Christian.
Figliola said purchasing new was a better value.
“When we went out into the market, there wasn’t a lot of value in the pre-owned side,” said Figliola.
The $6,237.90 over the original budget of $120,000 will come from the city's Fire Reserve Fund.
A number of councillors asked if leasing the vehicles may be a better option but were also told outright purchase was the best option by Shelley Schell, the city’s chief financial officer.
Asked by Provenzano if all four vehicles were necessary, Figliola said they were all necessary for daily operation of the fire services.
A new Ford F250 pickup truck will replace a current operations vehicle used to haul the Hazmat trailer, among other uses.
Additionally, a new Ford 150 pickup, a Kia Sorento and Hyundai Tuscon will be utilized for various fire prevention, education and other uses.
Matthew Shoemaker, counsellor for Ward 3, asked Figliola if one of the new vehicles will be used to travel to and from his home.
“There has been some suggestion that you use a fire department vehicle to go to and from your residence out of town. Are you going to be using any of these vehicles to do that?” asked Shoemaker.
Figliola said he 'may or may not' grab one of the department’s vehicles for that purpose.
“I usually grab one of the lesser vehicles,” said Figliola.
Ross Romano, counsellor for Ward 6, wondered if council was aware of the need for new vehicles when it decided to approve the new positions
“Was this process — that we would be getting vehicles for these new positions — is that something we as a council were privy to or discussed, whether in the realignment decision in October of ’15 or the closed session prior to that?” asked Romano.
“The answer to that is no. We never at any point discussed the purchase of vehicles,” said Provenzano.
Currently, Figliola said, 16 fire services staff share nine ‘pool’ vehicles.
With one existing pool vehicle being reassigned, 12 vehicles will soon be shared among 16 staff after procurement of the new vehicles.
Many councillors questioned if it was really a good time to purchase the vehicles, as the city is a cash crunch.
Earlier in the meeting, councillors learned the city is losing significant tax revenue as a result of tax assessment appeals by Canadian Tire and Home Depot.
The motion to buy the new vehicles narrowly passed.
Mayor Provenzano, Lou Turco, Frank Fata, Joe Krmpotich, Rick Niro, Marchy Bruni and Steve Butland voted in favour of the procurement of vehicles for fire services, while Paul Christian, Judy Hupponen, Sandra Hollingsworth, Matthew Shoemaker, Ross Romano and Susan Myers voted against.
The following is a selection of other decisions made during yesterday’s meeting of city council:
City councillors were presented with Canada 150 pins that have been customized for Sault Ste. Marie. “I think we have sold over 1000 of these pins and they are on reorder for another 1000,” said Susan Myers, councillor for Ward 2. A further reorder will likely be made closer to Canada Day festivities, she said.
City staff have been instructed to report back to council on the feasibility of creating a guideline which would see the planting of two trees on every time one tree is removed from municipal property.