At last week's meeting of the Bingen City Council, members voted unanimously to start the bidding process for the city's new fire truck.
Bingen Fire Chief Louis Geschwint told members of the council that a decision on what specific type of truck to be ordered had to be made soon.
"We need to decide on the type of truck we want by the middle of April," Geschwint said. "That would turn the truck around to roll into Bingen, all spanking new, hopefully in October."
Geschwint added that the purchase was a very important one for the city and for the Bingen Fire Department.
"You're talking about a 30-year investment here," Geschwint said.
The truck itself has a price tag of $235,700, with $28,715 worth of equipment added on. Sales tax totals $19,717, for a total anticipated cost to the city of $279,116.
Of that figure, a Federal Emergency Management Administration grant will pay $180,000.
In addition to the cost for the truck, the exhaust equipment in one of the truck bays at the new fire hall would have to be modified to accommodate the new rig.
"That's probably 10 grand worth of work," Mayor Brian Prigel said.
Prigel said that when the new truck arrives, the city would consider stationing one of the older rigs on the other side of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad line.
"There is a potential for blockage at the railroad tracks," he explained. "We'd like to have a satellite facility on the other side of the tracks, to allow us to fight a fire from both sides [if there is a derailment]."
The Fire Department currently has a 1977 pumper, a 1969 pumper, a tanker, and a Jeep designed to fight grass fires.
There is also a 1957-era pumper at the city shops adjacent to the wastewater plant, but it is in poor condition.
"We need a minium of two pumpers. The key word is coverage," Geschwint said.
Geschwint asked the council to authorize moving forward with the bid process, and the council voted 5-0 to go forward.
Geschwint also pointed out that the city's current insurance rating is a "seven," and the capabilities of the new truck could push the rating to a "six."
"This will enhance us to get the lower rating," Geschwint explained. "It will do a lot toward that, believe me it will."
The reduced rating would result in lower home insurance rates for city residents.
Fire officials also pointed out that the department needs more firefighters.
"The force currently has 10 members, with two more being trained now," Geschwint said. "Of those 10, only seven are actively involved, and we're seeking more people."
To qualify for the Bingen Fire Department, applicants have to be 21, in good physical health, and have no medical or alcohol problems.
"It's like applying for any job," Geschwint said.
In addition, Geschwint pointed out that the current members of the Fire Department vote on whether to accept or deny any applicant from serving.