Whistler Fire Rescue Services will shell out $1.5 million to replace two aging fire trucks, after getting the stamp of approval from council Monday night.
The current trucks will reach the end of their life span in 2010, said Fire Chief Rob Whitton at the final meeting of this council term. And delaying the decision even by a few months could mean the new vehicles are not in Whistler for the Olympics.
“The reason we are coming to you at this point in time is the delivery date would then be January 2010, since it takes approximately 400 days to manufacture this apparatus,” Whitton said.
He added that the $1.5 million figure is a good deal and getting a new cost estimate in a few months could boost the price.
Two councillors, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden and Eckhard Zeidler, did not give the purchase their blessing because of its large dollar figure.
“We have our challenges, and I would not be in the mood to buy a new car, if this was my own budget,” said Zeidler, adding that the money is equivalent to 5.3 per cent of the municipality’s annual operating budget. The fire trucks will be a capital purchase.
Wilhelm-Morden added that council should not be making such a decision at their last meeting.
“The budget discussion was a primary topic of the campaign, and I think the new council should be looking at these expenditures long and hard to determine if they want to spend $1.6 million on a new fire truck,” said Wilhelm-Morden.
She later added that the Olympics seem to be driving the decision.
Mayor Ken Melamed did not share these concerns.
“We are simply completing an existing policy so we don’t get stuck with a big bill at the end of the day,” said the mayor.
“If we do not purchase them this year, would the cost go up if we postpone it? Because it looks like we are getting a smoking good deal right now.”
Melamed also said having a fire truck that will not break down on the way to a call is not a bad idea when three billion eyes are watching Whistler in February 2010.
In a 5-2 vote, council opted to place a $5,000 box around the $1.5 million figure to make sure the purchase price is not pushed up too high when the trucks are fitted for Whistler’s fire department.
Once Whistler gets the new trucks, the old vehicles will go to another Canadian community, likely in Northern B.C. or Saskatchewan.