River Forest buys own ladder truck, ends truck-sharing deal with Oak Park
River Forest is preparing to purchase a new Quint 75 ladder truck for the fire department. The vehicle costs $650,000. | Provided
A decision by River Forest officials to end an agreement with Oak Park on sharing a fire department ladder truck could cost Oak Park a lot of money.
River Forest has decided to buy its own ladder truck, a move one official called a simple business decision.
But for Oak Park, it could mean paying the entire cost to replace the current shared truck, a 100-foot-ladder model purchased under a 1999 agreement with River Forest. That truck is scheduled to go out of service next year; new models cost $750,000 to $1.2 million.
At their Feb. 4 meeting, Oak Park village trustees expressed concern that the village had missed an opportunity to save money by sharing the costs of a new fire ladder truck with River Forest.
On Friday, River Forest Village Administrator Eric Palm said the decision was simple economics.
Oak Park Trustee Ray Johnson and others expressed surprise at River Forest’s decision.
“I read that River Forest has moved forward with buying a Quint ladder truck at a very significant cost, when the previous fire truck was purchased jointly,” said Johnson, who serves on the board’s intergovernmental cooperation committee.
Johnson asked Village Manager Cara Pavlicek to check with River Forest officials for more information as to why the village decided to go it alone.
“(Palm) did call me to let me know decision would be made,” Pavlicek told the village board. “But he didn’t get into the philosophical details.”
This Monday night, after Forest Leaves deadlines, the River Forest village board was scheduled to vote on an ordinance to give 18 months formal notice to Oak Park that it was withdrawing from that 1999 intergovernmental agreement.
Palm called the move “a business decision” based on what was both best for the village financially and in terms of operational preparedness.
Under that 1999 agreement, the two villages shared the purchase and maintenance costs for a 100-foot ladder truck. That truck will go out of service in 2014, at which time, under the deal, the two villages would have together purchased a new truck to share.
Palm said the choice was between splitting costs with Oak Park on a new 100-foot ladder truck that would cost at least $750,000 and likely $1 million to $1.2 million, or buy a new Quint truck with a 75-foot ladder.
“It was already in the IGA that we would pay $500,000 for the new 100-foor ladder and half the maintenance,” he said.
The Quint 75 model is both smaller and more maneuverable than the standard 100-foot model, and costs just $650,000.
Palm said basic operation in town requires three pieces of apparatus, as does participation in the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System.
Palm noted that in early 2012, the fire department had a 2001 model primary engine that was backed up by a 1992 model engine. The department’s third apparatus was a 1982 ladder truck on loan from Oak Park.
“It got to a point where our fire chief wasn’t comfortable with his men using” the 1982 apparatus, Palm said. That left the village with little operational cushion.
“If one of our engines goes down, we’re at a bare minimum,” Palm said.
Palm said the village has access to a 100-footer in the rare event it’s needed. Everyone in the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System has one, he noted.
“From my perspective, (with the Quint 75-footer) we’d be providing MABAS something they don’t have.”
Meanwhile, Oak Park officials are looking at the financial ramifications of River Forest’s withdrawal from the agreement. Pavlicek said she expected to be able to report back to the board soon.