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Fire departments join forces to purchase trucks, save tax dollars

By: Jim Erickson

Area fire departments are finding that while there is strength in numbers, bigger numbers also have the potential to save money.

Three West County departments are joining together to seek bid proposals on rescue-pumper fire trucks needed for their respective operations. A fourth may join the group before the bid requests are released.

At the July 6 meeting of the West County EMS and Fire Protection District Board, directors approved seeking bids for the new equipment. The Des Peres and Frontenac fire departments also are joining the process, as both also are in the market for new vehicles.

According to West County Deputy Chief Dave Frazier, each department will be able to specify its own paint color scheme on the truck it receives. However, the three entities worked together to draft a common set of specifications to be used in seeking the truck bids.

New rescue pumpers generally are priced in the $500,000 to $600,000 range, depending on what factory-installed equipment is ordered. The savings generated by buying the three vehicles, and possibly a fourth, at one time presumably won’t be known until specific proposals are received.

Des Peres Chief Keith Krumm said that, while the proposed buy is the first involving fire trucks, it is not that city’s first collaboration. “Many years ago,” the city took part in a group purchase of ambulances, Krumm said. Likewise, the three departments teamed up earlier this year with counterparts in Brentwood, Valley Park and Central County in St. Charles County to buy self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) equipment. As is the case with the trucks, the participating departments agreed on a common set of specifications for the SCBA gear. Tim Dorsey, West County deputy chief, said that purchase was an offshoot of joint training exercises, which revealed differences in the equipment used by the various departments. Everyone having gear that works the same way can be crucial when firefighters from different entities are working side by side on a major fire or other disaster, he noted.

Frontenac Chief Jack Trout said joint purchase efforts mesh well with urgings from city officials “to think outside the box” in finding ways to provide equal or better services with fewer taxpayer dollars. Because West County and Frontenac firefighters have trained together, making joint purchases was “right up our alley,” Trout said.

“These kinds of things also build better working relationships,” he said.

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