The Nikiski Fire Department wants to replace three aging fire trucks with two new tankers and redirect funding to the trucks from a project to develop a new district watering point no longer deemed necessary.
Ordinance 2005-19-34, introduced by Mayor John Williams at the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting Dec. 6 would accomplish those goals. A public hearing on the proposal to shift $50,000 from the watering point project and add it to the previously appropriated $250,000 for a tanker is scheduled for Jan. 3.
With the combined $300,000, the fire department would be able to buy two tankers, which would replace a pumper and two tankers manufactured in 1954, 1958 and 1982, respectively.
In a memo to acting Finance Director Craig Chapman, Nikiski Fire Chief Fred Swen said the Nikiski Fire Service Area Board approved the moves at its Nov. 9 meeting.
In 2003, former chief Dan Gregory requested funding to establish new watering points, locations, such as ponds, from which water may be drawn. At the time, it appeared a possible land sale might interrupt access to the one static watering point available, a pond outfitted with piping allowing trucks to siphon water into tankers. Gregory anticipated the need to find and develop a new the watering point.
No sale has taken place, however, and Chief Swen said he believed the department would be better off waiting to see if any future land sale led to problems with a new owner and deal with it then. That would seem unlikely, he said.
“I believe it would be in the best interest of any owner to have the water point on site for the Nikiski Fire Department’s use and property insurance purposes,” Swen said.
The proposed new tankers would have a capacity of 4,400 gallons, some 400 gallons less than the existing two tankers. Swen said Tuesday that loss of capacity would pose no problems.
He noted that savings could be realized in having one less truck to maintain, newer vehicles, reduced insurance premiums and, because the two new tankers would be identical, less cost in stocking spare parts.
The $250,000 for a single tanker was appropriated early this year through Ordinance 2005-19-01. Sticking with the one-tanker plan outlined in the 2005 budget would mean spending tax dollars “for an excessive amount of bells and whistles,” Swen said. Buying two tankers would allow the department to upgrade the fleet in the most cost-efficient manner, he said.
The Nikiski watering point provides a convenient source of water but the fire department normally fills its tankers at the Agrium, ConocoPhillips and Tesoro plants.
“They accept that and we have a good working relationship with them,” Swen said.
Swen said visiting and discussing fire fighting issues with industrial plant officials was one of the first things he did after assuming his post as fire chief Sept. 8.
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