Editor’s note: This story originally ran in the Friday, July 7, edition of The Chronicle-Tribune.
The city took out bonds last year to buy new police cars and a new fire truck, but even with the new vehicles, the need for newer equipment has not gone away.
In November 2016, the City Council approved taking out Series A and Series B bonds not to exceed $1.99 million and $700,000 respectively to help reduce city’s insurance fund and to purchase needed safety equipment.
Using the bond money, the city planned to purchase six vehicles for the Marion Police Department at a cost of $31,000 each and a new fire truck valued at $483,000 for the Marion Fire Department. The new vehicles helped, but the police department’s 84-vehicle fleet are still largely nine to 11 years old and have air-conditioning, brake problems and other maintenance issues, Deputy Chief Stephen Dorsey said.
“Some of them are costing us a lot of money to keep on the road, but we don’t have a choice because that’s what we have,” Police Chief Angela Haley said.
Marion’s Fire Department is in a similar situation.
Fire Chief Geoff Williams said the department’s backup fire trucks have various maintenance issues.
“We’re actually working on one right now,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to get that back in service.”
The department is receiving a new fire truck from the bond money, and it should arrive in late December. Until then, MFD is working hard to make sure available trucks function properly, Williams said.
“Every back-up truck is just old and has a lot of different issues,” he said, “Some are not worth putting money into … We’re hoping to get a few more years out of them. We just don’t want to be caught without a vehicle in a territory.”
He said they are making strides with preventative maintenance, but the faces a continual battle since the city is still lacking a formal replacement plan due to its finances.
Mayor Jess Alumbaugh said the city’s finances have presented challenges with replacing the aging vehicles, and he was disappointed the city couldn’t do more to help the police and fire departments.
“Finances in the city are challenging,” he said.
The police department has developed a maintenance and rotation plan for its fleet to help prevent major issues in the future.
“The whole city needs to get into a rotation with our equipment,” Haley said, “and make sure we’re taking care of the equipment we’re issued.”
Alumbaugh said MPD and MFD do well with the vehicles they have, but the issue of aging equipment needs to be addressed further.
“We have to figure out a way to have some kind of maintenance system in place,” he said. “With these financial challenges, (unexpected expenses) still won’t be easy to deal with. The city can only do what the city can do right now. We have to deal with older equipment than we’d like to.”