North Branch purchases new fire truck

New North Branch police officer Kyle Lund was sworn in for duty at the start of the May 14 city council meeting.

The city of North Branch will be getting a long-overdue addition to their fire department’s fleet.

During the May 14 meeting, the North Branch city council unanimously approved the purchase of a new fire engine.

“We have been looking at and planning for and trying to get the purchase of a new engine for many years,” fire chief Kevin Grote told the council. “It’s been pushed back due to budget cuts in the past.”

According to Grote, the newest engine the department currently has is from 2001, but other of their trucks are as old from 1989.

Grote said that after looking at a few options that fit within their price range, the department chose to go with one that will hold 2,500 gallons of water, compared to their current trucks that will only hold 700-1,000 gallons.

“It’s like bringing an engine plus a tanker to the scene,” Grote said.

Grote also said the new engine would be almost identical to their other engine from the standpoint of controls, so the members of the department would be familiar with using it right away.

City administrator Renae Fry told the council she consulted with now-former finance director Richard Hill to figure out how to pay for the new engine. According to Fry, the city set a limit of $420,000 based on projected monthly payments. This new truck will cost $506,000, with the additional money coming from the Fire Department Relief Association’s funds collected through charitable gaming.

Fry said at that purchase price, the yearly payments would be “levy neutral” as they would be equal to the yearly payments on the SCBA equipment, which are due to be paid off in 2021. 

Fry added that the first payment for the new fire engine would not be due until one year after delivery of the engine. Since the company doesn’t start building the engine until a purchase order is received, the completed engine won’t be delivered until the spring of 2020.

“The company that will be building the engine introduced us to a bank in Kansas who put         together a funding proposal,” Fry said. “And in their proposal, they would advance a down payment that will be due in about four months when the chassis is delivered to Custom Fire. And they will advance the balance of the funds when the fire truck is complete. 

“I will let you know I contacted three local banks to see if they could provide us with better terms,” Fry said. “When I presented the terms to them, (one of them) laughed and said, ‘Take it and run with it. I can’t come anywhere close.’”

Other council action

In other action, the council:

• designated mayor Jim Swenson and council member Kelly Neider to conduct the interviews of the semifinalists for the vacant financial director position.

• approved the resignation of Laurie Warner from the planning commission. At the same time, the council voted to appoint Patrick Meacham to the planning commission. According to Fry, Meacham was one of two who had applied for a vacant planning commission seat in April, but the council chose the other applicant. When reached, Meacham indicated he was still interested in being on the commission.

• heard from community development director Carla Vita that staff was preparing to update the city’s zoning codes. According to Vita, this will be a multi-stage project; however, it will not be presented to the council until it is 100% completed. She will keep the council up-to-date as the process goes forward.

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