by David Croyle
Ford City’s 1984 Pierce Fire Engine may not be good enough to use in the Borough any longer, but soon it will be fighting fires in the Republic of Ecuador, South America.
Ford City Borough Council voted last night to sell the fire truck to “Engineer Fire USA” in Pound Ridge, New York.
The truck was decommissioned after the Borough purchased a new fire pumper truck last year at a cost of a half-million dollars. In 2010, Council raised taxes by 1.3 mills
beginning in 2011 to pay for the new truck. When the new truck arrived last
September, the 1984 truck was taken to a storage area awaiting its fate.
Although the fire truck had been advertised several times, no one had ever
offered a bid.
According to Engineer Fire USA General Manager Peter Lazaro, he saw the ad in a Pennsylvania firemen’s magazine last year and decided to inquire about the status of the truck.
“I was visiting my daughter in Morgantown (WV) at college, and I took advantage of her going shopping with my wife to shoot up there,” he said.
Lazaro met with Superintendent Larry Coffey and carefully examined the vehicle.
“He went and started it. We opened the door and he took it out (test drive), made a few comments, and he said it wouldn’t do them any good at that time. That was the last time I heard from him until here recently.”
Lazaro sent a letter to the Borough dated May 24, 2012 asking them to consider selling it to his organization for $5,000. They would ship the truck to the Dominican Republic for use there.
Lazaro is a fireman himself and runs a company that specializes in the exporting of emergency equipment to other countries.
“I do things for donors who buy older but still serviceable fire engines for their towns or their cities in Latin America,” he explained.
While the fire truck may not have the performance desired in Ford City, Lazaro said it is still very viable in other parts of the world.
“That vintage and that brand of truck – they are well made. Sometimes they need repairs but you can put them back in service and keep them in service for a relatively low cost.”
Lazaro said that although the initial plan was to ship the truck to the Dominican Republic, that opportunity has closed; however, there is a Rotary Club and a philanthropic donor that have supplied funds to send it to Guayaquil, Ecuador.
“What happens with these (vehicles) is that you are dealing with an audience of not only the local fire chief and department but also the donor and you have to please everybody. Sometimes the timing works against you.”
Although members of the previous council felt the truck was worth $20,000, Lazaro said that model typically brings between $4,000-$6,000 at municipal auctions.
Councilman Jerry Miklos questioned if it had been advertised in the proper venue. Borough Engineer Greg Scott confirmed that accepting the $5,000 bid would be prudent.
“If you tried the advertising media that was specifically geared for used fire equipment and that resulted in no bids, (selling it to this type of organization) would probably be your best bet.”
Council President Lou Vergari summed up his view.
“I would imagine in the United States, a 28-year-old fire truck to a lot of people may not be worth as much as it would be to some people in the Dominican Republic where they still carry buckets with water.”
Mayor Marc Mantini also encouraged sale of the truck for humanitarian reasons.
“If it goes there and does good for the people of that wretched island, then God bless the Borough of Ford City and the citizens and the fire department.”
When Councilman Rob Mohney made the motion to sell the truck to Lazaro’s group, a discussion followed on where the money would go – to the fire department or the borough. The previous council had made it clear that the money would be returned to the fire department, but Vergari had a different opinion.
“My opinion would be that it goes into the General Fund since we are the one that is taking the responsibility of taking over (the payment) of that fire truck.”
Mohney agreed with Vergari and included it in the motion. It was seconded by Councilman Gene Banks and approved by all. Council woman Kim Bish was absent.
The entire interview with Lazaro will be featured this morning at 10AM on the WTYM Morning Show. A rebroadcast of last night’s Ford City Council Meeting can be heard at 1PM on WTYM AM 1380 radio.