Springfield plans to spend $1.1M to upgrade aging vehicles

The vehicle purchases include new police cruisers, investigation bureau vehicles and snow plows. The Springfield Fire/Rescue Division also hopes to receive a grant to replace a 25-year-old fire engine.

“I believe that we’re still lagging behind in replacing vehicles,” Springfield Finance Director Mark Beckdahl said. “Many of our vehicles date back to being over 10 years old. We’re trying to make the best use of those dollars we can. We stretch those vehicles out as long as we can, sometimes even past their useful life.”

The city has focused on paying down debt with its capital money instead of buying vehicles or making other improvements, Beckdahl said. The city is projected to spend about $1.65 million on debt in 2015, nearly 23 percent of its capital expenditures.

The debt is expected to be paid down in the coming years, he said, leaving more money for permanent improvements.

About $813,000 of the total vehicle costs will be paid for with either local capital dollars or EMS billing revenue. The remainder will be grant money.

The police division will receive nine new vehicles, including five cruisers and four investigation bureau vehicles at a cost of about $225,000. They also hope to receive about $12,000 in grant money to pay for the vehicles.

The city service department will replace three dump trucks, including two for street maintenance and another for the forestry department.

“Any time we can upgrade something in the fleet, it really helps our operation,” City Service Director Chris Moore said.

The city has 19 large trucks, including 12 that are 10 years or older, Moore said. The three new trucks will replace older models all built in the 1990s, including one that’s 20 years old.

Vehicle maintenance costs typically rise after seven years, Moore said, but a good life cycle is about 10 years. The city’s fleet has about 400 licensed vehicles and about 100 off-road vehicles, including mowers and other types of equipment with motors.

With tight resources, he said the city does its best to keep vehicles in top condition. Instead of spending money on new vehicles, Moore said the service center employees get creative to save money.

For example, the department plans to spend $30,000 to replace a cab and chassis for a road paint marker truck. The paint equipment is about five years old and will be installed on the new cab and chassis, Moore said. It would cost about $180,000 to purchase a new truck.

“It should get us a ton of useful life,” Moore said. “The truck doesn’t drive a lot of miles.”

The department also plans to spend $17,000 on new lift-gate equipment for a traffic signal truck with a newer cab and chassis.

“These things make sense,” Moore said. “There’s no reason to replace a vehicle just because the vehicle replacement plan says you should.”

The fire division has applied for a Federal Emergency Management Agency Assistance to Firefighters grant for the purchase of a fire engine, at a cost of about $460,000. The grant would pay for about $360,000, with the rest coming from EMS billing revenue.

If approved, the new fire engine would replace one that’s more than 25 years old with 150,000 miles.

The fire division is also purchasing a used, 2001 ladder truck for about $200,000. The vehicle will replace a 1996 model that had motor failure this summer and cannot be put back into service.

The typical cost for a new ladder truck is $800,000 to $1 million, Springfield Fire Chief Nick Heimlich said in an e-mail to the Springfield News-Sun. The used ladder truck, purchased from the Brunswick Hills Twp. Fire Department, has about 21,000 miles and should last for about eight years, Heimlich said.

“When budgets are tight, deferring purchases of such magnitude are always one of the first measures undertaken,” he said. “We are concerned that the aging of the fleet cannot be supported indefinitely. In response to that, we are taking measures such as the used ladder purchase and another used ambulance purchase that we made this year to attempt to manage those concerns.”