Selling its ladder truck is one of the options Idyllwild Fire Commissioner and Finance Committee Chair Nancy Layton last week said will be considered to raise revenue or cut costs in the future.
Layton cited several reasons for the truck’s sale to benefit the IFPD. “It’s our high-priced flag pole,” she said at the Finance Committing meeting, smiling.
Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz confirmed later that “selling or trading the ladder truck” is an option being reviewed.
The ladder is subject to extremely high maintenance; these costs, as well as the costs for testing and inspections, are very high, according to Layton.
“We’re nearing the useful life expectancy of a ladder and expect to begin failing some tests,” she said. “The maintenance costs alone justified looking at alternatives.”
“The district is reviewing the impact the ladder truck has on the district’s [Insurance Service Office] rating and the options available to mitigate if the district were to sell or trade the ladder truck,” Reitz stressed.
Layton said the staff is investigating alternative equipment to solve this problem in other ways.
“We know the issue can be addressed from a technology basis,” Layton said.
The ladder truck is not the only IFPD asset that may go on the shopping block. One of the two older ambulances and the old “red” engine were also mentioned as possible assets that might be sold.
The other ambulance with 4-wheel drive would be kept as a backup. “This is frequently needed because of the long runs [transports to off-the-Hill hospitals] and wait time,” Layton stated.
The ladder truck was purchased in 2003 with a $500,000 grant to IFPD from former Riverside County 3rd District Supervisor Jim Venable’s funds.
The need for the ladder truck surfaced when IFPD was reviewing construction plan for Idyllwild Arts Foundation, which included the current dining hall and a possible four-story theater complex. IFPD wanted the school to pay $250,000 for a ladder truck.
The school balked at this fee and suggested the truck was only necessary when and if the theater complex were built and was not necessary for the dining hall. But IFPD was adamant. “We’re not deviating from the code. It’s [not] how IAF is trying to interpret the code. The interpretation of code is done by the authority having jurisdiction, which is IFPD,” the district argued at the time.
IFPD’s condition of approval for IAF’s master plan was: “This project (IAF) shall contribute to the IFPD fire mitigation 49 percent of the cost of fire equipment (ladder truck) up to a maximum of $250,000.”
But during meetings to mediate the differences between the school and the District, IFPD indicated it needed a ladder truck to ensure full capability for The Fort, according to Venable.
The action item from Venable to his board colleagues also said, “There are already structures in town that could use the capabilities of more advanced equipment than IFPD already owns … Also Idyllwild School, a K-12 (sic) facility, recently built a large gymnasium and a two-story classroom wing.”
Venable told the Town Crier that he had not been fully aware IFPD didn’t have good capability for the community. He offered half a million dollars if IFPD would supply the money for supplies on the truck.
This became the agreement, which was approved unanimously by the full Board of Supervisors on Aug. 19, 2003. The truck was ordered in January 2004 and arrived in Idyllwild in December 2004.