Elgin fire, police departments get new rides
By Mike Danahey firstname.lastname@example.org March 27, 2013 4:16PM
Firefighter Pierre Soulier shows how to load a gurnee onto one of the new ambulances Tuesday at Elgin Fire Station #7 in Elgin. March 26, 2013 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 29, 2013 10:55AM
ELGIN — Ambulances and two other new vehicles are on the way for the city’s Fire Department, while Elgin police have begun to receive 20 replacement vehicles for its fleet.
The four Wheeled Coach-brand ambulances were delivered Tuesday and, according to Fire Chief John Fahy, replace ones that were put in service in 2003 and 2004. The new units will take two weeks or so to ready for duty.
“The replacement policy for Elgin ambulances has been five years front line, then two years in reserve status, thus ensuring our community has reliable emergency response available,” Fahy said.
With the recession, however, the department “kept these older units on the road through diligent maintenance and service — but the vehicles all have had excessive downtime for repairs,” Fahy said. “We respond to close to 10,000 medical calls per year, and ambulance miles are hard miles. Emergency vehicles operate in very tough environments and take a beating in their normal wear and tear.”
The four ambulances cost a collective $608,324, and “even with the purchase of these vehicles, we have not returned to normal in the sense of how we purchase,” he said.
Fahy said that compared to the those being replaced, the new ambulances had to meet more-stringent safety requirements now in place such as netting to hold supplies in place and airbags.
They also had to meet EPA standards for diesel fuel. The vehicles come with GPS systems.
Each old ambulance is valued at $9,000, and Fahy said one went to public works to be converted to use with a sewer camera, one was traded in, and two wound up with the Police Department. Police will use one to be converted for use by evidence technicians and the other for use by the SWAT team.
By Friday, Fahy said, the fire department also should have a Quint Fire Apparatus, a three-in-one vehicle that is replacing a 1996 Seagrave fire engine. It will serve as an engine company and will be housed on the far-southwest side of Elgin at Station 7 at 3270 Longcommon Parkway.
According to Fahy, the vehicle will have all the features of a fire engine, with a full complement of fire hose and ground ladders, the ability to hold 500 gallons of water, and a 75-foot aerial ladder.
“This gives ladder coverage to the under-served southwest side of the city,” Fahy said. “Previously, a ladder company had to respond from either Station 1 on Summit Street or Station 2 on Big Timber. When this unit is put in service, it will be the first time in the history of the city that three aerial ladders will serve on a daily basis.”
Fahy also noted that this will be a fully equipped paramedic unit capable of delivering advanced life support service to the community.
While $900,000 was budgeted for purchasing a vehicle to be built from scratch, a demo model was found that cost about $714,250.
Fahy noted the fire department created two purchase committees with a mission to better get better value in its vehicle purchases.
“The result was a considerable savings over budgeted amounts and past purchases. For example, our new ambulances are using many more stock items and stock designs instead of custom building as was done in the past,” the chief said.
“We used stock cabinetry, stock lighting and stock utilities to greatly reduce the cost per unit. It’s estimated that we saved $40,000 per unit over custom building an ambulance. When purchasing four units at $152,000, we in essence got one free.”
For the Quint purchase, the committee looked at several dealer demos built by different manufacturers. The one purchased comes from Pierce Manufacturing of Appleton, Wis., and according to Fahy, “meets 85 percent or so of our requirements. With minor modifications done by the manufacturer, we were able to come up with a unit that will serve the community for over 15 years front line and five years in reserve. The unit is purchased as a new unit (and) comes with a two-year bumper-to-bumper warranty and is fully factory supported just as if we built from scratch.”
The department also recently replaced its battalion chief command vehicle, which is at Station 7. A 2013 Ford Expedition purchased for $32,353 took the place of a 2000 Chevy S-10 Blazer that served as a backup command vehicle. That vehicle has been decommissioned to public works as a non-emergency vehicle, Fahy said.
“This vehicle is probably the most used vehicle on the fire department, as the daily shift commander responds to all large incidents and visits all seven stations every day,” Fahy said.
The battalion chief SUV was purchased through the state’s purchasing cooperative that ensures the lowest price on vehicles going to Illinois municipalities, Fahy noted, adding the manufacturer’s list price was $40,605. It was purchased along with an Elgin police order, he said.
All told, the fire department — which operates out of seven stations — has seven paramedic engines, five ambulances and three aerial ladders, along specialized equipment that includes a brush fire truck, water rescue equipment, a technical rescue truck, a special-events Gator vehicle (small all-terrain utility vehicle), several reserve apparatus, a fire investigation vehicle and a mass casualty trailer.
Meanwhile, Lt. Dan O’Shea said Elgin Police Department received the first two of the 20 replacement vehicles it will be getting for its fleet of more than 100.
Gradually, the department will be getting 12 police-style Ford “Interceptor Utilities” (Explorers), two “Interceptors” (Tauruses), two Chevy Caprices, two unmarked investigator cars, and two specialty prisoner transport vans for about $700,000. O’Shea said this will be the first time that Elgin police will be using utility vehicles for beat patrols.
The move came about with last year being the final one Ford produced the Crown Victoria, the longtime favorite model for squad cars. As such, throughout 2012, Elgin police test-drove potential squads being offered by Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge, including trips to a test track in Joliet.
Police feel the all-wheel-drive Explorers will come in handy in winter and wet weather, O’Shea said. Elgin police also looked at natural gas vehicles but found a lack of accessibility to fuel at this point. And hybrid vehicles still remain less cost effective than ones with engines that just use gasoline.
Some of the vehicles were purchased through the state’s cooperative bidding program, with most coming through a suburban Chicago co-op, O’Shea said. The vans were put out to bid, with the winning one coming from Biggers Chevrolet in Elgin, he noted.
To complete the conversion for police use, the vehicles are brought to Ultra Strobe Communications in Crystal Lake. The squads come in all black, then have their doors painted white, O’Shea said.
Elgin police have been on a schedule to replace vehicles every two years. The old squads all had about 160,000 miles on them, and, with them being used pretty much all day, “really took a beating,” O’Shea said.
They all will wind up at auction, with the money brought in going back to the city.