City approves $1.3 million in ARPA funds to refurbish fire engines

Great Falls Fire Rescue is using $1.3 million in federal COVID relief funds to refurbish three fire engines.

City Commissioners unanimously approved a contract during their May 3 meeting with Hughes Fire Equipment to refurbish the engines at the Pierce Manufacturing Service Center in Appleton, Wisc.

The city purchased the three 2004 Pierce Enforcer Engines in 2004 and they have been reliable vehicles, according to GFFR, but due to normal usage and wear, they’re nearing the end of their service life.

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“Without major refurbishment, they will need to be replaced in the next couple years,” according to GFFR’s staff report.

GFFR Fire Chief Jeremy Jones told commissioners during the May 3 meeting that refurbishing the engines is the most cost-effective move for the city as purchasing new engines would cost about $750,000 each.

Hughes Fire Equipment’s office is in Spokane and is the sole licensed vehicle dealer and coordinator or repair/refurbishment services for Pierce in Montana, according to the staff report.

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Hughes handles preliminary estimates, scheduling and contracting for maintenance services by Pierce to Pierce engine owners in Montana, according to GFFR.

Based on the agreement approved by commissioners, GFFR will send the first engine for refurbishment in about six months. When work on the first engine is completed and approved by GFFR, city firefighters will drive the second engine to Appleton and bring the first one back to Great Falls. The same process will happen once the second one is done and transporting the third to the service center.

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The three engines should be refurbished within a year, according to GFFR.

GFFR will have enough engines to staff the city since the agency purchased another fire engine in 2020 with a federal Community Development Block Grant.

With that engine, the city’s fleet is above their minimum needs, according to GFFR, and will be able to handle the day-to-day responses and have engines in reserve in the event of a large event.

Refurbishing the engines is expected to add another 10-15 years to their service life.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, frontline apparatus should be in service no longer than seven years before being placed in reserve. The average service life for a fire engine in both frontline and reserve status is 25 years, according to the NFPA.

“This expense is an appropriate usage of ARPA funds. ARPA allows a municipality to use up to $10 million of its total allocation for ‘government services,’ This is the most flexible eligibility category under ARPA. All expenses related to ‘any service traditionally offered by a government’ will be considered eligible,” according to the staff report.

Using ARPA funds reduces the need for a future capital expense for GFFR from their general fund dollars, according to city staff.