City considering grant, purchase of new aerial truck

City Commissioners will consider during their March 21 meeting whether to accept a grant and authorize the purchase of a new aerial truck for Great Falls Fire Rescue.

GFFR applied in 2021 for a Federal Emergency Management Agency Assistance to Firefighters grant.

At the time of the grant application, the cost for a new 107-foot aerial truck and equipment was an estimated $1.3 million and would require a 10 percent match from the city, or $130,000.

Since then, the cost has increased to about $1.6 million, according to GFFR.

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The new truck will replace the current 1996 75-foot aerial truck that has exceeded its service life, according to GFFR.

GFFR was notified that it was awarded $900,454 through the grant and is asking commissioners to accept the grant and approve the purchase of a new aerial truck not to exceed $1.6 million.

The city wasn’t awarded the full amount of its request because the grant program cannot award more than $990,500 since the city has a population under 100,000, according to GFFR.

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Fire Chief Jeremy Jones said that GFFR was never informed of that limit during the application process by FEMA and it wasn’t included in the application materials.

Because of that change, the city’s cost for the new aerial truck would be more than anticipated.

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Of the $900,454 grant award, the city will have to provide a 10 percent match of $90,045, according to GFFR.

The city will also have to fund the remaining balance of the $1.6 million cost.

The majority of those funds will come from the Central Garage reserves and GFFR’s current budget, according to city staff.

GFFR is working to identify some funds in its own budget, but a majority of the balance will need to come from the Central Garage reserves, according to staff.

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The city will use its cooperative purchasing agreement process through Sourcewell to purchase the new truck and staff is working with the company to locate a truck to purchase.

During the March 21 meeting, staff is asking commissioners to approve accepting the grant and the purchase so that once a truck is located, staff are able to generate the purchase order.

The city currently has two aerial apparatus in its fleet of emergency response vehicles.

The first is a 2009 Pierce 100-foot aerial apparatus that is a tandem axle vehicle meant to be staffed as part of the first due response to structure fires within the city, according to GFFR.

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Because of limited GFFR staffing resources, this apparatus is cross staffed with an engine company and is housed at Fire Station 2. Due to the size and maneuverability of this apparatus, it is not desirable to have this apparatus be an “all hazards” first due response unit in an outside district, according to GFFR.

The second aerial apparatus is a 1996 HME 75-foot Quint.

“This unit has had a long history of mechanical and structural deficiencies and has routinely been unavailable for service. Do to the unreliability of this apparatus, it has been placed in service only when the other apparatus is undergoing maintenance. This apparatus has been sent back to the factory for frame repairs and consistently has structural failures to its suspension system. Not having this apparatus available limits our response capabilities for fire alarm calls in the city,” according to the staff report.

Under the National Fire Protection Association guidelines, the 1996 aerial truck has surpassed its service life, according to staff, and the city has no funding mechanism to replace this vehicle through capital projects program or equipment revolving schedule.