WATERTOWN — The city is forgoing a traditional bidding process to procure a $1.4 million new ladder truck for the fire department.
Instead of seeking multiple bids to weigh them against each other, the city is using a purchasing co-op to buy the next aerial truck.
City Manager Kenneth A. Mix said the co-op will allow the city to avoid the tedious task of preparing a bid to buy the vehicle. Traditionally a municipality would accept multiple bids for a purchase and weigh them against each other, a process that is public and allows taxpayers to understand the options.
The new ladder truck would replace an E-One aerial that has been in operation since 1986. The 2004 Pierce ladder truck would then be used as a backup. The purchase is included in the city’s 2020-21 capital budget.
Fire department officials have been talking about purchasing a new ladder truck for about five years because of skyrocketing costs to repair the department’s two aerial trucks.
Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith said Monday night that a resident called him and asked him why the city wasn’t going through the traditional bidding process for this truck.
Under the new method to purchase the ladder truck, the city is going through the Houston-Galveston Area Council purchasing cooperative to arrange for the purchase, instead of a bidding process that would take an additional six months to prepare, Mr. Mix said.
The Houston-Galveston Area Council, according to its website, is the “regional organization through which local governments consider issues and cooperate in solving area wide problems.” It is based in Texas.
“It’s a different kind of bidding process,” Mr. Mix said.
In November 2019, the City Council approved buying the truck through this process, he said.
City Attorney Robert J. Slye said he researched the co-op method, determining it was legal under general municipal law, he told council members.
“Instead of building a truck from the ground up,” the national co-op can be used, he said, adding that the city “should take advantage of cheaper prices. It’s something we ought to do.”
Under the process, purchasing manager Dale Morrow said the city is working with the closest vendor in the area to select a new truck.
While the city has not used the process before, several fire departments in the area have, she said. It will still take between 12 to 18 months before the aerial truck can be delivered to the city.
The City Council on Monday night took no action on plans to buy the ladder truck.
With a vacancy on council, City Council members didn’t approve a $1.4 million bond ordinance to purchase the aerial truck, so they could not use “unanimous consent,” or five votes, to proceed. The vote on the bonding is expected to be held April 19.
Last year, a Pennsylvania company, Ariel Testing, determined that more repairs are needed to the 2004 Pierce truck, and it would cost at least another $500,000 because its chassis must be replaced.