On Thursday night, the Holmen Area Fire Department Fire Board approved the purchase of a new combination fire truck in a 4-2 vote in a special meeting.
Residents impacted by the purchase had an opportunity to address the board. Although everyone at the meeting agreed that there is a need for a new engine, many question the financing and the timing.
The Holmen Area Fire Department serves residents in the Town of Onalaska and the Town of Holland along with those in the Village of Holmen. Each municipality gets a vote in the decisions made at the department, including the purchase of a new fire truck.
The Holmen Area Fire Department Fire Board voted to approve the purchase agreement for the Pierce 110 Quint engine last Wednesday in a 4-2 vote. On Friday, both the Town of Onalaska and the Village of Holmen boards unanimously voted for the new fire engine. The Town of Holland voted unanimously against for financing reasons.
The price tag of the fire engine is just under $861,000. That caused some concern among officials in the Town of Holland, as each municipality would be responsible for one-third of the cost.
During the meeting on Thursday night, board members from the Town of Holland urged the Holmen Area Fire Department Fire Board to consider other financing options such as entering into a leasing agreement or using money set aside in the capital budget.
"We tried to smooth out some of those differences thinking that the capital budget that was set up would eliminate the surprise bills of, 'Here's a million dollar truck. Figure out a way to pay for it,'" said Bob Stupi of the Town of Holland. "That's the way it had been going for years and years and years. It is ultimately a burden on our taxpayers."
The cost for each municipality is nearly $287,000. That funding is in addition to the money required for the capital budget which is $25,000 per municipality plus 2-percent from resident taxes.
Steve Johnston, a Village of Holmen Board Member and President of the Holmen Area Fire Department Fire Board, says the capital budget needs to be used for other department costs.
"There are certain restrictions on the budget," Johnston said. "So, if we were to take the approach, 'Let's get all the money in the bank,' that could take a very long time. Nobody is going to protect your fire safety better than your own community."
The combination fire truck is replacing a ladder engine that is 30 years old. It is being built by Pierce Manufacturing in Appleton and is expected to be at the Holmen Area Fire Department in July.