On Nov. 10, Long had reported that the fire department’s current brush truck, an 1980s Chevy pickup on loan from the DNR, was becoming a maintenance liability, and the fire board was interested in buying a replacement vehicle out of donated funds.
At that time, council member Erika Randall urged Long to seek council approval for the purchase, to document what the city is and have it listed on the city’s insurance policy. Citing past issues with city vehicles being purchased without the council’s knowledge, she said that even without using budgetary funds to buy it, the city will be responsible for the new vehicle.
Long reported Nov. 24 that a local dealer had offered a good price on a new truck, and his committee decided to order it.
“I was pleasantly surprised with the price on it,” he said. “It’s going to be a brand new truck, so we’ll get some warranty with it. I think that will be a good replacement for a long time.”
Recalling what she said Nov. 10, Randall said, “I do feel like we need to approve in the general business or in the consent agenda, so that there’s documentation, because now, we, the city, are going to be paying insurance on a brand new vehicle.”
Mayor Ryan Leckner, who missed the Nov. 10 meeting, took responsibility for advising Long about how to bring the matter to the council.
“I specifically asked that there would be something in writing, at the last meeting,” said Randall, “I understand that (the purchase) doesn’t affect the budget, but it does impact the city’s position because of the insurance.”
Acknowledging that the council often approves actions already taken, she said, “I’m pretty frustrated on how it’s coming back to us.” She urged that an approval request be presented at the council’s next meeting.
Council member Tom Conway suggested approving the purchase on the Dec. 8 consent agenda. He also made a motion, later withdrawn without a second, to allow the purchase to go forward now, pending approval Dec. 8.
Leckner said the fire department is ordering the vehicle, but it may not be ready for purchase until spring.
“There is a bit of a timetable here,” Long agreed, but he stressed, “There’s no taxpayer money. This is donated money. My understanding at the last meeting was, you asked me to bring it back before we purchased it, so you’d know what we’re doing, and I understand that to some extent. But I guess I don’t understand the fact that you want to approve our purchase of it.”
Acknowledging Randall’s concern about insurance, Long defended the need to replace a 35-year-old truck “that if that goes down, that would be your budget to repair.”
“I don’t know that we need to get into a debate about this,” said Randall, “but I feel like it was very clear last time, about what the expectation was, and that it would be brought back so that there’s documentation about what you’re requesting. And so, to keep saying that there’s no cost to the taxpayers is not an accurate statement. I’m gonna say it now for the sixth time, that there is a cost to the taxpayers, and that’s the ongoing insurance.”
Randall said Long could go ahead and order the vehicle, “as long as there is something in writing on the consent agenda on Dec. 8 about what you bought, what the purchase price was, and what the vehicle is, so that we have documentation about a vehicle that the city now is going to own. We approve the purchase of every other vehicle in this fashion, for every other department, whether it’s with grant monies or whether it’s with city money.”
Long said he recalled Randall saying on Nov. 10 that the council didn’t need a price on the vehicle, but did want to know what the fire department decided to do. “Now you’re saying that you need not only a price, but you need a price written and to be approved.”
“It sounds like you’ll have one for the consent agenda,” said Randall, “because you’ve located a vehicle. I did say that if you didn’t have a price. But I still said that there needed to be something in writing about what you were looking to buy.”
“So, if you order it, we’ll have a nice description and a cost, and we’ll put that on the consent agenda,” said interim city administrator Betty Thomsen.