In a three-hour meeting repeatedly punctuated by the pounding of Commission Chairwoman Kim Carney’s gavel as she implored an unruly audience to stay quiet, the Flagler Beach City Commission voted 4-1, with Carney dissenting, to buy a $600,000 fire truck called a quint. The truck will have to be built by manufacturer Rosenbauer, a process that could take about a year.
The Oct. 13 meeting wasn’t a regular commission meeting, and it hadn’t been called for the purpose of a vote on a fire truck.
Mayor Linda Provencher had requested the special Oct. 13 meeting, she said, to learn more about the city’s options in purchasing a new truck for the fire department. A $600,000 Rosenbauer quint demonstration model whose potential purchase had divided the commission earlier this year was, as revealed during a Sept. 25 meeting, sold to another buyer, and Provencher envisioned the meeting as a chance to talk about other options.
But the fire department still wanted a truck, and Rosenbauer offered another truck deal for $558,869, plus an additional $90,000 in upgrades requested by the fire department. And Flagler Beach City Manager Bob Campbell, who recently submitted his resignation letter, placed a vote on the truck purchase on the meeting agenda.
But at the meeting, Provencher asked her fellow council members to delay that vote. She’d spoken to other experts, she said, and they’d questioned the wisdom of wisdom of the city’s possible quint purchase. “I mean, question after question, and I don’t know how to answer them,” she said. “I’m asking you with all the information that we’ve heard tonight, to not vote to move forward with this purchase.”
Provencher said after the meeting that she had asked three experts from fire departments in Jacksonville, Orlando and Palatka — all of them, she said, “very critical” of the quint purchase — to speak at the meeting. None were able to come. She wanted to cancel the meeting so it could be rescheduled, but by then it was too late to do so, she said.
About a dozen people spoke during meeting’s comment period. One, a fire department lieutenant who has spoken repeatedly at the many meetings about the truck purchase, spoke in favor of buying the quint. Another said he trusted that the commission’s decision, whichever way the vote went, would be the right one. The rest of the speakers denounced the purchase.
A representative from quint manufacturer Rosenbauer, Paul Stephenson, was on hand to answer questions, telling commissioners and roughly 45 audience members that the quint met the city’s needs.
“If you look across Florida, this is the most versatile product you can get,” he said.
Carney said the department wouldn’t be able to staff the truck to National Fire Protection Association standards which generally recommend four firefighters to a truck. The Flagler Beach Fire Department would be using the quint with two firefighters, she said.
“There is not once piece of literature that says there are two people on a fire truck heading to a fire truck anywhere in the world,” she said.
Stephenson said that although the professional standards for actually fighting fires recommend more staff, the truck itself can be set up by one firefighter.
There was a barrage of other questions from Carney, who questioned everything from the kind of metal used in the chassis, to which other cities had Rosenbauer quints and could vouch for them, to why the model the city would get had two seats removed for medical storage.
Stephenson answered them, and commissioners Joy McGrew, Marshall Shupe and Steve Settle were satisfied with his answers. Carney was not. Neither was Provencher, who said she was dismayed that the commission had been told the fire truck issue would go through the request for proposal process, when it did not.
Provencher told Campbell she had not heard the endorsements she’d like to hear from other departments that have Rosenbauer quints.
“What I asked from the very beginning, I said ‘Bruce, you haven’t brought me one person, not one person could you bring to me from outside this fire department” who endorsed the truck, she said.
Provencher said she had voted to buy the now-ailing tower truck whose maintenance problems partially prompted consideration of the quint because “the fire department said, ‘We have to have this truck,’ …When I die it will be on my tombstone that ‘she bought the ladder truck they didn’t need.’” She said she didn’t want to make the same mistake again.
Commissioner Settle brought a motion to approve the purchase, and commissioner Marshall Shupe seconded his motion before the 4-1 vote.
“I was hoping, and I thought with the information I planned to have and the people I planned to have here, that they would not vote in the way that they voted this evening,” Provencher said after the meeting.
City Manager Bob Campbell resigns
In a letter dated Sept. 29 and addressed to the Flagler Beach City Commission and mayor, Flagler Beach City Manager Bruce Campbell said he had decided not to negotiate a new contract with the city after his current contract ends Nov. 9.
He wrote that he will remain in his current position beyond Sept. 9, if necessary, until the commission hires a replacement.
Campbell’s letter thanked the city current commissioners, Mayor Provencher, ex-commissioner John Feind and former Mayor Alice Baker “for the opportunity to serve our City, its residents and all of our visitors during these past years,” but did not state a reason for his resignation.
“Obviously, my decision not to renew my employment contract was only reached after much thoughtful consideration,” he wrote. “As difficult as it has been to contemplate, it is even more difficult to write about or say out loud. However, for me personally it is the correct outcome.”
To view a copy of Campbell's letter, click here.