Camas Council approves loan for new ambulance

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Last night, the Camas City Council approved an ordinance that will help facilitate the purchase of a new ambulance for the Camas-Washougal Fire Department.

Funding for the $174,046 vehicle will come from a six-year, 1.25 percent interest loan from the state Local Option Capital Lending program.

Fire Chief Nick Swinhart recommended this option, rather than using the $150,000 earmarked for the purchase in the 2013 budget.

“We feel that it makes more sense right now to utilize the state loan program,” Swinhart said. “The interest rates are so low that it is nearly like borrowing money for free. That allows us to keep reserves a little more intact.”

Councilman Don Chaney further questioned why the city should borrow the money, when the cash is available.

City Administrator Nina Regor responded that an agency might want to take advantage of a low interest rate on a short-term loan to provide some cushion to a fund that can be “tight.”

The city’s EMS Fund is historically one of those funds. It is supported by voter-approved EMS levies, which means it is impacted by declines in assessed property values.

“If we can provide relief to that fund, and it makes sense, then that might be another option to provide relief over time,” she said.

On June 17, the Council ultimately gave its unanimous stamp of approval to move forward with the loan.

Then on Monday, it approved an ordinance and two documents that authorize the city to participate in the state LOCAL loan program.

The base cost for the 2013 North Star 155-1 ambulance on a 2013 Ford F350 4 by 4 ambulance prep chassis is $137,549. Camas will be adding some computers and communication devices for an additional cost of $6,041, and a LifePak heart monitor for an extra $30,455.

The new vehicle will be provided by Chehalis based company Braun NW, Inc., through a bid that was originally solicited by North Country EMS of Yacolt. Camas has opted to “piggyback” on that bid.

Division Chief of EMS Cliff Free said utilizing the state loan program and the piggyback make sense.

“This does present an opportunity to use less of our capital to get what we need, and then with the piggyback to actually reduce the cost to the city and the service,” Free said.

As part of the purchase, two of Camas’ old ambulances — one a 2001 model with 166,505 miles on it and another a 2002 model with 158,000 miles — will be traded in for credits of $2,000 each. The older ambulance has already been rebuilt once using 1992 ambulance box.

“We have done what we could to hold it together with bailing wire and duct tape,” Free joked.

Free said he is hoping the new ambulance can last up to 10 years. The average life span for a “first out” ambulance is five to six years.

The new ambulance is expected to arrive within about six months. Once it arrives, the city will have a total of three in its fleet.

Chaney requested that the City Council be informed if the fire department decides to use the $150,000 originally earmarked in the budget for the ambulance.

“I would ask that if any of that money is used between now and the end of the year, that we have the opportunity to approve that,” Chaney said.