By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
Ensuring that due process is followed is what members of the Porter Fire Department and two Quay County commissioners want to see in the proposed purchase of a $150,000 tanker truck.
At the beginning of Monday’s regular commission meeting, Porter Assistant Fire Chief Nathan Wallace and volunteer firefighter Steve Kent, asked commissioners to remove the request for the purchase of a tanker truck because such a purchase had not been approved by the department.
Porter’s current tanker truck does not meet National Fire Protection Association requirements and the State Fire Marshall has said it must be replaced, said Quay County Fire Marshal Donald Adams.
Adams and Porter Fire Chief Austin Gibson approached the commission about the need to buy the tanker that will be part of a discounted deal from Midwest Fire.
Adams said along with the Porter tanker, the Quay County Fire Department will receive a tanker truck at a discounted price. He said this current price quote is time sensitive and needs approval soon.
Gibson said he recommended the purchase of the tanker that will allow the department to haul more water into the field and will help to reduce the department’s Insurance Services Organization’s rating. He said a reduced ISO will cut insurance rates for residents.
Wallace said the tanker truck is not a sensible purchase for the department. He said he had objected to a new tanker truck during a meeting where a vote to approve the purchase died.
“It’s about following the proper protocol; there must be an official vote that is on the record and in the minutes,” Kent said. “You simply can not go around cherry picking items to go before the commission.”
Unless the department has bylaws in place that state otherwise, in most cases the decision to purchase equipment can be made by the fire chief, said District 2 Commissioner Mike Cherry.
Cherry said the existing tanker will not be approved by the state fire marshal. He said the emphasis should be to have it replaced.
Gibson said after the vote failed, he contacted members of the department to get their approval for the purchase of the tanker.
Kent said the issue is not about the need for a new tanker truck; it’s about the proper steps being taken to acquire the truck.
“I think Gibson has done an outstanding job as fire chief and hope we are still friends when we walk out of this meeting,” Kent said. “All Wallace or I ask is that if this goes before the commission it needs to go before them by the book.”
The commission has no business trying to handle or settle issues within the fire department, said District 1 Commissioner Sue Dowell, who added that she has utmost respect for volunteer firefighters and all that they do in serving their communities. However, she said the process must be done right and they can not do anything without going through the proper channels.
“It is important that due process be followed before the commission can take action,” said Commission Chair Franklin McCasland.
Dowell moved to table the approval of the purchase of the tanker truck until an official vote can be held by the Porter Fire Department.
McCasland said once the vote is held and the results relayed to the commission, the item will be voted on by the commission at the March 10 meeting.
Cherry would not second the motion to table the purchase.
“As a past fire chief, I myself have looked and dealt with the needs of a department,” Cherry said. “We have a recommendation for the purchase of the truck from the chief, I can not second the motion.”
McCasland seconded the motion that passed 2-1.
Following a meeting and vote by the Porter firefighters this issue will go before the commission during the March 10 regular meeting.