Volunteer firefighters buy truck without permission

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette Tim Gasperich, of the Calumet village Volunteer Fire Department explained to the Village Council on Tuesday how its members bought a fire truck.

CALUMET — Tim Gasperich of the village Fire Department spoke to the council Tuesday, beginning his address in a peculiar way.

“First of all, I’d like to say I’m real sorry for what we did,” he said. “But we saw it was a good deal, and we went for it.”

Gasperich said department members visited a Wisconsin online auction website for used to equipment. They saw a used fire truck from Appleton and bid on it.

Theirs turned out to be the winning bid at approximately $19,000.

Gasperich said the truck they purchased is a 1993, 13 years newer than the current truck, and has a five-man cab, which is safer than having firefighters hanging on the back of the current truck, and the cab also has room for air packs.

Understanding the village has no budgeted money for a truck, Gasperich said, the department’s proposal was for its members to consign their stipends to pay for the truck, which would cover the payments.

The proposal included the village making the payments for the truck on behalf of the department, because while the department has its owns account, the village could purchase the truck without incurring further costs.

At the same time, the village cannot purchase the truck and allow the department to make the payments, because such an action would establish the village as a lending institution, which would violate banking laws.

Another problem with the proposal, Trustee Roxanne King said, is that the village can legally incur no further debt without going to the residents with a bond issue request, because it is currently paying loans on street equipment.

As board members spent some 20 minutes discussing options regarding the truck, village administrator Joe Snow offered a comment.

“I have to address the council,” he said, “because I can’t believe we’re having this discussion right now.”

He said the department, in his opinion, crossed a line for which the council has no obligation.

“I can’t believe that we’re talking about how to fund a fire truck that they decided bid on, on their own, without coming to the council,” said Snow. “And the council is here, trying to figure out how to cover what they just did. This is not the way the council is supposed to operate.

“You guys are supposed to figure out how we’re supposed to spend the money, not have the volunteer firefighters buy a truck, and come back here and figure out how you can solve that. I can’t believe we’re having this discussion. If you’re going to do anything, this has to go to the Finance Committee. Somebody’s going to have to discuss it and talk about it.”

After 10 more minutes of discussion, the council approved moving the topic to committee.