STRETCHING THOSE GRANT DOLLARS: THE OHIO STATE BID PROGRAM

IF YOUR DEPARTMENT HAS BEEN FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO RECEIVE FEDERAL OR STATE GRANT MONEY, HERE’S A PROGRAM FOR STRETCHING THAT MONEY TO BUY MORE EQUIPMENT.

BY ROBERT R. RIELAGE, CFO, EFO. MIFireE

If your department has been fortunate enough to receive a portion of the $100 million from the Federal FIRE Act or some state grant money, you may be wondering how you can stretch the money so you can purchase more equipment for your personnel. One solution is what Ohio simply calls its State Bid Program.

HOW IT BEGAN
Saving money and providing more efficiency in government services are goals in many local communities. Helping Ohio’s fire service achieve those goals without compromising firefighter safety standards is part of the philosophy of the State Fire Marshal’s Office. During 1999, the State and Local Government Commission of Ohio placed $500,000 into a special revolving loan program for the benefit of Ohio fire departments. The program was to be administered by the state fire marshal and was created for purchasing fire apparatus for needy communities. Applicants could receive up to a 90 percent loan based on merit and the local government’s ability to repay the no-interest loan over the course of a specified number of years. As the money is repaid, it is accumulated and revolves through the process to other communities in need.

As the selection process for this initial loan program began, it was readily apparent that some communities had done their homework on the cost of today’s fire apparatus. Others, perhaps even more deserving, didn’t comprehend the first steps for determining specifications or the bidding process for a new truck. It was also evident that to spread the limited funds to as many communities as possible, it was necessary to develop some standard for the purchase of apparatus. The concept of a standardized fire pumper specification and bid began to take shape in the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

We formed a special projects committee, comprised of Ohio Fire Academy Instructors Brad Beck, Frank Conway, and Ken Johnson; Chief Deputy Fire Marshal Terry Weber, committee chair; Chief Charles Gaskins and members of the SRWW Joint Fire Department of Clinton County, Ohio, a loan recipient; and several other departments that gave their input on developing the specifications.

It was agreed early in the process that the specifications would begin with a basic truck that incorporated four SCBA seats, plus the driver’s seat, and as many as two dozen options. The options consisted of such things as attack hose and nozzles, supply hose, generator and light package, a master stream device kit, a Class A and Class B foam proportioner, and a Class A compressed air foam system. Additionally, the largest diesel engine available on this chassis, with matching automatic transmission, was specified to cope with the more difficult terrain of some local areas. These detailed specifications were then taken to the Department of Administrative Services (DAS), which placed them out for bid. Four fire apparatus manufacturers submitted very competitive bids. DAS awarded the state bid in early December 1999.

The basic truck includes a 1,250-gpm, single-stage pump and a 750-gallon water tank (upgradeable to 1,000 gallons) on a four-door extended cab International chassis with rollup side compartment doors for a cost of $146,500. The base price included all National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1901-required fire equipment (this includes two fire extinguishers, wheel chocks, flathead and pickhead axes, halligan tool, pike poles, sledgehammer, and 14-foot roof and 24-foot extension ladders). The additional Insurance Services Office equipment package can be ordered as an option.

The SRWW Fire Department placed the first order for the Ohio standard triple combination fire pumper in January. The unit was delivered in October 2000, after an inspection team, which included personnel from the State Fire Marshal’s Office, visited the manufacturer’s plant to ensure adherence to the state bid specifications. Any Ohio fire department, regardless of whether it is a loan recipient or not, can take advantage of this process and price. The present bid will run through the end of 2002; specifications will be updated and rebid next September.

WHERE WE ARE
Following the success with the state bid pumper, we asked the Ohio fire service what other apparatus it would like us to consider for a state bid. The overwhelming choice was an EMS transport unit with basic and advanced life support options.

Beginning with FDIC in Spring 2001, Ohio Fire Academy personnel gathered information from the major vendors and a “wish list” from several Ohio fire departments. The result was a set of specifications for a Type III transport unit that would be purchased with money returned to the revolving loan program.

In July and August 2001, the State Fire Marshal’s Office submitted specifications to the Department of Administrative Services for the EMS transport vehicle, SCBA, and a thermal imaging camera and requested that they be posted for state bid.

Six vendors responded, submitting 16 bids ranging from around $82,000 to $124,000, depending on the size of the chassis. At the present time, these bids are being reviewed by the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Department of Administrative Services to ensure that all specifications have been met before we award the contract.

Four manufacturers submitted 12 bids for SCBA that range from around $1,260 to $2,250. These bids are also being reviewed for compliance with the specifications prior to awarding the contract.

Five bids, ranging from about $8,000 to $14,000, were received for thermal imaging cameras, and four bids were received for firefighter turnout equipment. All of these bids will be finalized and ready for use by Ohio’s fire departments when the 2002 state grant applications are processed in April.

Two Ohio fire departments-Lincoln Heights, in Hamilton County, and Sherwood Village, in Defiance County-were selected as the initial recipients of loans for an EMS transport vehicle.

RECOGNITION FOR INNOVATION
The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) recently recognized the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office for its innovative approach to saving state and local budget dollars. The IAFC, in conjunction with US Safety and Engineering of Sacramento, California, presented the State Bid Program with the Award of Merit as a finalist in the “Award for Excellence” competition held at the Fire Rescue International conference in New Orleans in August 2001. This award emphasized the savings in time and money and ensuring that the equipment ordered through the State Bid Program meets or exceeds all state and national safety standards.

THE FUTURE
During 2002, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, in conjunction with the Department of Administrative Services, hopes to expand the State Bid Program to include a water tanker and a custom chassis fire pumper. For Fiscal Years 2002 and 2003, Governor Bob Taft and the Ohio General Assembly have agreed to add $500,000 to the revolving loan program. The State Fire Marshal’s Office will award nearly $2 million annually in training and equipment grants through the General Revenue Fund (GRF), money the General Assembly appropriated to us for assisting smaller fire departments throughout the state. In addition to training, this money is used primarily to purchase personal protective equipment for members of smaller fire departments.

Any Ohio fire department can use the state bids for its purchases throughout the year. The latest information on these bids can be found on our Web page at /www.com.state.oh.us/sfm/.


ROBERT R. RIELAGE, CFO, EFO, MIFireE, a 29-year veteran of the fire service, is fire marshal for the State of Ohio and a contract instructor at the National Fire Academy (NFA). He has a master’s degree in public administration from Norwich University, is a graduate of the NFA’s Executive Fire Officer Program, and is a graduate of the “Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government ” at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Rielage is a member of the Institution of Fire Engineers and recently was among the initial class of 16 fire service professionals to receive the Chief Fire Officer Designation. He is a member of the State of Ohio Security Task Force, the interagency cabinet-level working group assigned by Governor Bob Taft to coordinate local and state response to natural and man-made disasters with emphasis on foreign and domestic terrorism, and a member of several NFPA technical commitees.

No posts to display