Seeing Red

The Village of Irvington is set to lose $322,201 after making a 75 percent deposit for a new fire engine with a Wisconsin-based company that has since gone bankrupt.

When the competitive bidding process began last April, Elite Fire Apparatus gave the lowest bid of three contractors for a pumper engine costing $429,602.

imagesVillage officials signed the contract with Elite in May, but by this past November, the company went belly-up. Last week, the assets were sold to Wolverine Fire Apparatus Company based in Union City, Michigan.

“Wolverine Fire Apparatus made an asset purchase of Elite’s assets only,” Wolverine owner Shane Williams explained in an interview last week. “It did not assume any of Elite’s liabilities or other responsibilities. I truly hope that Irvington had a performance bond in place to protect their down payment. If not, they may suffer a complete loss of that money.” Else, they will have to hire bankruptcy lawyers.

Two top Irvington officials have since confirmed that there was no performance bond. “Despite the recent developments with Wolverine, this situation is unacceptable, and the Village is vigorously examining alternatives for remedy in the event that the deposit or the equipment cannot be recovered,” Mayor Erin Malloy said in a release issued by the Village on Feb. 6. “We have been engaged in an ongoing dialogue with the leadership of the fire department, as well as with officials in the state of Wisconsin. At this juncture, a positive outcome with Elite or its successor appears to be very difficult, in part because Irvington is one of numerous other municipalities that have unfulfilled equipment orders and unsecured funds on deposit.”

The new pumper would have replaced Engine 177, which has been in operation since 1989, according to Fire Chief J.P. Natkin. The engine is still in working order and firefighters as well as residents are in no imminent danger, Natkin confirmed. But, he said that the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Insurance Services Office (ISO) “no longer recognize” a pumper after it’s been in operation for 20 years.

“Where I sit, things are unchanged,” Natkin said in an interview. “We need to replace it.” Natkin said the NFPA and ISO rate communities on various items, such as equipment and training. “We have a very good rating,” he said, but added that the lack of a new pumper engine “theoretically” could impact the Village’s rating, which would affect the insurance rates.

Meanwhile, Malloy said officials are reviewing their options with the Village attorney. “We are also reviewing each and every aspect of the procurement process for this equipment and will take whatever actions are necessary to help ensure that nothing like this will happen again,” Malloy said.

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About the Author: Brett Freeman