The fire department pick-up in question which will be replaced following a budget approval on January 26.

The fire department pick-up in question which will be replaced following a budget approval on January 26.

Petals and the metals: Kitimat Council debates spending for pick-up in light of flower spending

A councillor questions why colleagues eager to spend money on hanging baskets but not so quick to approve fire department vehicle.

The parade for budget pre-approvals continues, but a request for a new fire department pick-up truck — which would be used for emergency call outs too — had one councillor making contrasts to other budget pre-approvals.

Councillor Claire Rattée was in the midst of arguing in favour of the purchase, which would pre-approve money from the District of $52,000 for an operations truck to replace the 15 year old one already in service. The money would come from the fire department’s vehicle reserve fund.

The early expenditure wasn’t necessarily fought but Mario Feldhoff didn’t see the spending as an emergency and wanted to weigh it with the entirety of the budget too.

Rattée, however, fired back with an approval already granted, unanimously on January 12, for an expense of $20,000 for hanging baskets.

That expense was requested, and approved, due to the District of Kitimat’s staff’s recommendation that to wait until the budget was finalized to approve the spending would mean they miss their window to get flowers in the baskets for 2015.

Regardless of time lines though, Rattée felt that, given what council has already approved, a new vehicle for the fire department was higher in importance.

“No one had a problem with pre-approving $20,000 dollars for hanging baskets,” she said. “We’re talking about our fire response here.”

Fire Chief Trent Bossence said the truck is used for travel by fire department staff and would be equipped with emergency lights and decals for responding to emergencies.

He has a very similar vehicle already in service which he uses for work travel.

The $52,000 budget request would include $10-$12,000 in additional improvements to the vehicle. (namely the addition of lights and sirens and other items.)

Rattée also defended the spending saying it comes from the fire department’s vehicle reserve fund, designed exactly for vehicle replacements such as this.

But money isn’t necessarily just there for the taking, argued Feldhoff.

“At the end of the day those vehicles have to stand in competition for all the other demands put on this community,” he said, saying money in the reserves can easily be moved around for other purposes.

“I don’t see why we can’t wait another month or so to finish the remainder of our budget,”’ he said. “[I’m] concerned that we’re being asked for pre-approval on something that would appear not to be an emergency.”

Councillor Larry Walker sided with Feldhoff, especially to his comments that by pre-approving so much of the budget the council may be “painting ourselves in to a corner.”

Despite the arguments, the fire department received its pre-budget approval.

Edwin Empinado, Walker and Feldhoff voted against the expense, while the remaining councillors, Mary Murphy, Rattée, Rob Goffinet and Mayor Phil Germuth, voted in favour.