Fire departments eye shared purchases
CAPITAL REGION The Amsterdam Fire Department is expected to join with dozens of other upstate departments to purchase equipment in bulk at what it hopes is a better price.
Fire departments across upstate New York are getting together to purchase anything from turnout gear and breathing equipment to toilet paper and copy paper.
The Albany Fire Department has taken the lead in creating a purchasing consortium that has departments from as far away as Glens Falls, Utica and Poughkeepsie interested. The last meeting drew representatives from 25 different departments, Albany Fire Chief Robert C. Forezzi Sr. said.
“It’s economies of scale and reductions of cost,” Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane said. “That is the kind of collaboration you want to see regionally.”
Amsterdam Fire Chief Richard Liberti said the department won a grant to purchase personal escape systems, which include a collection of harnesses and ropes that allow a firefighter to quickly get off a second or third floor or roof. The equipment is mandated in New York.
The department needs to purchase 32 units, each of which is expected to cost between $350 and $375, Liberti said. The consortium would purchase 440 units, which he assumes would allow them to get a better price per unit.
If the consortium is successful in saving the community money, Thane said the same idea could work for public works and police departments.
The idea came from the Albany Fire Department, which was tasked by Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings to cut expenses. Forezzi said he began talking with the fire departments in Albany County about creating a purchasing consortium and the response was so positive that Jennings told him to open it up to whoever was interested.
Most fire departments in the region use the same equipment, the same hoses and nozzles, the same wax to clean their fire engines and the same gear.
Forezzi said the consortium is currently working to draw up a memorandum of agreement and once the different departments sign it they can begin purchasing equipment.
The only problem Forezzi pointed to was the fact that the departments would have to give up a bit of their individuality so they can agree on specifications for equipment purchases.
That is something that Schenectady Fire Chief Robert Farstad said would be a problem for his city’s department.
Farstad said Schenectady has been attending the various meetings on the subject, but he doesn’t yet see how useful the consortium could be to his department, which uses different hoses and nozzles than the rest of the area fire departments.
“As a whole it’s a good idea,” he said. “It mimics the state’s contract pricing, but it’s specific for fire equipment.”
Forezzi said he hopes the consortium will beat the state contract prices.
“In these hard economic times the fire service needs to be creative to save anywhere it can,” he said.