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Town staff ask to accelerate purchases anticipating COVID delays

Fire truck that used to take nine months to order, now takes over two years; water filtration membrane delivery lead time doubled

In a post-COVID economy plagued with shipping delays and production slow-downs, at least two big town purchases will likely be pulled forward to this year because of how long it takes to order the equipment. 

Two of Collingwood’s senior staff from separate departments are asking council to reach into future budgets to make purchases one or two years before they were planned. 

Collingwood Fire Chief Dan Thurman told council on July 18 the station will need a new pumper truck next year. However, he’s learned from vendors that what used to take nine months to order, make and deliver, will now take 24-26 months. 

Costs have also increased 30 per cent for the pumper, and they’re going up pretty much monthly, said the chief. 

“Normally we have three pumpers, and they used to be replaced every 12 years,” said Thurman. “We decided we can extend that to 15 years, but there’s one due for replacement next year.” 

The one to be replaced can be sold as a trade-in, but the longer they have to use it, the lower the trade-in value. 

The department’s budget includes a reserve fund for replacing trucks, Thurman said his request to council will be to order the truck prior to 2024 as planned. The town’s 10-year capital plan budgeted $750,000 for a pumper truck in 2024. 

Coun. Chris Carrier declared a conflict on the fire department presentation item and left the council chambers for Thurman’s verbal update. 

Peggy Slama, director of public works, engineering and environmental services gave council a verbal heads up that the town will likely have to order replacement membranes for the water treatment this year, instead of in 2023 and 2024 as planned. 

Slama explained the lead time for ordering membrane replacement has now doubled from 10 to 20 weeks, according to the supplier. 

Adding to that, the membranes require specific conditions for the replacement process as they have to stay wet. So they remain immersed in a liquid solution for transport and must be installed in a warm season so there’s no risk of freezing. 

“We don’t want to have capacity reduced during our busy summer months,” said Slama, noting the water department typically has the replacement membranes delivered in spring or fall. 

“We’re going to come forward for advance budget approval for 2023 replacements so we can order them as soon as possible and specify delivery either spring 2023 or fall 2024,” said Slama. 

The cost for the membranes would be covered by the water department reserves as they were already budgeted items for future years. 

While the membranes may not actually be replaced earlier than originally planned, they will have to be purchased earlier to stick to the replacement schedule. 

Though the town is currently working toward a water treatment plant upgrade and expansion, Slama said that doesn’t cancel out the requirement to replace the membranes as scheduled. 

“We do still need to maintain and upgrade or replace the membranes we have at the plant so we can reliably provide our rated capacity,” she said. 

The water treatment plant uses two styles of membrane (a 500 and a 1,000 size) that are semipermeable and used in filtration of water as it is being treated to become safe for drinking.

Slama confirmed the cost of the membranes has gone up, but she couldn’t recall specifically how much of an increase. 

The town’s ten-year capital budget allocates membrane filter replacement amounts of $500,000 for 2022, $100,000 for 2023, and $100,000 for 2024. 

Both Slama and Thurman said they would bring a formal request to council, as their July 18 presentations were informal verbal updates only. 

UPDATE: During the Aug. 8 strategic initiatives standing committee (SIC) meeting, council voted unanimously in favour of approving the advance purchase order for a replacement pumper truck, as well as approving the additional budget for the purchase of 15 replacement ZW500D membrane filter cassettes. At that time, the estimated cost of the new pumper truck was $1 million, while the membrane filter cassettes cost was estimated at $1,302,300 + HST.

UPDATE 2: During the Aug. 18 regular meeting of council, council voted unanimously in favour of supporting the recommendation of the SIC. Coun. Chris Carrier did not participate in the vote as he had declared a pecuniary interest.


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Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 13 years of experience as a local journalist
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