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Shores may have long wait for new ambulance

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of June 23, 2022)

Indian River Shores is getting ready to replace a 10-year-old ambulance, but even with cash in hand, supply chain woes mean it could be two years before a shiny new Shores rescue vehicle rolls down A1A.

Reports from cities and counties all over the country cite waits of many months or even years for delivery of ambulances due to a global shortage of computer microchips, certain plastic components and, scarcest of all, chassis – the cab portion of the vehicle with the powertrain, plus the steel supports that haul the portion of the ambulance used for transporting patients.

The replacement the Shores is eyeing requires a $60,000 Ford F550 4-by-2 chassis to pull the patient transport compartment. The total cost of the new ambulance would be $332,000.

Deputy Chief Mark Shaw said the 10-year-old ambulance is already becoming a maintenance issue, so he wants to get the town’s order in.

“This unit has been taken out of service several times during the past year due to mechanical failures and repairs. Since March 2022 we have spent $12,328.43 for repairs on this rescue unit alone,” Shaw said, adding that labor rates for on-site repairs just went up, and range from $130 to $145 per hour.

Town Treasurer and Deputy Town Manager Heather Christmas said that, if the order is approved, the $332,000 expenditure would come out of a corresponding line item in the Public Safety Department’s capital budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

“This is just an authorization to make the order and not for an actual payment.  The funds will not be expended in the current year, but this will be an item for next year’s budget,” she said.

Once the new ambulance is delivered, supplies and life-saving equipment that’s still in good working order would be transferred to the new ambulance, and the town would recoup some value from the surplus vehicle.

“Generally, the town will sell vehicles through auction. On occasion there may be a trade in. This would include ambulances and other vehicles. We would not keep vehicles for spare parts,” Christmas said.

The Shores Public Safety department has also requested two 2022 model SUVs to replace 2015 and 2016 police vehicles, each with more than 100,000 miles on the odometer. Piggybacking onto a statewide agency’s contract price, those SUVs would cost $33,000 and $36,000 for the base vehicle, plus all the lighting, communications and other upgrades needed, for a total of $92,000.

That money would come out of the current fiscal year’s funds, according to an agenda packet budget memo prepared for this week’s Town Council meeting.