Dickinson County

Rather than spending more than $200,000 for a new ambulance when one needs replaced, Dickinson County is trying something different: remounting the existing ambulance box onto a new chassis.

“Ambulances are one of the most expensive pieces of equipment we purchase as a county government. The last one we purchased in 2017 was $252,000,” explained Dickinson County Administrator Brad Homman.

“One of the things we’ve looked at for years is purchasing quality ambulances where the box on the back can be removed and remounted on a new chassis, because the chassis is the part that wears out,” he added. “All five ambulances we have are of the quality that they can be remounted.”

Although this is the first time Dickinson County has gone the remounting route, it’s not unusual. Riley, Sedgwick and other counties have used the process and it’s worked out well, Homman said.

County commissioners on Thursday approved purchasing a new Ford 550 truck chassis at the cost of $61,635 from Olathe Ford Fleet Management. The dealership has the state contract for larger vehicles.

“They’re really the only dealership in the state that’s big enough to handle those trucks,” Homman said. “They sell trucks under this contract nationwide.”

Every year, the state of Kansas negotiates contracts for vehicles and other big purchases like tractors and other items “and we get the savings,” he said.

The price includes the chassis plus an additional liquid spring system — which Homman said is a hydraulic type of spring system on the front and back that provides a better ambulance ride.

Also as part of the bid price, the completed chassis will be shipped directly to a plant in Texas where the ambulance box will be remounted.

A Dickinson County representative will drive the ambulance that is going to be redone to Texas. There, the remounting company will take off the ambulance box, repaint, remount, hook up all electronics and do other needed work.

“Ambulances are very electronic-heavy with all the features they have,” Homman said. “When we pick it up, we’ll have a new ambulance.”

Commissioners have yet to approve the remounting bid, but the entire process is expected to save the county anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000, Homman said.

“The bottom line is, we are doing everything we can to maintain the same quality of vehicle and save money while we’re doing it,” he added.

New R&B truck

In a separate vehicle purchase, the commission approved purchasing a new truck for the Road and Bridge Department to be used by Supervisor Martin Tannahill.

During a recent meeting Homman said the truck Tannahill had been using was developing mechanical and other problems.

“The old truck was a state surplus vehicle purchased a number of years ago,” Homman said. “I think we paid about half of this contract price back then and it had 60,000 or 70,000 miles on it.”

The commission approved buying a 2019 Dodge half-ton, four-wheel-drive pickup truck from Davis Moore Auto in Wichita for $24,415.52, with monies coming from the Road and Bridge Special Machinery Fund.

Just as the Olathe dealership has the state contract for large vehicles, Davis Moore has the state contract for pickups, Homman said.

Holm Automotive, which is the only new car dealership in the county, was contacted but they declined to bid, Homman explained. “They had nothing comparable to compete.”

Investing bond funds

During the process of selling bonds to finance building a new jail and renovating the courthouse, County Finance Director Janelle Dockendorf sent a RFP (Request for Proposal) to local banks asking what interest rate they would pay if the funds were kept in their bank as the project is completed.

“We talked to Piper Jaffray (underwriter for the bond issue), and the bank where the money is currently sitting is not gaining any itnterest,” Homman said. “There’s some benefit to putting it in one of the local banks during that period of time.”

Upon the recommendation of Piper Jaffray representatives and county administrative staff, the commission approved investing the $13.5 million from the October bond sale into UMB Bank during the time the jail/courthouse renovation project is underway.

Commissioner Lynn Peterson asked if the “safety factor” had been investigated and if everything was satisfactory.

Dockendorf said it was.

“It (the bank) is highly rated in securities and collateralized, which is what our request was,” she said. “The worst thing that could happen is if the money just sits there and doesn’t earn any interest.”

Homman said the Kansas City bank where the money is deposited is not gaining any interest.

“We felt there was some benefit to putting it in one of the local banks during that period of time,” Homman said. “It will generate a decent amount of interest.”

He further noted the bank had been presented with a “draw down schedule” so withdrawals can be made as the project progresses to pay bills without the county incurring a penalty.

Contact Kathy Hageman at reporter@abilene-rc.com.

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