Saturday, November 21, 2009

More fire truck "madness" created by Esslinger and the Oshkosh Common Council

Some of you have wondered about the wording of the resolution the Oshkosh Common Council approved on Nov. 10 to accept a fire truck from Mayor Paul Esslinger. I have gotten a copy of that resolution and am posting it here, in its entirety, as part of this blog posting. After reading the resolution, I am even more disgusted and dismayed with our councilors for their hasty, irresponsible decision.

As I’ve discussed in earlier posts about this subject on this site, the decision to vote on this only a day after it was placed on the council agenda was just plain wrong. You can refer to the previous postings for some of my reasons why ( Post #1 can be found here and Post #2 can be found here ), but in a nutshell, some of these councilors have raised holy hell in the past when things have been rushed through – and those councilors include the mayor and his foot soldier, Deputy Mayor Tony Palmeri. Some of these same councilors have also spoken out when they didn’t think the public had ample time to speak on an issue – again, Esslinger and Palmeri being two of the biggest complainers about this issue. In this case, the public really had little to no time to speak about the issue because it wasn’t part of the agenda that was put together on Friday and subsequently distributed.

Indeed, few people knew about this resolution before the meeting and, ironically enough, many people still don’t know about the fast footwork this council displayed because the mainstream media has not done an actual news story on it – only two editorials in the Oshkosh Northwestern have appeared. Editorials are hardly the same as a news story per se.

But I’m irritated and disappointed in the council even more now having seen the actual resolution. Palmeri said at the Nov. 10 meeting he wanted to be sure no public dollars were being spent on this. Well, he is either slipping and didn’t catch the public monies that will be spent; he chose to look the other way; or he just doesn’t think the monies attached to this are that big a deal.

First, it was stated at the meeting that when the truck gets turned over to the city it would be responsible for insuring it. There is one taxpayer expense. The city is also, according to the resolution below, responsible for setting up a fund from which Esslinger will eventually be reimbursed his costs for this truck and its transportation back to Oshkosh. Therein lies another expense. After all, it takes some staffer time to set up such an account, handle the accounting of funds going into it, etc. And if the truck, for some reason never does get turned over to the city, a staffer will have to spend time returning whatever money was earmarked and collected specifically for the truck.

I also wonder if the recent maintenance issues the truck has been sidelined with will be included in what Esslinger gets reimbursed. Technically speaking, I don’t believe those repair costs should be reimbursed, nor should the cost of his insurance for the truck. He’s the owner at present time and he should be solely responsible for the costs.

The other expense that must have slipped past some of the eagle eyes on the council (or perhaps they just didn’t care to question or make issue of it) is the “be it further resolved” portion of this resolution: That being that once the truck is turned over to us, the city is then responsible for the maintenance and storage of it. Seems to me there will be an expense there. I realize the resolution says any donations left over after Esslinger gets reimbursed can be maintained in the fund for future expenses, including maintenance, but I can’t imagine there being enough donations that such a thing will be possible.

At any rate, Esslinger said at the meeting he’d arranged for storage, etc. of the vehicle and I think most people assumed this was going to be a long-term arrangement. It sure doesn’t sound it based on the wording of this resolution. So, instead of patting Esslinger on the back for preserving this fire engine for us, he should maybe be slapped on the hand for jumping into something without getting things properly squared away at City Hall and before getting the city attorney wrapped up in his personal business and rapid purchase. Worse yet, every remaining councilor should be chastised as well. They got sucked into Esslinger’s excitement, voted to approve this and failed to look at, or at least adequately discuss, the bigger picture.

Will we see any councilor have the backbone to step up to the plate and do the right thing by asking the council to reconsider this? Doubtful, and even if we did, it’s even more doubtful there would be three other votes to approve the reconsideration. And even at that, this ridiculous purchase still might pass, yet again, on reconsideration.

It’s just another reason people don’t like government and politicians, not to mention one more decision these councilors have made that voters will have to consider when deciding whether to re-elect these folks should they run for office again. It’s not even the fact that this was a relatively small vote or expense in the grand scheme of things. For me, it’s the hypocrisy of some and what this hastily-taken vote and the council’s lack of questions says about their overall attitude toward the public they were elected to represent and the dollars we each work so hard to earn. Their rush to vote and disregard for the public in this matter is shameful. Or, instead of using the word “shame,” perhaps a better word to describe it is what the Oshkosh Northwestern used in one of its editorials: Sham.



(CARRIED________LOST________LAID OVER________WITHDRAWN________)



WHEREAS, a 1915 Fire Engine formerly used by the Oshkosh Fire Department has become available for purchase; and

WHEREAS, time was of the essence in the purchase from the private party who formerly owned the vehicle and the Mayor has stepped forward and purchased the Fire Engine to preserve it for the City of Oshkosh; and

WHEREAS, the Mayor would like to initiate a fundraising effort for the City to recover his costs of up to $11,000 that he paid the previous owner for the Fire Engine and the costs association with relocation of the Engine to the City of Oshkosh; and

WHEREAS, it is anticipated that all costs will be raised through private donations and that no tax dollars would be used to reimburse the costs for purchase or relocation of the Engine; and

WHEREAS, the Mayor would like to turn over the Fire Engine to the City of Oshkosh and be reimbursed for his costs to ensure its preservation for future generations; and

WHEREAS, it is necessary for a fund to be established so that tax deductible donations may be received for the purpose of reimbursing the costs for purchase and for establishment of a maintenance fund for the continued preservation of the 1915 Engine.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Common Council of the City of Oshkosh that the City of Oshkosh hereby agrees to accept the 1915 Fire Engine with the condition that a fund be established to accept donations for the purchase and maintenance of the Fire Engine and that the City shall pay to the Mayor no more than $11,000 to reimburse the Mayor for his costs for purchase and delivery of the vehicle. Any amount donated in excess of $11,000 shall be kept in the fund established for the maintenance and care of the vehicle.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that once the vehicle is turned over to the City of Oshkosh that the Oshkosh Fire Department shall be responsible for the storage and maintenance of the vehicle.


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