Fire chief Bill Coty acts on a tip to acquire a 2023 Ford F-550 from Cleveland, Ohio

By Ralph Echtinaw

Armed with a tip that a hard-to-find 2023 Ford F-550 chassis in Cleveland, Ohio needed a new home, St. Louis Area Fire Department Chief Bill Coty swung into action, calling a special Fire Board meeting to close the deal.

Though Fire Board members approved purchase of an F-550 chassis from LaFontaine Ford of Lansing for $58,873 last December, it was going to be at least nine months before Ford delivered it; and the F-550 in Ohio was ready to go.

Fire Board members Kevin Beeson (Pine River Township supervisor), Greg Mikek (Bethany Township supervisor), Carmen Bajena (Jasper Township supervisor), Kurt Giles (St. Louis city manager) and Bobbi Marr (St. Louis finance director) approved Coty’s proposal unanimously at a special meeting Friday, April 21.

Fast action on the part of Fire Chief Bill Coty accelerated plans to replace a 20-year-old medical assistance vehicle earlier than expected.

Bajena asked if cancelling the SLAFD’s order with LaFontaine Ford of Lansing would be a problem.

Coty said no. “I talked with that dealer yesterday,” he said. “Our truck has not been scheduled to build yet through Ford, and there’s a large question when or if it will be. They’re still taking 2023 orders today, yet (they’ve) already pretty much predetermined that they can’t get through the construction (orders) that they have for 2023s. If they don’t ship our 2023 they’ll roll us into a 2024 model, but they’ll roll into the new pricing also.”

“We can cancel (our order) with no problem,” Coty continued. “(LaFontaine) won’t cancel it (with Ford). They’ll leave it ordered because they would love to be able to get their hands on it so they can sell it for MSRP… or more.”

The 2023 F-550 Super Duty truck from Cleveland costs $61,705. It will be transported to Apollo Fire Service of Romeo, Mich., which already has a deal with the SLAFD to transfer the body of the department’s 2002 F-550 rescue truck to the new chassis for $58,880.

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Coty had just 48 hours to pull this deal together, as Apollo phoned him Wednesday, April 19, to tell him about the F-550 chassis in Cleveland. He had until 5 p.m. Friday, April 21, to say yea or nay.

He was told that the city of Cleveland ordered five F-550 chassis when it needed two. Two of the leftover chassis went to Cleveland area landscapers, Coty said. The fifth is now headed for St. Louis.

If all goes well, the truck will arrive here in September. To help pay for it, the SLAFD will use a $76,000 American Recovery Plan Act grant, a $20,000 Midland Area Community Foundation grant and a $15,000 Gratiot Community Foundation grant.

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