Financial troubles for a fire truck manufacturer in Ontario have left Cape St. George waiting on a vehicle for more than two years, but the mayor sees a resolution on the horizon.
Last Thursday, Mayor Peter Fenwick visited the home of Asphodel Fire Trucks Ltd. in Norwood to check on the tanker truck Cape St. George ordered.
“What I can tell you is that it’s still by no means assured. There are a lot of risks on it between here and there,” Fenwick told The Telegram. “But let me put it this way: after meeting with the owner, after talking with them and after seeing the factory is in production again, I’m much more assured than I was prior to that.”
It has been a bit of an odyssey for the town, contracting with the company and agreeing to provide more than a quarter-million dollars, before the builder ran into difficulties.
The Peterborough Examiner has reported on the company’s woes, most recently with a piece highlighting the Cape St. George truck. The newspaper has reported the same as Fenwick — that the company was challenged by creditors, had its manufacturing site seized (in late 2017) with multiple vehicles still in production, but is into refinancing and recently back in operation at the site.
The Telegram attempted to contact Asphodel Firetrucks on Thursday, but met with a disconnected phone number. There was no response to an email Thursday afternoon, but any comment will be provided with this story as it becomes available.
“When we looked at (the truck), they had to put the tank on and do some doors and a few other connections, but in terms of the cost of the truck it’s probably in the range of 80, 85 per cent complete,” Fenwick said of his site visit, where he was joined by the company president, noting two other vehicles at the shop were likely to be completed before the town’s fire truck.
“The owner did assure us they were doing everything they possibly could in order to complete the truck and get it to us,” he said.
Fenwick said it was the town’s decision to make the arrangements for early payment for the vehicle, mainly to try to avoid provincial changes in HST, with the company also providing a small discount.
The company had filled contracts throughout Canada and was vetted by the province as a supplier, through the fire commissioner’s office. The Cape St. George truck went to a call for bids as part of a package of fire vehicles. It was left to all of the municipalities involved to then contract individually, once the company was identified as a preferred bidder, Fenwick said.
The town has hired a lawyer in relation to the truck, on the advice of the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment. There has been legal action, but the mayor said it has only been to secure the truck for delivery and keep it from outside sale, while the company’s situation was sorted out.
Fenwick noted he didn’t make a special trip to Ontario just to see the truck, but was headed for a family event further west, so arranged for the stop along the way.
While it’s not a certainty yet, he said the town’s legal fees would be the only additional cost for the truck, should it be completed and delivered.
“That’s by far the best thing that could happen to us,” he said, adding the town will pursue other options, including further legal action, if required.
Payment on delivery
Meanwhile, the company did provide vehicles to other communities in the province before running into its financial concerns. According to Municipal Affairs and Environment Minister Andrew Parsons, other vehicles were tendered, but went no further than that.
He said one truck was for Lower Lance Cove, another for Garnish.
“The payment is supposed to go to them on delivery, so the province is not actually out the money yet,” Parsons said this week.
And the province is in the process of re-tendering.
“The problem is that the new trucks that these communities will get are coming in at a higher price than they were when this was done, say, two years ago, so it will cost these communities more money and the province more money because of this situation,” he said.
Parsons called the delay and the re-tendering a situation that can sometimes happen in carrying out business.
At the same time, he said the provincial government is working on getting the vehicles already approved to the various towns.
“Where I am is that these communities were awarded trucks, they had put up their share of money, the province had put up theirs, and at the end of the day these fire departments and communities want their firefighting equipment. That means we have to go through a new process to do tenders to have it awarded, and we will make sure that we live up to our end of the bargain so that these communities do get a truck,” he said.