ROCKFORD, IL—City officials say opening the Rockford Fire Department vehicle repair shop on Falcon Drive to other fire departments is paying dividends by covering the cost of an extra mechanic and producing a modest profit for the department.
Not only does the program raise revenue, but it also gives the department an extra set of hands to repair and return Rockford fire equipment to service quickly after a breakdown, Fire Chief Derek Bergsten said.
Now the department is trying to spread the word to other departments that it can repair their fire trucks fast and at good price.
"We have the training and the expertise to work on pumps and aerials," Bergsten said. "We are highly trained, certified and have that great turn-around time."
Rockford piloted the program this year. Through October, the program had generated $102,863 by performing fire truck and equipment repairs for area fire departments and protection districts that might otherwise have to travel into the Chicago suburbs to find a qualified repair shop. The Rockford shop is ASE Blue Ribbon Certified and staffed by fire equipment specialists who are emergency vehicle technician and automotive service excellence certified.
Rockford is now hiring a permanent fourth mechanic to expand the shop's repair capacity, Bergsten said.
When at full capacity, Bergsten said, the hope is to bring in $150,000 in revenue, which would cover the cost of a fourth mechanic's salary and benefits and bring $72,700 a year into city coffers.
The program is the result of work by a 2018 resident-run financial task force in consultation with the National Resource Network. A report from the consultants told Rockford officials they had to change the way they did business in order to avoid severe future deficits as the cost of pensions continues to escalate.
Rockford Finance Director Carrie Hagerty said the program has so far been a success.
"The fire departments we are serving are happy not only with the quality of the service but also the quicker turnaround time and the lower cost as well," Hagerty said.
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