HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Two of the 13 brand new Horry County Fire Rescue apparatuses are out of service and must be fixed by the vendor. Horry County leaders said it has been a disappointing experience working with this vendor on this multi-million dollar project.
The contract between Horry County Fire Rescue and the company KME was approved in 2014 after voters passed the millage increase for the 2014 fiscal year budget. It covered a 4.3 mills for fire operations and 1.7 mills for apparatus replacement. The county agreed to pay $7,977,000 for 13 custom-designed units, including 10 pumpers, one tanker, one aerial, and one platform.
According to the contract, which can be found at the bottom of this story, the delivery dates are different depending on the type of unit. The quickest delivery date would be three months from the contract date. The longest delivery date for the bigger equipment would be a little more than a year from the contract date.
The spokeswoman for Horry County, Lisa Bourcier, said the problems with the vendor started when the initial delivery dates were delayed. And then as the rigs were being delivered in phases, crews were finding mechanical and electrical problems with the apparatuses. Two pumpers are still out of service for repairs.
"It's completely unfortunate," said Bourcier. "I don't think anybody wanted this to happen. But it did. And our next package of units that we order will not be from KME. We will go to another vendor for that, because of the issues that we've had."
Bourcier reassured that at no point were the delays and equipment issues on the new equipment causing safety concerns for anyone in the county. As the new pumpers were sent back to the vendor to be fixed, the station crews would rely on the old units to get the job done.
Horry County Fire Rescue's fleet is aging, and these new rigs were supposed to fix the problem, not create more stress. Some of the engines in the fleet right now date back to the late 1980s. Bourcier said the county council agreed in 2014 that they need to begin a 20-year replacement program for the fire department. But they needed to do it in phases, because fire units are so expensive compared to any other equipment. So having these vendor and equipment problems is frustrating, admitted Bourcier.
The department has been upfront with the county council on the problems with the new equipment and the vendor. And the county is holding KME to its contract.
"They've been working with us," said Bourcier. "It does take time in order to fix those issues. And again, they're custom-made units so they are the ones that would have to fix them. And of course, we're holding them to the contract we've signed with them to make sure that we've got those units in operation."
The cost of fixing all the mechanical and electrical problems is the responsibility of the vendor. The county will not spend any more money than the original contract price for the new equipment.
The vendor does have a history of some issues with other departments in other states, Bourcier admitted. But she said from the research the county leaders did before signing the contract, they could not foresee the extent of problems that the department has had.
"So we had talked to our local reps, making sure that they were responsible individuals, too," said Bourcier. "But again, things happen. And it just so happened to happen to us on this particular package."
Bourcier said the county will no longer use KME as a vendor for any future fire apparatus contracts.
View the full contract with KME here: