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KDKA Investigates: Firefighters union says city awarded contract for engines without input

KDKA Investigates: Firefighters union says city awarded contract for engines without input
KDKA Investigates: Firefighters union says city awarded contract for engines without input 03:11

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - The Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire chief and the union say they were shocked when the city agreed to purchase three engines for $1.8 million, even though they had no input. The union is now calling for an investigation to find out why. 

For years, the Spencer pumper specifically designed for the city's hills, narrow streets and tight turns has been the bureau's engine of choice. But last year, the city entered a $1.8 million contract with another company for three new engines which the fire union president Ralph Sicuro says didn't fit the bill. 

Sicuro: "There were over 90 issues with that specification that didn't meet the design we made here in Pittsburgh under labor management committee."

Sheehan: "So it's fishy to you?"

Sicuro: "It is fishy."

For months now, the union has called for the cancelation of the contract to the company Pierce Manufacturing, saying it was awarded without the required specifications and input from the union or the fire administration. Chief Darryl Jones confirmed he was not consulted.

Sheehan: "You were upset by this breach in procedures?"

Jones: "I was surprised and yes, I was disappointed."

"The apparatus were not going to fit our needs, was not going to permit us to perform our mission, possibly putting my firefighters and residents at risk and I asked for them not to be purchased," Jones added. 

The contract was let by the Peduto administration, but after their review, the Gainey administration has canceled the purchase. Pierce has let the city out of the contract without penalty. Chief Jones wanted to be clear the company did nothing wrong.

"We order our aerial apparatus from Pierce. Pierce can build a very, very good truck. I'm sure they could meet our specifications if they were given our specifications. They were not," he said. 

No one from the Peduto administration was available for comment, but Sicuro is calling for the city Office of Municipal Investigation to investigate how this contract was awarded in the first place without specification or input.

"I'm saying there's something funny going on, that that should be looked into so we never have to have this happen again," Sicuro said.

And the chief has no objections.

"Let me be perfectly clear: I do not fear an investigation at all. It was not my decision or anything I had to do with this purchase or this idea. I was caught completely by surprise by it, just like everybody else," Jones said. 

The bureau is now rebidding the contract but now finds itself short of equipment, and with supply chain issues, new equipment could be years away. 

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