An Aurora City Council committee Tuesday recommended moving ahead with buying bulletproof vests for firefighters who are part of special tactical units, less than two weeks after they were involved at the scene of a mass shooting.
The move comes a week after Mayor Richard Irvin told aldermen the city would do it, and less than two weeks after firefighters moved into the Henry Pratt Co. building with police to confront an active shooter who had killed five Pratt workers and was shooting at the first responders.
As it happens, plans were already underway for purchase of the vests, but those plans did not materialize in time for the Feb. 15 incident.
"The timing was a little off, but fortunately no fire personnel were hurt," said Ald. Robert O'Connor, at large, Finance Committee chairman.
"They still went in the building," observed Ald. Richard Mervine, 8th Ward.
The firefighters were part of combined police and fire tactical units during the incident. It was the first time the city had used the combined units.
The idea is that paramedics are on the scene to quickly help with injuries during an incident, such as the mass shooting at Pratt.
Aldermen on the Finance Committee voted 3-0 to recommend spending $86,349 to buy 60 bulletproof vests, as well as helmets, accessories, goggles and medical supplies. The contract would cover buying from Pro-Tech, Henry Schein Medical Supply and Galeton.
"We want to move this ahead and be prepared," O'Connor said.
A fire department spokesman told aldermen department officials were "working on bids when the event happened."
At one time earlier in 2018, fire officials applied for a grant for the purchase.
Despite hurrying up after the Feb. 15 incident, the fire spokesman said the city got five bids to buy the equipment. Originally, officials planned to spend $70,000 on the purchase, but had upped that in the budget to $110,000.
So the final price was about $30,000 under the budgeted amount, the fire official said.
The City Council Committee of the Whole will consider the purchase next week, and move it to the full council to discuss on March 12.