Replacement trucks approved for public works, fire department
FARMINGTON - Selectmen approved replacement of a plow truck and a fire department squad truck at their meeting Tuesday night.
Approved was a 2013 Freightliner from Freightliner Western Star of Maine for $130,985. The price includes dump body and plow set up. The purchase replaces a 2004 Sterling plow truck that was destroyed by an engine fire while on the job in February.
The suspected cause was a ruptured transmission line which sprayed part of the engine with fluid, sparking the fire. Since then, selectmen, town manager and Public Works Department have been seeking a replacement vehicle for the town, utilizing the $16,400 in insurance reimbursement on the destroyed cab and chassis. The plow and sanding unit were undamaged in the fire.
The Freightliner was not the lowest of 12 bids submitted, but met all of the department's specifications, according the Public Works director Denis Castonguay and the department's shop manager Greg Soule.
The truck will be paid for using the insurance reimbursement and the balance coming from the Highway Department equipment reserve account which currently totals $177,000. The truck is expected to be delivered in September or October and will be ready for next winter season, Castonguay said.
Selectmen also approved the purchase of a replacement for the 23-year-old Squad I truck. The truck has been rehabbed in 2005 but has signs of rust again, is in need of new brakes, suffers from repeated oil leaks and the transmission is failing. Proposed is to purchase a new four wheel drive Ford F550 crew cab chassis with a diesel engine and a poly rescue/utility style truck body built by CET Fire Pump Manufacturing to replace the squad truck for an estimated $95,000.
The department would install warning lights, siren and radios. A 200-gallon poly tank on the current truck purchased with a forestry grant will be re-utilized and installed on the new truck, with a new pump and hose reel for the tank to replace the 20-year-old models currently in use. The do-it-yourself option will save about $40,000 if the department were to purchase a complete squad truck from a fire apparatus manufacturer.
The squad truck has traditionally filled a wide variety of functions that include calls to wood and grass fires and accident calls.
"You name it, it does it," Fire Chief Terry Bell told selectmen Tuesday.
The funding will come from the fire department's equipment reserve account, which currently totals $99,330.
Leaving so little in the account was of some concern to selectmen.
"That leaves almost nothing for unexpected mechanical repairs," said Selectman Dennis Pike. In recent years, little has been set aside for the equipment reserve in an attempt to keep the overall municipal budget lower.
The fire department's capital improvement plan schedule calls for the Squad I replacement this year, a $40,000 communications SUV replacement in 2014 and another $100,000 for replacing Rescue I in 2015. That same year, at an estimated cost of $200,900, the replacement of 25 air packs and 50 air bottles will be needed. A 15-year max for air bottles is a requirement of the National Fire Protection Association and Department of Transportation.
Bell said grants are being applied for to help with the costs, "but our air packs and our trucks still have to be replaced," Bell told selectmen. "There's no good year," he added for funding the big ticket items.
"I don't want to put words in the chief's mouth, but we're going to have to increase the amount that goes into the reserve account," said Town Manager Richard Davis.
Selectman Ryan Morgan added that each time a truck purchase loan is required, more of taxpayers' money goes into paying off the loan's interest.
"The original intent was to set aside money to save more money," he said.
In related action, selectmen supported a bid to host the 2014 Maine State Federation of Firefighters Convention. The town hosted the event in 1985 and 1994. The event, based at the fairgrounds, draws thousands of visitors representing fire departments from across the state to town for three days of events that include a big parade of fire trucks through town, firemen's muster, vendors, dance and banquets. Selectmen said they were in favor of it because it's a boon to the area's economy. Bell said they should find out by Sept. 7 if Farmington's bid to host the event is accepted.