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Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Finance Board Postpones Vote on New Fire Truck

By James Lomuscio

Westport Fire Chief Andrew Kingsbury’s request for $625,000 to replace a 21-year-old pumper truck at risk for mechanical failure on an emergency call was postponed by the Board of Finance tonight until its July 6 meeting.

WestportNow.com Image
Westport firefighters look over a new pumper truck acquired in 2010 and assigned to Engine Co. 4 in Saugatuck. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

The reason for delaying the vote: the finance board wants assurances that the truck replacing the 1995 Sutphen pumper is consistent with a fire department’s long-term strategy. However, that strategy will be based on a six-month study that will not begin until July 12.

“This study will be six months, so it will become a safety issue,” Kingsbury told Michael Rea, finance board vice chairman.

Rea had initiated that the board hit the pause button.

“This request is untimely, and we should postpone it until we know the results of the study,” Rea said.

Brian Stern, finance board chairman, agreed, saying the board “should pause for a big capital investment and see if it is consistent with the study.”

In addition to safety concerns, Kingsbury said he did not want a delay to cause his department to lose the agreed upon price for the new truck.

“We need to replace one of these first line pumpers,” he said.

He said the Sutphen pumper had its engine rebuilt in 2006, lacks modern safety devices including airbags, “and there’s the chance of mechanical failure.”

Fire Department mechanic Tim Reilly told the finance board that constant vibration due to Sutphen’s diesel engine resulted in a damaged dashboard that had to be replaced. He said it has had faulty steering that had to be fixed, plus the fact it is difficult to find parts.

Mulling over the planned purchase, finance board member John Hartwell said, “Obviously, this is a very expensive piece of equipment.”

He also noted the new pumper seemed to have a lot of customization.

Kingsbury said the new truck would be customized with a smaller wheel base for better maneuverability on the town’s narrow roads. He also said that 500-gallon trucks now require between 750 and 800 gallons of water becuase of bigger houses in town.

He said all trucks need to be customized with foam to extinguish vehicle fires on I-95 to which the department responds regularly. Kingsbury added that the planned purchase would be followed within a year by the purchase of another for the Fire Department’s six-pumper fleet.

In making the motion for the postponement, Stern stressed that the board did not want to wait until the study was completed but to get some assurances from a strategy committee.

“I don’t think it needs 120 days to tell us if this is consistent with whatever strategy we come up with,” said Stern.

He then made the motion to put the matter on the next month’s agenda.

“It probably will come back in the affirmative, but we need to cross that ‘t’,” Stern said.

Kingsbury said he did not think that one month’s delay would cause his department to lose the agreed upon price that had gone out to bid.

“We can certainly talk to the manufacturer,” he said.

In other matters, the board approved an appropriation request from Public Works Director Stephen Edwards for $225,000.00 to the Capital and Non-Recurring Fund Account to install a new concrete sidewalk around Veterans Green.

The board, with six members present including Clarissa Moore who participated by phone, also approved Edwards’s request for $650,000 with a full reimbursement through a Community Development Block Grant for a flood analysis of the town’s major water courses, plus the design for replacing the Myrtle Avenue culvert.

“I’m in favor of it,” said Stern. “It’s the right thing to study this.”

The finance board also unanimously approved the school system’s appropriations requests via bond and note authorization for $150,000 to replace the asphalt shingle roof at Coleytown Elementary School, $127,000 for new casework and cabinets at Coleytown, and more than $1.32 million for upgrades at Staples High School for the boys’ gym locker room, general pool area, bleachers, and the boys and girls pool locker rooms.

This story has been updated with a correction that six members were present (including one on the phone), not five.

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Posted 06/01/16 at 11:23 PM  Permalink



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