One doesn’t hold water and the other one doesn’t run at all.
On Nov. 12, Waterbury voters will be asked to approve as much as $1 million to replace a pair of pumper trucks at the end of their lifespans.
The trucks were purchased in in 2000 — one bought by the town and the other by the village. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the trucks are projected to have lifespans of 20 years; however, significant mechanical issues have put municipal officials in the position of making purchases a year early.
“We planned on buying two trucks next year,” said Fire Chief Gary Dillon.
In the immediate term, one of the pumper trucks requires significant engine repairs, with estimates exceeding $20,000. According to Dillon, a bad seal in the engine resulted in a cracked cylinder due to the mixing of oil, coolant and diesel fuel in the crank case.
The other truck contains a significant crack in its 750-gallon water tank.
“If we fill it right now, we’ll be good tonight and into tomorrow, but over the next night and the next day, we’ll be pretty well drained out,” Dillon said.
The leaking tank means the truck cannot be left filled at the Maple Street Fire Station where it is kept.
“We can’t keep putting water in because we have a reservoir up there,” Dillon said. “We don’t have the municipal water system to capture the water when it drains out.”
Purchasing trucks next year would cost $512,453 per truck, or $1,024,906 for the pair. However, the town has the opportunity to save some money.
Desorcie Emergency Products, the St. Albans-based fire truck vendor used by the town, has a demo truck it is willing to sell the town for $461,395, a significant savings for a 2019 truck with an MSRP of $534,000.
“It’s a good truck, and it will serve the people of Waterbury just as well as any of the trucks we were planning to buy,” Dillon said.
In addition, Desorcie has ordered a second demo pump truck, which is expected to be delivered in June. Dillon said the town could purchase that truck as well.
Buying a fire truck is not like buying an item off a car lot. Typically, there is a one-year wait between when a town orders a truck and when the truck is delivered; buying the demo trucks will significantly accelerate that process, Dillon said.
At the Oct. 7 meeting of the Waterbury Select Board, Municipal Manager William Shepeluk suggested that the board authorize a meeting warning for the purchase of two trucks.
“I think that we have two engines that are down, or one that is in less than optimal condition, and we’re coming into the most treacherous time of the year, with chimney fires and accidents, and we have a contract with the town of Duxbury for fire service. We need to buy that second truck,” Shepeluk said.
Dillon expressed concern that Desorcie might not wait until after the special meeting in November to sell its current demo truck.
“I’m fearful if we don’t tell him right off we want this truck, he’s going to go where the money is,” Dillon said. “He has two other departments that are interested.”
Compounding the fact is that there is a 30-day period after the vote, during which time residents can petition to hold a revote.
Following the meeting, Shepeluk meet with municipal lawyer Paul Guiliani, who, according to Shepeluk, said the select board was on “strong footing’ to purchase a replacement truck without voter approval, given that two trucks need to be replaced and one cannot be used at all.
At a special meeting on Oct. 10, the select board approved the warning for a special meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. at Thatcher Brook Primary School. The warning asks for authorization to borrow a sum not to exceed $1 million, to be repaid over five years.
In addition, in a separate article, voters will be asked to authorize the select board to borrow up to $110,000 over five years to purchase a new roadside mower for the highway department.