Waterbury fire trucks

The Waterbury Fire Station on South Main Street.

Voters will decide Tuesday, Nov. 12, whether to spend $1 million to buy two fire trucks.

The special town meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the Steele Meeting Room at the Waterbury Municipal Offices at 28 North Main St.; the location was changed from Thatcher Brook Primary School due to weather.

The problems with the town’s two existing fire trucks: One doesn’t hold water and the other one doesn’t run at all.

The trucks were purchased in in 2000 — one bought by the town and the other by the now-defunct village government. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the trucks are projected to have lifespans of 20 years; however, significant mechanical issues have developed.

“We planned on buying two trucks next year,” Fire Chief Gary Dillon said in explaining the problem, but one of the pumper trucks needs more than $20,000 of engine repairs, and the other truck has a big crack in its 750-gallon water tank.

The Waterbury Select Board decided Oct. 10 to buy a demo fire truck for up to $465,000, using capital reserve funds. Tuesday’s discussion will be mainly about buying the second truck, and borrowing money to pay for one or both of the trucks.

“If they say no, we pay cash for the truck,” municipal manager Bill Shepeluk said at Monday’s select board meeting.

Also on the meeting agenda is borrowing $110,00 to buy a roadside mower for the highway department. Town officials also talked about the $1 million loan, and alternatives.

“Can we make one fixed truck out of two broken trucks?” asked select board member Mark Frier, and board chair Chris Viens favored exploring that idea.

Shepeluk said he’ll look into repair costs, but couldn’t say how much a two-trucks-into-one project might cost, or how long a repaired truck would last.

The board discussed staggering the truck purchases, so the town won’t have to buy two trucks at the same time twenty years from now.

Frier wondered if the town could borrow the full $1 million and save half until the patchwork truck fails. Shepeluk said it would be legal, but might not be the best approach. It depends on “how much a fire truck offset is worth to you,” he said.

Select board member Michael Bard said the second truck is a great deal, and it would be a shame to miss out. The second truck is also a demo. Shepeluk said that truck might not be available for a year, but he expects it to cost less than the $535,000 price for a new truck.

A $1 million loan would add about 3 cents per $100 of property value to the town tax rate — $60 a year for a $200,000 home, but Shelepuk doubts the town will actually borrow the full $1 million.

The board also debated taking a five-year loan versus selling a 20-year bond, cutting the tax impact, but “we won’t be talking about that on the 12th.”

“I really wonder why they fall apart just sitting there,” Viens said of the fire trucks, adding he doesn’t want to be “paying for a dead horse.”

Shelepuk said long-term borrowing for service vehicles is the town’s best option — “to pay for equipment over the life expectancy of the vehicle. The town’s going to be here forever, and you need to consider the needs over time.”

UPDATE: Tuesday's meeting location has been changed to the Waterbury Municipal Offices at 28 North Main St.; the location was changed from Thatcher Brook Primary School due to weather.

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