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Wakefield selectmen approve new fire truck

by Thomas Beeler
Editor of The Granite State News
April 03, 2014
WAKEFIELD — Following up on voter approval of a new fire engine to replace two aging vehicles, Fire Chief Todd Nason presented his recommendation to the Wakefield Board of Selectmen on March 26 and got their go-ahead.

Nason noted that the truck was originally planned to be ordered in 2012 but concerns about the economy and the need for an ambulance led to a decision to postpone the purchase. The two vehicles to be replaced are a 1967 tanker that holds 1,000 gallons of water and a 1989 fire engine that holds 1,500 gallons.

Nason said the department has spent three years studying potential replacement trucks from HME and Crimson Fire/Spartan ERV. He has been particularly concerned about the department's ladders, which he would prefer to slide into the truck body rather than be mounted outside, since ladders have fallen off trucks and can be difficult to work if they are left exposed to weather. HME can provide a truck with internal ladder storage while Crimson Fire cannot.

Nason said the department also considered a Toyne truck but could not see a demonstration. Engine 4 was from HME and has worked well.

HME has kept the price of $455,000 awaiting town approval. Once the order is placed, it will take about 240 days to deliver the truck.

The trucks to be replaced, being 47 and 25 years old, may not bring much in terms of revenue. Nason felt the best course was to let HME broker the sales of those trucks and use the proceeds to reduce the final cost of the new truck.

Selectmen Chair Ken Paul commented that allowing HME to broker would keep any sale proceeds in the fire truck account. If they were sold separately the proceeds would go to the general fund.

Selectmen gave Nason the go-ahead. He said he would be meeting with HME on Wednesday, April 2, to finalize the order.

Unpaid ambulance bills

Town Administrator Teresa Williams said that the auditors uncovered $160,000 in unpaid ambulance bills for the period 2003-09. Comstar, which does the billing, was supposed to keep the town informed about unpaid bills, but Nason said he has never seen the list at issue. Normally he is informed if there is a problem. In this case he noted that a number of people on that list have died and some may have moved, so it would be difficult to collect the outstanding balances.

Comstar has also provided a shorter list for 2010 and later with $27,000 in unpaid bills. Comstar tries three times to make contact to secure payment. After three attempts they recommend sending the bill to a collection agency, but selectmen have not been in favor of doing that.

"We can look at the more current list and see what can be done," Nason said. The department is concerned that people will not call for help if they feel they will not be able to pay for it, and he cited the case of a woman who fell down the stairs but did not want Fire-Rescue to be called because she could not afford it; fortunately someone called for her.

Paul moved that the town write off the balances for unpaid bills dated before 2010 and the board approved.

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