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Request for new fire engine moving on to Budget Committee

November 03, 2010
BELMONT — A request from the fire chief for a new engine has been passed on from the selectmen to the Budget Committee, with tepid support from the board.

Fire Chief David Parenti told selectmen at their meeting Monday that he's looking to replace Engine 1 for $450,000, which would come out of the Comstar Fund. That fund currently has $709,000.

Engine 1 is 22 years old, about two years older than the suggested 20-year life of an engine. Currently that engine is running third due. Parenti said Engine 2 is in good condition and running as first due; it would be scheduled for replacement in 2017 if it can be pushed back to third due. Engine 3 is a '98, the department's newest with the lowest mileage. It is currently running second due and is scheduled for replacement in 2018. Engine 3 was acquired from the Winnisquam Fire Department.

Selectman David Morse questioned whether the department needed three engines. Parenti said three engines fits the general guidelines that you need a certain number of apparatus for so many square miles. He said the first due engine is always ready to go, the second due goes to all traffic accidents, and the third due is needed for extra water and higher pressure in fires. Morse asked why the department couldn't rely on mutual aid rather than have that third engine.

"You can't rely on mutual aid," Parenti said.

Parenti also said that if they have two engines and one needs repairs or maintenance, that leaves one engine covering the whole town.

"Without question, I wouldn't go any less than three pumps," he said. "(If one is) out of service, we're in serious trouble if we have any kind of fire."

Selectman Jon Pike said his concern is not whether the truck is needed but the reaction from taxpayers. He said he thought the recent Open House at the Fire Department helped residents see what the department does, but buying apparatus is still a touchy subject. A study of the fire department years ago showed it had too many trucks. Parenti said the department has gotten rid of two engines since that study and has not replaced them.

Board Chairman Ron Cormier said he too is concerned that taxpayers will be frustrated by the request, but that the town has been putting major expenses off for too long.

"We went so long without keeping things updated that we know have an 11-year-old truck, a 13-year-old truck and a 22-year-old truck," he said. "We're in unfortunate position of being the ones now who have to straighten things out."

Cormier said money in the Comstar Fund has been used "willy nilly" and needs better management.

Morse asked Parenti whether he'd considered a lease option.

"The Budget Committee should have all the options on the table," he said.

Parenti agreed to look into it, and the board agreed to move the request forward to the Budget Committee.

Martin Lord Osman
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